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Climate: Water stress may push Amazon forest system beyond critical point in 2050 | Nature | Nature wallet

Research press release


nature

February 15, 2024

A study suggests that 10% to 47% of the Amazon River Basin's forests may be under climate stress, and that the Amazon biome could exceed a critical point as early as 2050.naturePublished in As forests collapse, ecosystems are forced to adapt, which may exacerbate the local impacts of climate change.


The Amazon rainforest contains 10% of the planet's biodiversity, stores carbon equivalent to 15 to 20 years of global carbon emissions, and is used to stabilize the Earth's climate. It has a beneficial net cooling effect. Ecosystems are constantly exposed to environmental stresses from a variety of sources (such as water stress), but they can reach a critical point where they succumb to stress, leading to large-scale and unpredictable changes. This potential collapse of the Amazon forest system is a global concern.


Bernardo Flores and his colleagues analyzed five causes of water stress in Amazon forests: global warming, annual precipitation, seasonal rainfall intensity, length of the dry season, and deforestation. To study these variables, Flores and others used approximately 65 million years of historical records, climate models, and observational data since the 1980s (such as satellite monitoring data on wildfire spread, tree cover, and deforestation).


The analysis by Flores and others predicted that the Amazon rainforest could reach a tipping point for ecosystem collapse by 2050. Flores and his colleagues also believe that between 10% and 47% of the Amazon rainforest is currently under pressure, which could lead to large-scale shifts in environmental system. Ecosystem shifts could threaten the Amazon's role as a carbon store and could exacerbate the local impacts of climate change.

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Flores and his colleagues argue that these findings provide evidence of the need to strengthen Amazon resilience through proactive efforts. These preventive efforts can include different types of local and global efforts, such as ending deforestation, encouraging reforestation, and moving away from greenhouse gases as an energy source.

doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06970-0

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