Global warming, droughts, deforestation, fires: these phenomena are a constant all over the world, but more so in the Amazon and it may lead to the death of the largest rain forest on the planet much sooner than was thought. Over the last two years, the Amazon suffered fires that caused the destruction of over 900,000 hectares of forest. Another 1,200 square km of forest in Brazil have been damaged by humans in 2020.
According to a new study by Robert Walker, geography professor at the University of Florida, the Amazon rain forest of South America will be decimated by the end of this century due to deforestation and prolonged droughts. Without urgent intervention it could soon move from a dense, humid, tropical forest to an open tropical savanna full of bushes.
Walker points out that, in addition to being one of the great lungs of the Earth, with the greatest diversity on the planet and helping to regulate the world’s pollution, oxygen or biodiversity, the Amazon is extremely important for maintaining the fresh water of millions of citizens in the area: the Amazon region is responsible for regular cycles of heavy rainfall that are the most important source of water. All this balance is at risk.
The geologist explains that if everything continues as it is, the extension of the dry seasons will soon no longer allow the forest canopy the five years needed between dry seasons to recover from the fires, allowing flammable grasses and bushes to invade large parts of the area. And it estimates that 2064 will roughly be the turning point, where extreme droughts become frequent to the point that it is impossible to regenerate the canopy. This in turn will trigger the end of the forest as we know it.
In the article, originally published in Environment magazine, Walker notes that the greatest danger involves the intensification of tree mortality based on drought, fires, deforestation and logging. A major factor in deforestation is the deliberate igniting of the rain forest canopy to make room for cattle grazing and agriculture: thousands of square meters have been destroyed in recent years. US and the European Union trade deals have created incentives for expansive agriculture in Brazil.
Robert Walker goes on to say that dependence on the local population of the Amazon as a source of water means that “the magnitude of the catastrophe will be worse than imagined.” The study also points out that at the beginning of this millennium there were environmental policies in Brazil that managed to reduce the rate of deforestation in the Amazon Basin. The numbers, unfortunately, have risen again in recent years. The report warns of the responsibility of several governments and that everything is happening as a consequence of man-made disturbances and meat consumption. People eating a steak in Paris or London or New York might not know or choose not to know, but “we are all responsible,” said the scientist.