The Amazon forest is at risk of entering a cycle of drought and deforestation caused by human action and the reduction of rainfall in the region, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature.
This research led by the scientist Delphine Clara Zemp of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany was carried out through a complex and innovative analysis of water flows, which allowed the elaboration of the relationship between deforestation and drought.
“On the one hand, we know that reducing rainfall increases the risk of deforestation and, on the other, this deforestation can intensify drought in the region”, she explained. “The larger the drought the smaller the forest is, the smaller the drier the forest will be and so on. The consequences of this circle, between the plants on the ground and the atmosphere that surrounds them, is not yet so clear”, he added.
She also said that this study “provides more insight into this issue, highlighting the risk of deforestation being directly linked to reduced rainfall.” Although the average rainfall does not vary much, the extent of the drought will affect the Amazon that may in the future, become a savanna, according to predictions resulting from the study.
“The water cycle in the Amazon is a mixture of physics and biology, but it is also one of the greatest wonders of nature”, said study co-author Henrique M. Barbosa, a researcher at the University of São Paulo (USP) in Brazil. “While the cycle is very powerful, it is also surprisingly susceptible to environmental changes and human activity, which imposes massive disturbances in the Amazon. Deforestation and greenhouse gases reduce humidity and precipitation, factors that ultimately affect even the unexplored parts of the forest”.
In addition, in the study, it is stated that one of the strengths of the Amazon forest to resist this threat is the diversity of vegetation. “As each species reacts differently, and there is a great diversity of vegetation, it means that the ecosystem can withstand better,” said Marina Hirota of the Federal University of Santa Catarina, another institution in Brazil that participated in the study”. Preserving biodiversity becomes not only a matter of loving nature, but a stabilizing element of the terrestrial system”, he concluded.