Amazon May Be a Carbon Source
Deforestation and Climate Change Feedbacks Set In
The Amazon rainforest region is suffering a severe drought highly likely to have been caused or at least exacerbated by rainforest loss and climate change. This is a very severe drought, with water levels in some Amazon tributaries up to 15 meters lower than usual. In response, the Brazilian government has declared parts of the Amazon River a disaster area. Dry spells in the Amazon occur regularly, and are believed to be tied to cycles in water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean which affect the quantity of rainfall in rainforests. This year the Atlantic Ocean's waters are warmer as the result of climate change, the same phenomenon that intensified recent hurricanes, and this is contributing to the severity of this drought. The common practice of using fires to clear land of forests and brush is also aggravating the dry spell.
The Amazon is well on its way to being a net carbon source rather than sink, if it is not already. Feedbacks are intensifying this crisis as logging, forest burning and climate change cause forest loss, which releases carbon dioxide, which results in climate change that in turn causes more forest burning and greater carbon release. The Amazon continued existence as a foundation of the operation of the global ecological system is threatened. While scientists quoted in these articles are careful to not blame the drought on global warming and deforestation, there clearly is overwhelming science to support this assertion.
Given that there is only one Amazon to be saved or lost, it is a matter of prudence to act now rather than when it is certain deforestation and climate are destroying this massive rainforest, and the Earth spirals towards unavoidable ecosystem collapse. In past weeks we have witnessed the melting of Arctic ice, loss of American cities from monster hurricanes and now the Amazon is threatened. Rainforest loss is a major cause of carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere which is causing these climate change impacts. How much more evidence do we need that climate change and rainforest loss are happening now with deadly consequences?