Will climate change kill the Amazon?

Mar 28, 2007
Will climate change kill the Amazon?
The leakage of fires from deforested areas. Credit: Liana Anderson.

One of the most profound predicted impacts of climate change was discussed in a landmark conference at Oriel College by scientists, conservationists and policymakers from Europe and North and South America.

They discussed some key research showing that although intact forests are fairly resistant to climate change, with partial deforestation the entire landscape could become drier and a domino effect could occur producing a 'tipping point' affecting the whole forest. Scientists were unwilling to quantify the risk of this happening, but talked about ‘corridors of probability’ with models predicting the risk at between 10 to 40 per cent over the next few decades.

In 2005 a very large spread of forest fires was recorded for the first time in the south-western Amazon region. New research by Dr Luiz Aragao, from the Environmental Change Institute, tracked the full extent of those fires in the most affected region – Acre State in Brazil. He said: ‘An area of 2,800 sq km (1,081 sq miles) was burned due to an extensive leakage of fires into newly-flammable forest.’ He also revealed that the fires occurred mainly where there was human activity.

The interdisciplinary conference examined how conservation and sustainable development strategies could buffer the region against climate change, and how a new international market in carbon-trading could finance such a plan.

An early wake-up call on the potential die-back of the Amazon rainforest due to a drying climate emerged from the Met Office Hadley Centre climate model five years ago. The issue of Amazonian die-back then leapt from scientists’ computer predictions to global environmental concern with the unexpected Amazonian drought of 2005, and questions were then asked about whether this should be viewed as a harbinger of things to come.

Conference organiser, Dr Yadvinder Malhi, from the Environmental Change Institute and Oriel College, said: ‘The 2005 Amazon drought took much of the scientific community by surprise, but also provided a window of opportunity to understand how climate change may drive drought, and how humans and ecosystems respond to such drought stress. We need to learn from this quickly, to plan a future for an Amazonian where such droughts may become commonplace.’

Source: University of Oxford

Explore further: Researchers develop new instrument to monitor atmospheric mercury

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA launches satellite to measure soil moisture

7 hours ago

NASA on Saturday launched a new Earth-observing satellite that aims to give scientists high-resolution maps showing how much moisture lies in soil in order to improve climate forecasts.

Long dry spell doomed Mexican city 1,000 years ago

Jan 28, 2015

Archaeologists continue to debate the reasons for the collapse of many Central American cities and states, from Teotihuacan in Mexico to the Yucatan Maya, and climate change is considered one of the major ...

Study of new perspective on water management

Jan 27, 2015

Water management should focus more on how robust different areas are in terms of coping with floods and drought. A robust system means that we can deal better with extreme events. High river discharges and long periods of ...

Monarch butterflies rebound in Mexico, numbers still low

Jan 27, 2015

The number of Monarch butterflies that reached wintering grounds in Mexico has rebounded 69 percent from last year's lowest-on-record levels, but their numbers remain very low, according to the World Wildlife ...

Recommended for you

Arsenic stubbornly taints many US wells, say new reports

Jan 30, 2015

Naturally occurring arsenic in private wells threatens people in many U.S. states and parts of Canada, according to a package of a dozen scientific papers to be published next week. The studies, focused mainly ...

Who's been affected by Australia's extreme heat? Everyone

Jan 30, 2015

Australia has been hit by two years of heat: 2013 was the hottest ever recorded and 2014 wasn't far behind, taking third place. The country has also sweltered through several significant heatwaves, and, though ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.