According to a new study, the Amazon is no longer acting as a net sink for greenhouse gases.
In July 2019, about 30 scientists from around the world gathered in Manaus, Brazil. Their goal was to map out all of the ways the Amazon absorbs and releases greenhouse gases. In a new study published Thursday, they found something startling: The Amazon may emit as much as or more than it sequesters. Thanks in large part to human decisions, one of the greatest rainforests left on earth may now actually be warming the planet.
Forests, when they are working well, are miraculous carbon-reducing machines. You may recall seeing a diagram of this in a school textbook: the trees pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, transforming the carbon into wood and releasing oxygen in the process.
But in any ecosystem, particularly one as vast and diverse as the Amazon, there aren’t just undisturbed trees—there is soil and water and air, all with their own complicated processes of sequestering and emitting. Trees themselves don’t put out only oxygen; they can also release methane and something called biogenic volatile organic compounds. By looking primarily at carbon sequestration and emissions, the team of scientists concluded in this recent study, we’ve been missing the bigger picture, including other powerful and long-lasting greenhouse gases being released from the Amazon because of human activities like logging, mining, farming, and setting fires. Read more at The New Republic.
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