Amazonas: The rainforest is only recovering slowly

The rainforest in the Amazon region has been steadily losing resilience since the early 2000s. According to a study by a British-German research team published in the journal Nature Climate Change, more than three quarters of the forests have lost their ability to recover from disturbances such as droughts or fires.

Niklas Boers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and his colleagues from the British University of Exeter statistically analyzed high-resolution satellite data on changes in biomass and productivity in the Amazon forest. They attribute the declining resilience to the stress caused by deforestation and slash-and-burn; the influence of climate change has not yet been clearly ascertained. A study was recently published in mid-2021 that made it clear that parts of the forests in the Amazon region are now producing more CO2 deliver than they receive.

“Reduced resilience – the ability to recover from disturbances such as drought or fire – may mean an increased risk of the Amazon rainforest dying off,” says Boers. “It is worrying that we are finding such a loss of resilience in the observations”.

Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute in Exeter, UK, says the current analysis confirms that a strong limit on deforestation, but also a limit on global greenhouse gas emissions, is necessary to protect the Amazon. He was also involved in the investigation.

»It is worrying that we are finding such a loss of resilience in the observations«
(Niklas Boers, climate researcher)

According to the researchers, dry areas are particularly at risk for the loss of resilience. “This is alarming because the IPCC models predict a general drying out of the Amazon in response to human-caused global warming,” says Boers. Areas near human settlements are also particularly threatened.

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