BRAZIL, Aug 7 — Repeated droughts continue to have a dramatic impact on the Amazon ecosystem. A new study draws attention to the fact that the Amazon basin is slowly losing its moisture supply, and that this loss is contributing to the deforestation of the world’s largest rainforest.

The Amazon is under threat. Endangered by fires and deforestation, the largest forest in the world now emits more carbon dioxide than it absorbs according to a study published last year. And, official data from the National Institute of Space Research (INPE) shows that the Brazilian part of the rainforest (accounting for 60 per cent) has lost 3,988 square km of forest area between January and June 2022.

But there is yet another factor putting pressure on the survival of the forest’s trees, says new research published in the journal PNAS and led by researchers at the Institute for Climate Action Research in Potsdam, Germany. Increasingly scarce rainfall could deplete the Amazon basin’s moisture supply, resulting in reduced forest cover.

According to the research, for every three trees that die of drought in the Amazon rainforest, a fourth is likely to die as well, even if it is not directly affected. The areas most vulnerable to turning into savannah are located on the southern edge of the forest (much of which is in Brazil), where deforestation to clear land for grazing and soybean cultivation has been undermining the forest’s resilience for years.

But these periods of drought are having a broader impact. Although a period of drought may only concern a specific area of the forest, its adverse effects extend beyond that area.

“As lack of rain strongly decreases the water recycling volume, there will also be less rainfall in neighbouring regions, hence putting even more parts of the forest under significant stress,” outlines a release about the study.

“There is still a lot we can do to try and stabilise the Amazon”

The researchers developed a “conceptual dynamic network model” based on predictions of climate experts, such as those of the IPCC, indicating that extreme weather events (droughts, heat aves, fires, floods) are likely to increase in the coming years if the planet continues to warm and we do not reverse the trend.

“We find that even the dry season-adapted parts of the Amazon forest won’t necessarily survive a new climate normal, and the risk of tipping into savannah or no trees at all is high. The consequences for biodiversity would be disastrous, but the same goes for the local, regional, and global climate,” warns Boris Sakschewski, co-author of the study and researcher at the Potsdam Institute.

However, Ricarda Winkelmann, who also participated in the study, noted that it’s not too late to take action. “There is still a lot we can do to try and stabilise the Amazon, And we know how we can do that: by protecting the rainforest from logging, and by rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit further global warming,” she specified. — ETX Studio