Forests, especially when there are many, are wonderfulmachines to reduce carbon emissions in the earth's atmosphere. You probably saw this diagram in your school textbook: Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it through photosynthesis into carbon, which is "stored" in the form of wood and vegetation. But in any ecosystem, especially as vast and diverse as the Amazon rainforest, there are not only untouched trees - there is soil, water and air, all with their own complex processes of absorption and excretion. Recently, an international team of scientists, in a first-of-its-kind study, concluded that the Amazon jungle is starting to heat the Earth's atmosphere, not cool it. Thus, thanks in large part to human decisions, one of the greatest rainforests left on Earth is now possibly emitting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than it absorbs, greatly exacerbating climate change.
What happens to the “lungs of the planet”?
The Amazon rainforest has long been positioned as a carbon sink and natural ally in the fight against the climate crisis. However, recent studies warn that humanity may lose the help of rainforests with continued deforestation. “Deforestation interferes with carbon sequestration, and this is a huge problem,” Christopher Covey, lead author of the new study, told National Geographic.
In a study recently published in the journalFrontiers in Forests and Global Change, were the first to consider emissions other than carbon dioxide, such as methane from floods and cattle, and black carbon from forest fires.
Interestingly, the results of the previously conductedResearch has shown that forests around the world still absorb 7.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, but rainforests in Southeast Asia are now clean sources of carbon dioxide due to land-use changes, EcoWatch reported.
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The Amazon jungle and climate change
As shown by a number of previous studies, the Brazilian Amazon was already a clean source of carbon dioxide between 2001 and 2019, although the region as a wholeremained a carbon sink. The new data, however, are horrifying, since after the fires of 2020 that engulfed the "lungs of the planet", in the next 15 years the region may turn into another source of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.
In the course of their work, scientists examined numerousfactors within the Amazon, including deforestation, fires, and weather. The findings suggest that greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide are being emitted into the Amazon and are now likely to exceed the area's capacity to absorb emissions.
See also: What you need to know about fires in Brazil?
This is the first study in which extensivelyconsiders the consequences of both human and natural activities that can contribute to climate change, as well as all greenhouse gases, not just CO2. Scientists have previously predicted that these factors could reduce the ability of rainforests to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which helps offset emissions. Scientists are especially worried about the future of the region, about which my colleague Ramis Ganiev spoke in more detail in his material.
- Black carbon released as a result of large-scale fires. Black carbon soot particles absorb sunlight and increase heat.
- Nitrous oxide naturally produced by forests, but gas emissions increase when wetlands dry up and logging compacts the soil.
- Methane also naturally excreted by tropicalforests of microbes in moist soil, which is filtered into the atmosphere by trees. In the past, the Amazon's capacity to store carbon has counteracted methane emissions. Human activities currently limit the forest's ability to store carbon, as increased flooding, dam construction and grazing also emit methane.
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“We are depriving the Amazon of the ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as well as forcing it to emit other greenhouse gases,” the authors of the scientific paper write. Fortunately, researchers believe that there is still time to reverse the damageif we stop emissions from burning fossil fuels, reduce deforestation and increase tree planting efforts - all globally.
To the general recommendations voiced by scientistsrefers to reducing emissions of fossil fuels; stop deforestation; reducing dam construction and replanting trees. Do you think we can save the planet from rapid climate change? We will wait for the answer here, as well as in the comments to this article.