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July 15, 2021

According to a study conducted by Nature Journal, certain parts of the Amazon rainforest are emitting more carbon dioxide than absorbing due to human induced disturbances. The Amazon region is home to the world’s largest tropical rainforests and stores immense quantities of carbon dioxide. Due to the increasing deforestation and climate shifts, global warming caused by humans, the region’s effectiveness as a climate change buffer has been damaged.

To measure the carbon dioxide & carbon monoxide levels, researchers have conducted 600 flyovers between 2010 and 2018 at four sites. The assessment revealed that the total carbon emissions were greater in the Eastern part of Amazonia which was facing deforestation and warming. In southeastern Amazonia, specific regions experienced the strongest effects; as a result, instead of being carbon sinks, it became the cause for more carbon emissions. This is the tipping-point scientists have foreshadowed.

Forests functions as a carbon sink by capturing gas through the process of photosynthesis, storing it in biomass, plants, and animals, dead and organic matter and soil. Fires set intentionally to clear land for agriculture has resulted in the destruction of storage sources, which in turn caused the forest to lose its ability to sequester greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere. The region’s water cycle is altered too and could potentially cause the transition of the rainforest into a savannah.

Professor Scott Denning at Colorado State University mentioned in an article that the researchers have documented the accelerating transition of forests from carbon sinks to sources. He also stated that the Amazon carbon sinks are being threatened by the overall deforestation patterns, warmer and drier seasons, and drought, fire and carbon release. He added that "Indeed, the results cast doubt on the ability of tropical forests to sequester large amounts of fossil-fuel-derived CO2 in the future."

As deforestation in the Amazon has augmented in recent years and climate change has altered rainfall and temperature patterns, its highly concerning to the scientific and environmental communities that the Amazon could go from a net absorber of carbon dioxide to a source of emission. This would make it difficult for the world to curb climate change to stay aligned to the goals set out in the Paris climate treaty. This study shows that for at least a portion of the Amazon, the tipping point from sink to source has been crossed.