Amazon Forests : From Carbon sink to CO2 source – UPSC GS3

  • According to a recent study, portions of the Amazon rainforest are now emitting more carbon dioxide than they absorb.
  • The Amazon region, has served as an important absorber of carbon dioxide. The changing weather patterns have reduced its effectiveness as a climate change buffer, and the conditions are pushed even more by deforestation, burning and global warming.
The Amazon basin:
  • The basin covers over 6 million square km, nearly twice the size of India.
  • The Amazon rainforests occupy over 80% of the basin and are home to nearly a fifth of the world’s land species and about 30 million people including hundreds of indigenous groups and many isolated tribes.
  • The basin produces about 20% of the world’s flow of freshwater into the oceans
What are the reasons for Amazon region for not being able to absorb as much CO2 as it did?
Substantial deforestation in the eastern and south-eastern regions has turned the forest into a source of CO2 that has the ability to warm the planet.
  • Deforestation and rapid warming trend have contributed to change in the carbon balance.
  • Scientist have observed the following changes:
    • 25 percent reduction in precipitation.
    • The south-eastern regions have warmed by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit during the dry season.
  • Conversion of forests into agricultural land :
    • This has caused a 17 per cent decrease in the forest cover, an area that is almost the size of continental US.
  • Forest fires:
    • In the region, the farmers burn their field to clear it for the next crop. Since 2013, the number of fires has doubled [In 2019, fires in the Amazon regions were visible from space].
Way forward:
  • The Amazon is on the verge of functional destruction; not just the Amazon rainforests, but other Southeast Asian forests have also turned into carbon sources in the last few years as a result of formation of plantations and fires.
  • If tropical forests’ potential to operate as carbon sinks is to be preserved, fossil fuel emissions must be controlled, and temperature rises must be restricted.
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