Daily News Analysis

Amazon forests no longer acting as a carbon sink



  • The Amazon forests in South America, which are the largest tropical forests in the world, have started emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) instead of absorbing carbon emissions.


More about news:

  • In a study published in the Nature, scientists who conducted this research over a period of nine years in the eastern Amazon forests have said that a significant amount of deforestation in eastern and southeastern Brazil has turned the forest into a source of CO2 that has the ability to warm the planet.
  • Not only the Amazon rainforests, some forests in Southeast Asia have also turned into carbon sources in the last few years as a result of formation of plantations and fires.


The Amazon basin

  • The Amazon basin is huge with an area covering over 6 million square kilometres, it is nearly twice the size of India.
  • The Amazon rainforests cover about 80 per cent of the basin.
  • It is home to nearly a fifth of the world’s land species and about 30 million people including hundreds of indigenous groups and several isolated tribes.
  • It produces about 20 per cent of the world’s flow of freshwater into the oceans.
  • Forest fires have doubled since 2013. One reason is when farmers burn their land to clear it for the next crop.


Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon

  • It comprises about two-thirds of the area of the rainforest.
  • It started in the 1970s and 1980s when large-scale forest conversion for cattle ranching and soy cultivation began.
  • NASA’s Earth Observatory notes that state policies that encourage economic development, such as railway and road expansion projects have led to “unintentional deforestation” in the Amazon and Central America.


So, what have the researchers found?

  • Over the years, the Amazon forests have absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere, helping to moderate the global climate.
  • Because of significant levels of deforestation, the eastern Amazon forests are no longer carbon sinks, whereas the more intact and wetter forests in the central and western parts are neither carbon sinks nor are they emitters.
  • The eastern region is not being able to absorb as much CO2 as it did previously is due to the conversion of forests into agricultural land, which has caused a 17 per cent decrease in the forest cover.
  • This means that if the ability of tropical forests to act as carbon sinks is to be maintained, fossil fuel emissions need to be reduced and temperature increases need to be limited as well.