Deforestation and Climate Change Slowing Down Regrowth of the Amazon Rainforest
Sun, April 18, 2021

Deforestation and Climate Change Slowing Down Regrowth of the Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon is the world's largest rainforest, spanning 670 million hectares. It is home to 75% of the world’s unique species and it also has the largest number of freshwater fish species in the world / Photo by: James Martins via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Amazon is the world's largest rainforest, spanning 670 million hectares. It is home to 75% of the world’s unique species and it also has the largest number of freshwater fish species in the world. Unfortunately, the Amazon has been battered with different kinds of deforestation, manmade and otherwise. As reported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 20% of the Amazon's biome has already been lost and the trend will only worsen if left unchecked. The WWF estimated that 27% of the whole biome will be without trees by the end of this decade. Forest cover loss has averaged 1.4 million hectares per annum, and between 2001 and 2012, it has already lost 17.7 million hectares. Moreover, the fires that the Amazon experienced in recent years clearly made an impact on the chance and percentage of total regrowth of its trees as well as its primary ability to help mitigate climate change by absorbing the carbon from the atmosphere. 

Rebounding Forests

Secondary forests are described to be forests that return to full growth after being cleared. In Latin America today, there are 2.4 million square kilometers of secondary forests. The regrowth of trees in the region where primary forests were deforested and essentially destroyed is a good sign—the returning forests have significant local and global ecological benefits for the whole community and the world.

According to The Conversation, a website that offers informed commentary and debate on the issues affecting our world, secondary forests can provide a natural space for animals living in the vicinity and also sequester a big amount of carbon from the atmosphere. Moreover, these secondary forests can protect and restore soils, replenish watersheds, and benefit the whole community.

Unfortunately, the persistent fires in forests have truly greatly impacted their recovery. Across the Central Amazon this year, many fires were started that really destroyed a large amount of rainforest cover.

Secondary forests are described to be forests that return to full growth after being cleared. In Latin America today, there are 2.4 million square kilometers of secondary forests / Photo by: Colin Trainor via Wikimedia Commons

 

Regrowth of the Amazon Rainforest          

A new study from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom and published in the Ecology journal claimed that deforestation and climate change both contribute greatly to the slowdown of the regrowth of the Amazon rainforest. This could have significant impacts on climate change predictions and the ability of secondary forests to soak up the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The researchers observed and monitored the forest regrowth over 20 years and they concluded that climate change and deforestation are hampering the regrowth of the Amazon. The Amazon rainforest acts as a secondary forest that takes up large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and it has been an important tool in fighting human-caused climate change.

The researchers from Lancaster University together with their Brazilian counterparts found out that even after 60 years of regrowth, the secondary forests held only 40% of the carbon dioxide. If the current trend continues, they calculated that it will take over a century for the forests to fully recover and regain their ability to absorb as much carbon as they can and fight climate change.

As reported on Science Daily, an environmental and climate change website that publishes different environmental studies, the secondary forests today take in less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during droughts while climate change is still increasingly affecting the number of drought-years in the Amazon. According to Fernando Elias, the first author of the study and a professor at the Federal University of Para, the region that his team studied in the Amazon has seen a temperature increase of 0.1 degrees Celsius every decade and the tree growth was also slower during the periods of drought. This means that as the Earth becomes hotter, the slower the rate of growth of the trees will become.

A new study from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom and published in the Ecology journal claimed that deforestation and climate change both contribute greatly to the slowdown of the regrowth of the Amazon rainforest / Photo by: Alexander Gerst via Flickr

 

Moreover, with predictions of more droughts in the future, people must be cautious about the ability of secondary forests, including the Amazon, in helping fight and mitigate climate change. The results of the study emphasized the need for international agreements that will essentially minimize the impacts of climate change in the forests as much as possible. This means that countries, especially those surrounding the Amazon, must halt or heavily regulate their logging activities as it can result in further massive deforestation.

Furthermore, according to Joice N. Ferreira, a biologist and a researcher from the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, their study has shown that heavily deforested areas in the Amazon really need additional support in reforestation efforts. They need more seed sources and seed-dispersing animals in order for reforestation to be more efficient and effective in the long run.

Joe Barlow, a professor of Conservation Science at Lancaster University, explained that there is also a need for long-term studies about secondary forests since they are increasingly becoming widespread in the Amazon. Long-term studies are needed in order to gain a better understanding of the resilience of secondary forests and to target the restoration that will do most to combat climate change.

Several nations have already pledged their commitment to stop deforestation and increase their reforestation efforts, including Brazil and many others under the Paris climate agreement. For instance, Brazil has committed to restoring 12 million hectares of forest. These pledges need strong reinforcement because the world really needs a firmer action when it comes to deforestation.

There is an urgent need for the countries surrounding the Amazon to pledge for its safety and security. Wildfires cannot be prevented but it can be stopped if only there are sufficient tools and manpower to combat them.