By Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – It is no secret that Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is one of the most exploited natural environments on the planet.

Over 760,000 km2 (around nineteen percent) of its total area has already been lost to deforestation since 1970. But this deforestation may also be triggering a dangerous and possibly irreversible effect: turning the rainforest from an oxygen producer into an oxygen “sink”.

Global oxygen levels have been falling since the early nineties, and many scientists are now worrying about the Amazon rainforest’s vital role as an oxygen producer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News,
Global oxygen levels have been falling since the early nineties, and many scientists are now worrying about the Amazon rainforest’s vital role as an oxygen producer, photo courtesy of the 2 Degrees Institute.

In 2017, researchers from Woods Hole Research Center and Boston University revealed to Science magazine that forest areas in South America, Africa and Asia are producing a shocking 425 teragrams of carbon every year.

This is more than all the automobile emissions in the United States.

This frightening reversal of the world’s rainforests ability to offset our carbon dioxide emissions is due, in large part, to deforestation, they concluded.

In another research paper published in Nature magazine last year, scientists showed again how the Amazon rainforest may be losing its vital role as a “robust sink of carbon.”

This is due to another possible man-made problem: the increasing frequency of droughts.

Droughts are causing both a decrease in tree height, reducing the forest’s capacity for storing carbon, and an increase in dying trees, which when decomposing release their stored carbon into the air.

Severe droughts in the Amazon usually only happen once a century, but there have been three “once-in-a-century” droughts between the years of 2005 and 2015.

The researchers believe that these type of droughts and their consequences “may have long-term effects on the tropical carbon sink and the overall terrestrial carbon budget, leading to an accelerated positive feedback to regional and global climate.”

This could result in a catastrophic depletion of the Amazon and its ability to regulate our climate.

In yet another investigation, reported by Science magazine in 2015, ecologists from the University of Leeds investigated tree growth in the Amazon and saw a surprising increase in tree mortality even in the years before a drought would hit.

Much research has drawn attention to the link between deforestation and falling oxygen rates, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News,
Much research has drawn attention to the link between deforestation and falling oxygen rates, photo courtesy of Dave White.

They even posit that the increasing carbon dioxide in the air, due to pollution and climate change, is actually causing more weaker trees to grow faster and die younger.

Because the faster a tree grows, the less time it has to strengthen its trunk and also expend energy in protecting itself against diseases.

However, the conclusion as to how the combination of drought and climate change is affecting the future wellness of the Amazon is still not clear, the study concludes.

The future of the Amazon, and its consequences for our planet, are now more under threat than ever. Bolsonaro is a known climate change denier.

He has already announced that he’s looking to dismantle the National Council of the Environment (also known as Conama) that looks after the Brazilian Amazon – around sixty percent of the total rainforest.

The Brazilian National Space Institute (INPE) has also just released a report stating that in 2018 deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon reached its highest level for ten years.

Many commentators are predicting that the rate of deforestation and its dire economic and ecological consequences could accelerate rapidly over the next few years.

This worsening crisis has caused Dave White from Portland, Oregon, to set up a GoFundMe page aiming to raise $5,000 in order to fight deforestation in the Amazon.

He is looking to start a campaign of lobbying to stop the U.S., Canada and the EU from importing hardwoods from the Amazon.

The sale of these hardwoods is known to finance deforestation, both legal and illegal. More details are available on his page, which can be found here.

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