Why the Amazon forests are no longer acting as a carbon sink

Source – The Indian Express

Relevance – It can be major development because Amazon is the biggest rainforest and should have been the biggest source of oxygen as well.

Synopsis – The Amazon forest goes from absorbing carbon dioxide to emitting it. The emissions are produced by fires, higher temperatures, and climate change, resulting in the south-eastern Amazon becoming a source of CO2, rather than a sink.

Introduction –
  • According to a recent study, portions of the Amazon rainforest are now emitting more carbon dioxide than they absorb, a troubling sign for the fight against climate change.
  • The Amazon region, has served as an important absorber of carbon dioxide. The changing weather patterns have reduced its effectiveness as a climate change buffer, and the conditions are pushed even more by deforestation, burning and global warming.
The Amazon basin-
  • The basin covers over 6 million square km, nearly twice the size of India.
  • The Amazon rainforests occupy over 80% of the basin and are home to nearly a fifth of the world’s land species and about 30 million people including hundreds of indigenous groups and many isolated tribes.
  • The basin produces about 20% of the world’s flow of freshwater into the oceans

What are the reasons for Amazon region for not being able to absorb as much CO2 as it did?

According to a study published in the journal Nature, substantial deforestation in the eastern and southeastern regions has turned the forest into a source of CO2 that has the ability to warm the planet.

  • First, Deforestation and rapid warming trend have contributed to change in the carbon balance. It is most severe in the southeastern region of the Amazon, where there are both rising temperatures and reduced rainfall in the dry season.
    • Scientist have observed the following changes-
      • 25 percent reduction in precipitation.
      • The southeastern regions have warmed by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit during the dry season.
  • Second, Conversion of forests into agricultural land –
    • This has caused a 17 per cent decrease in the forest cover, an area that is almost the size of continental US.
  • Third, Forest fires – In the region, the farmers burn their field to clear it for the next crop. Since 2013, the number of fires has doubled [In 2019, fires in the Amazon regions were visible from space].
Way forward-
  • The Amazon is on the verge of functional destruction; not just the Amazon rainforests, but other Southeast Asian forests have also turned into carbon sources in the last few years as a result of formation of plantations and fires.
  • If tropical forests’ potential to operate as carbon sinks is to be preserved, fossil fuel emissions must be controlled, and temperature rises must be restricted.


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