The world’s largest rainforest ecosystem, Amazonia, will collapse into a dry, scrubby plain by 2064 due to climate change and deforestation, a University of Florida professor predicts.
That prediction, published in the journal Environment, gives the most specific date yet for the overall demise of the Brazilian ecosystem, according to scientists familiar with Amazon research.
The article, Development Pushes Amazonia Toward Its Tipping Point , is written by Robert Walker, a professor on the faculty of the University’s Center for Latin American Studies, who describes himself as an earth change scientist.
The best way to think of the forest ecosystem is that it is a source. The forest recycles moisture, which supports regional rainfall. If you keep destroying the forest, the amount of rain decreases…and eventually, you ruin the source.
Walker said he has spent a lot of time in the Amazon region talking to the farmers and loggers who live there. He said that poverty and the misuse of government resources ultimately drive much of the deforestation.
” The people there don’t care as much about biodiversity, the environment, when they have to worry about their next meal ,” he said.
The rainforest can recover from periodic droughts if those dry spells occur years apart, according to Walker’s paper. However, a severe drought in 2005 began a period of more frequent and prolonged droughts.
The Amazon has shrunk by 20% since intensive development began.
If the dry season in southern Amazonia continues to lengthen as it has in recent decades, the 2005 drought will become the region’s new normal before the end of the century.
Those longer periods of drought are due not only to deforestation, but also to global warming and climate change, Walker said.
That global impact means that local actions will not be enough to save the Amazon. The dry season has lengthened in the South by 6.5 days per decade, Walker wrote.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has noted an increase in fire activity in the Brazilian rainforest, as observed by satellites.
The ” rainforest has experienced three major droughts, considered once-in-a-century events in 2005, 2010 and in 2015-2016 ,” the agency said in a 2019 update.
Environmental advocacy in Brazil and around the world was strong in the 1980s and 1990s, Walker said, but has since fallen apart.
His article targets Brazil’s conservative president, Jair Bolsonaro.
” The result is that the rate of deforestation has begun to increase, albeit slowly, after reaching its lowest point in history in 2012 ,” Walker wrote, noting that the Bolsonaro administration ” seems determined to remove all restrictions on the exploitation of the natural resources of the Amazon .”
For Nathan Moore, an associate professor of geology at Michigan State University, the unique feature of the article is the specific date predicted for the disappearance of the Amazon.
” What’s new … here is to say that we can see the end ,” Moore said. « Walker offers the first estimate, the year 2064, as when we will have seen this catastrophe. «
Large areas of forest will be converted to grassland and will not return to a rainforest state, he said.
” All the huge benefits of this huge forest will also be gone: abundant water and wood, food, new medicines ,” Moore said.
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