Sunday, April 14, 2024

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Is the Amazon Rainforest Actually Emitting More Carbon Than It Absorbs?

For decades, the Amazon Rainforest has been hailed as the lungs of the planet. But new research might debunk this. Instead, certain parts of the Amazon may actually be emitting more carbon than it is absorbing.

In particular, the eastern part of the Amazon is producing more emissions than the western half. Researchers believe this is the direct result of forest fires and deforestation that is taking place.

Overall, the carbon sink capabilities of the forest have declined.

How Did the Researchers Determine This?

In between 2010 and 2018, 590 flights were conducted across the Amazon rainforest. These planes were equipped with sensors to monitor the emissions of the forest.

The data was then compiled and analyzed by the team. The conclusion was that due to the high tree mortality rate (deforestation & forest fires), there was a significant reduction in photosynthesis.

Thus the absorption rate of carbon dioxide decreased in a similar fashion.

Another factor that was needed to be accounted for was the temperature increase. This is leading to less rain in the areas. Other research has even indicated that the Amazon Rainforest may become a Savanah in the future.

At least if the temperatures continue to increase.

How Does the Amazon Rainforest Produce Emissions?

Forest Fires

So you might be wondering how a forest actually produces more carbon than it absorbs?

It’s a great question, but let’s start with the obvious; the forest fires. When a forest catches on fire, those trees release all of the carbon dioxide, and other substances, into the atmosphere. And sadly this has become very common.

Just this summer, over a dozen major fires have broken out, and much of it is on deforested land.

However, outside of forest fires, there are natural carbon emissions. Trees naturally die, which is sped up during heat waves. When this happens, the trees release all of the carbon dioxide within them.

In some parts of the forest, the temperature is nearly four degrees higher. Thus, the trees are now more susceptible than ever.

By itself, tree deaths shouldn’t be an issue, but combine this with the overall decrease in photosynthesis, and the forest can become a carbon source instead of a sink.

The Amazon Rainforest is Shrinking

One of the most alarming parts of the report is just how much the forest has shrunk over the years.

In the past 50 years, the Amazon has lost 17% of its forest. The vast majority of that land is now for livestock and farming. In fact, many reports blame farmers and ranchers for intentionally starting fires to clear land.

And the government is actually responsible for encouraging this behavior.

It actually took international pressure to get Brazil to take more action against illegal logging and forest fires. And those efforts are still not enough. Amid Covid-19 lockdowns, illegal logging is booming in the Amazon.

And eventually, climate change will reach a point where it’s irreversible. Even with all of the recent pledges and announcements, the world is still not on track to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal.

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Robert Giaquinto

Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.

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