The Amazon rainforest is “approaching a point of no return under the effect of climate change and could turn into an arid desert within half a century,” Agence France Press (AFP) reported this week.
The Amazon’s tipping point would allegedly be reached once 35 percent of its surface forestation is lost, the report suggested. Currently, some 20 percent of the rainforest — with an area of 2.1 million square miles stretching over seven countries — has been lost since 1970 to make room for growing soybeans, palm oil, and biofuels or for cattle farming.
“Humanity needs to prepare for changes far sooner than expected,” said the study’s lead author Simon Willcock of Bangor University, and the Amazonian ecosystem could tip as soon as next year.
Willcock cited recent fires in the Amazon and Australia to suggest that many ecosystems are “teetering on the edge of this precipice.”
Professor Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason University and Carlos Nobre of the University of São Paulo concur with the results of the study, CNN reported, warning that the Amazon rainforest is “teetering on the edge of functional destruction” and that the point of no return where the rainforest starts drying out and turning into a savannah is “at hand.”
The regional droughts of 2005, 2010, and 2015-16 “could well represent the first flickers of this ecological tipping point,” they said.
According to John Dearing, who took part in the study, manmade climate change is aggravating the destruction of ecosystems.
“When you add in additional stresses like pollution, deforestation, overgrazing, overfishing, the fact that you’ve got this stress in the background just magnifies the chance that the systems could actually collapse quite quickly,” Dearing said.