The Amazon rainforest is moving toward a “tipping point” past which trees will start to die off in large numbers, researchers have said.
The study, published in the Journal of Natural Climate Change, was conducted by scholars from the University of Exeter, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Technical University of Munich. They used satellite data from 1991 to 2016 to examine trends in deforestation.
They calculated that 75 percent of the rainforest is now at risk of being unable to recover when experiencing droughts, which are also increasingly more common due to global warming.
“Deforestation and climate change are likely to be the main drivers of this decline,” Niklas Boers of PIK and the Technical University of Munich told the BBC. The study has predicted that it is only a matter of decades until a “significant chunk” of the Amazon is transformed from rainforest into savannah.
What would the world be like without the Amazon rainforest?
The destruction of the Amazon rainforest, in some ways caused by global warming, will also speed up this process. “The Amazon stores lots of carbon and all of that would be released into the atmosphere, which would then further contribute to increasing temperatures and have future effects on global mean temperatures,” Professor Boulton of the University of Exeter told the BBC.
This worrying snowball effect means that the destruction of the Amazon will make the much larger battle against global warming more difficult.
The destruction of the Amazon would also have a huge impact on the ecology of the Earth. The Amazon rainforest is home to more than 30,000 species of plants, 2.5 million species of insects, 2,500 fish, more than 1,500 bird species, 550 reptiles, and 500 mammals, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. A savannah, a grassland environment that lacks a large variety of plant life, would be unable to host the large and varied ecosystems that currently exist in the rainforest. It is likely that a large number of species would become endangered or even extinct, as they would be unable to adjust to this new ecosystem.
(Translator & Editor: Li Xinzhu AND Luo Sitian)