An international team of scientists said that in the past decade, Amazonian forests have emitted more carbon than they have absorbed. However, this is due to tree degradation, not deforestation.
Over the past decade, the Amazon rainforest has released more carbon than it absorbed, according to a new study. Scientists used satellite monitoring to measure carbon stock from 2010 to 2019. The study found that degradation (damage but not destruction of part of the forest) resulted in three times more carbon loss than deforestation.
The research team, including experts from the University of Oklahoma and the University of Exeter, said large areas of rainforest have been degraded or destroyed by human activities and climate change, leading to dramatic loss of carbon.
The results of the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, also show a significant increase in deforestation in 2019 – 3.9 million hectares, up from about 1 million per year in 2017 and 2018.
Professor Stephen Sitch of the Global Systems Institute of Exeter commented: “The Amazon as a whole has lost some of its biomass and therefore released carbon. We all know about the importance of deforestation in the Amazon and the impact on global climate change. However, our research shows that emissions from associated forest degradation processes could be even greater. ”
Degradation is a widespread threat to the future integrity of forests and requires urgent attention from researchers, the scientists added. Degradation is associated with deforestation, especially in weakened parts of the forest, but it is also caused by tree felling and forest fires. Climatic events such as droughts further increase tree mortality.
The change of government in Brazil in 2019 also led to a sharp decline in the level of environmental protection in the country. Deforestation of 3.9 million hectares this year is 30% more than in 2015, when extreme El Niño droughts led to increased tree death and wildfires.