The Amazon rainforest now emits more CO2 than it absorbs
06 May 2021
Greenpeace activists stage a protest against deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Vienna. Reuters
Gulf Today Report
It’s official. The Amazon has ‘flipped’ and now emits more carbon pollution than it soaks.
The dense rainforest that was long believed to be absorbing human-caused pollution, released nearly 20 per cent more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the last decade than it absorbed, according to a startling report in the journal “Nature Climate Change.”
While the world has been dealing with a virus that spreads unabated, researchers conducting the study found that between 2010 and 2019, Brazil’s Amazon basin released 16.6 billion tonnes of CO2, while soaking up only 13.9b tonnes.
The study looked at the volume of CO2 absorbed and stored as the forest grows, versus the amounts released back into the atmosphere as it has been burned down or destroyed.
“We half-expected it, but it is the first time that we have figures showing that the Brazilian Amazon has flipped, and is now a net emitter,” said the study’s co-author Jean-Pierre Wigneron, a scientist at France’s National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA).
Between 2010 and 2019, Brazil’s Amazon basin released more carbon pollution that it soaked. AFP
“We don’t know at what point the changeover could become irreversible,” he told AFPin an interview.
The study also showed that deforestation — through fires and clear-cutting, which have proliferated under the rule of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — increased nearly four-fold in 2019 compared to either of the two previous years, from about one million hectares (2.5 million acres) to 3.9 million hectares, an area the size of the Netherlands.
The Amazon basin, one of the planet’s richest ecosystems and home to thousands of indigenous peoples, suffered the worst blazes in a decade last year.
The region contains about half of the world's tropical rainforests, which are more effective at soaking up and storing carbon that other types of forests.
Another aspect of the research found for the first time that degraded forests were a more significant source of planet-warming CO2 emissions that outright deforestation.
Over the same 10-year period, from 2010 through 2019, degradation caused three times more emissions that outright destruction of forests, the researchers concluded.