Something strange is brewing in the Amazon rainforests3 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
Is it a new species? Is it an underground alien colony? Or is it another mysterious cave?
Well, it’s none of the above, but something even more startling than that.
Amazon, the biggest rainforest in the world, is also the most species-rich geographical body in the world. It releases 6 % of the world’s oxygen. So, its role in combatting climate change cannot be overestimated. But in a weird twist to nature’s tale, new research has proved that Amazon rainforest are contributing to the warming up of the planet.
Human activities within and outside the forests, along with their many consequences in the natural world, are causing this change in Amazon’s place in climate change.
Deforestation, rising temperatures, and drought are limiting the capacity of the world’s largest rainforest to absorb carbon dioxide from the environment. This is curbing its ability to offset the effects of fossil-fuel burning. Some parts of the forest may be releasing more carbon than they can absorb.
Rising temperatures are causing Amazonian wetlands to dry up. When wetlands dry up, they release nitrogen dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas. Land-clearing fires release black soot that absorb sunlight, thus warming the environment. Deforestation for cattle rearing, commercial activities and construction of dams alter rain patterns thus contributing to this drying and warming up.
Owliver’s Obscure Observations:
Researchers are worried that even if 20-25% of the rainforests are cleared, the whole rainforest will turn into a woodland savanna, a land covered in grass and few trees.
Flooding and building of dams causes the release of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 28 times stronger than other greenhouse gases.
Nature has its own role to play in Amazon’s impact on climate change.
The diversity of the Amazon’s forests complicates how it is understood. The Amazon stores 200 gigatons of carbon, equivalent to four or five years worth of carbon emissions by humans.
1 gigaton is 1,000,000,000 tons.
But the Amazon is also extremely wet! And microbes residing in the wet soil release the greenhouse gas, methane. Trees help carry that methane into the atmosphere.
The Amazon that stores a huge amount of carbon produces 3.5% of globally produced methane in a year.
Amazon is capable of maintaining this balance such that the amount of carbon it absorbs is more than what it emits. Remember carbon negativity?
But it is human interference that has disturbed the natural balances maintained in the Amazon for all of time.
The research proves that carbon is just part of Amazon’s problem. Human activity like damming of rivers, clearing of forests etc. alter natural processes of the forest thus limiting its ability to combat climate change.
Whatever happens in Brazil (and countries bordering the Amazon) impacts the whole world. The Brazilian government has itself cleared 17% of the Amazonian forests.
Similarly, what you are doing in your homes, is also impacting the world in varying degrees. So, it is definitely worth being mindful.
And while you mull over what you can do to help the Amazon, how about finding it on a map?
Sourced from The National Geographic.