According to researchers, 1/5th of the Amazon rainforest is releasing more CO2 than it absorbs because of the forest fires and deforestation.
For the purposes of the research, the team has been monitoring the release of gases over the basin of Amazon for the last 10 years, during which, millions of trees have been lost.
Growing trees helps take in the CO2 from the atmosphere and this makes the forest a carbon store; however, dead trees release CO2 and there are plenty of them in the Amazon.
The researchers worry that the Amazon is becoming a net carbon source at a fast rate and may reach a tipping point from which recovery won’t be possible.
What Have the Researchers Done so Far?
Luciana Gatti from the Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research is a climate researcher who together with her colleagues has been studying the greenhouse gases in the Amazon.
Every 2 weeks, they fly an aircraft with sensors across the forest to map out their findings.
Even though they did find that a large part of the rainforest is still taking in huge amounts of CO2, there’s a big area severely affected by deforestation and has lost this vital ability.
This south-eastern section of the rainforest that’s one fifth of the total area has become a source of carbon release because of the dying trees.
Gatti adds that every year it becomes worse. She also explains that it doesn’t matter if it’s a wet or dry year.
The Importance of the ‘Earth’s Lungs’
Amazon used to be in the 80s and 90s a strong carbon sink and it extracted 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere.
Today, this strength has diminished around to 1-1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year.
The rates of deforestation have risen in the last years. 2019 was a bad year for the rainforest- it lost more than 386 square miles every month between July and September.
Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, made development in the Amazon a priority over the conservation efforts.
However, experts worry that this rainforest will lose its renewability and will start to release more CO2 than the amount it absorbs.
In the upcoming 30 years, more than 50 percent of the forest may become a savanna, say the concerned research team.