The Amazon Rainforest could be completely wiped out by 2064, a scientist has predicted.
A number of factors contributing to the demise of the rainforest, including climate change and deforestation, could lead to the Amazon completely drying out much sooner than anyone had anticipated.
The rainforest is by far the biggest tropical forest on the planet, and it plays an important role in regulating carbon dioxide levels on Earth.
However, the vast 2.3 million square mile forest could be reduced to dry plains in our lifetime, if we don’t make changes now, a scientist has warned.
Robert Walker, a professor of geography at the University of Florida, says the rainforest is currently on a ‘tipping point’ as a result of human disturbances we’re all responsible for.
He says that the current, moisture-filled forest will be nothing more than an open savannah, which could even be susceptible to the bushfires seen across Australia at the beginning of this year.
And, while it might sound like something way into the future, it could all happen within the next 44 years, Walker predicts, as a result of extreme droughts becoming so frequent they become impossible to recover from.
Not only would the complete destruction of the rainforest be catastrophic for the climate, it would also be a disaster for all the locals who call the rainforest home, and rely on the Amazon as a source of water to survive.
Writing in a paper published in the journal Environment, Walker cited the Brazilian government as one of the reasons for the renewed concerns for the future of the rainforest.
‘It is doubtful that the Amazonian forest will remain resilient to changes in the regional hydroclimate. The biggest concern involves intensification of drought-based tree mortality stemming from the synergies of fire, deforestation, and logging,’ he wrote.
‘The development of Amazonia now lies on a collision course not only with the interests of conservation but also with the welfare of the very people it is meant to benefit.’
More than 80,000 fires were reported in the Amazon in 2019, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, sparking huge concerns among environmentalists all over the world.
Meanwhile, research has proven that the deforestation of the rainforest can affect the regional climate, by increasing the dry season and reducing rainfall.
‘A forest cannot survive if its canopy needs more than four years to recover from a yearly event,’ Walker explained, citing that every period of drought requires four years of recovery.
‘In fact, southern Amazonia can expect to reach a tipping point sometime before 2064 at the current rate of dry-season lengthening.’
He added: ‘By then, the return cycle of severe drought will have dipped below the time needed for the canopy to recover, at which point the forested landscape, denuded by fire, will be permanently invaded by flammable grasses and shrubs.’
Although he didn’t go into what the answer could be, it’s clear that something needs to change soon.
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