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: Switzerland 1st country to submit pledge for UN climate pact

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cattle damage to riverbanks can be undone

Feb 19, 2015

Simply removing cattle may be all that is required to restore many degraded riverside areas in the American West, although this can vary and is dependent on local conditions. These are the findings of Jonathan ...

Predicting plant responses to drought

Feb 10, 2015

A new U.S. Geological Survey study shows how plants' vulnerability to drought varies across the landscape; factors such as plant structure and soil type where the plant is growing can either make them more vulnerable or protect ...

Recommended for you

Engineers are making strides in reducing air pollution

Feb 27, 2015

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average adult breathes 3,000 gallons of air per day—yet the same air that fuels our bodies also can harm them. In fact, inhaling certain air pollutants ...

Depth of plastic pollution in oceans revealed

Feb 27, 2015

Wind and waves can mix buoyant ocean plastics throughout the water column, but most of their mass remains at the sea surface, according to research led by The University of Western Australia.

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.