The Amazon Rainforest Is At A Tipping Point, Research Finds

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Photographed is the deforestation as a result of gold mining projects in the Amazon Rainforest. Researchers find that the rainforest may currently be at a tipping point.   ( Jody Amiet | AFP/Getty Images )

Is there still a chance of saving the Amazon rainforest? Scientists believe that if climate change and deforestation persist, it may reach the point of no return.

'The Point Of No Return'

The Amazon rainforest is undoubtedly a significant part of the Earth, as its health is directly linked to the health of the planet as well. Unfortunately, it has been adulterated by deforestation and the effects of climate change, and one may wonder if there is still a chance to save the planet's biggest tropical rainforest.

An article published in the journal Science Advances details the kind of wiggle room that humanity has before the Amazon reaches the point of no return. In the past, models showed that at about 40 percent deforestation, the southern, central, and eastern Amazon could have longer dry seasons and experience less rainfall that would lead to the shift toward savanna vegetation in the east.

However, changes in recent years as a result of rising temperatures and the increase in the use of fire to eliminate felled trees have changed the odds. Considering these factors, the authors believe that the tipping point has now gone from 40 percent to 20 to 25 percent deforestation. So far, the Amazon's deforestation level is at 17 percent, which is dangerously close to the new tipping point. If changes are not made, the Amazon could very well be at the point of no return.

"We believe that the sensible course is not only to strictly curb further deforestation, but also to build back a margin of safety against the Amazon tipping point, by reducing the deforested area to less than 20%," said the authors. "There is no point in discovering the precise tipping point by tipping it."

The Earth's Biggest Rainforest

As mentioned, the Amazon rainforest is the biggest rainforest on the planet, spanning across eight countries including Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and French Guiana, and Venezuela. It contains 1.4 billion acres of forest land, 4,100 miles of rivers, and one in 10 of all species on the planet, including 400 newly discovered plant and animal species.

Its health is directly linked to the very planet's health, as its rainforests contain about 140 billion metric tons of carbon. If deforestation ensues, the release of this contained carbon could lead to catastrophic results for the entire planet. Furthermore, the Amazon is also home to over 30 million people who rely on its resources for shelter, food, and livelihood.

Apart from major deforestation, unsustainable mining, poorly planned infrastructure, and extensive agricultural expansion are also threats to the Amazon rainforest.

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