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Why Amazon Forest is no longer World’s Carbon Sink?

Why Amazon Forest is no longer World’s Carbon Sink?


  • GS 3 || Environment || Climate Change || Tackling Climate Change

Why in the news?

The Amazon forests in South America, which are the largest tropical forests in the world, have started emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) instead of absorbing carbon emissions.


  • According to a recent research, sections of the Amazon rainforest are now releasing more carbon dioxide than they are absorbing, which is a worrying indication for climate change efforts.
  • The Amazon Basin has been a significant carbon dioxide absorber. Changes in weather patterns have diminished its efficacy as a climate change buffer, while deforestation, burning, and global warming have exacerbated the situation.

Key Findings of the study:

  • As worldwide fossil-fuel emissions have grown, the Amazon trees have absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere, assisting in climate change mitigation.
  • However, experts do not claim that there has been a long-term drop in rainfall and increase in temperatures during the dry season as a result of substantial amounts of deforestation (over the period of 40 years).
    • The eastern Amazon forests are no longer carbon sinks as a result of these factors.
    • The more intact and wetter forests in the central and western portions, on the other hand, are neither carbon sinks nor emitters.
  • Cause of forest conversion to CO2 emitting forest: Forest conversion to agricultural land, which has resulted in a 17 percent reduction in forest cover, an area nearly the size of the continental United States.
  • In the southeast region:
    • This region accounts up around 20% of the Amazon basin, and it has witnessed about 30% of the deforestation over the last four decades.
    • Scientists recorded a 25% drop in precipitation and a temperature increase of at least 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit or 1.5 degrees Celsius throughout the dry months of August, September, and October.

The Amazon Basin:

With a surface area of approximately 6 million square kilometers, the Amazon basin is roughly twice the size of India.

The Amazon jungles occupy over 80% of the basin and are home to about a fifth of the world’s land species, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory. They also house around 30 million people, including hundreds of indigenous groups and many isolated tribes.


Importance Amazon rainforest:

  • The Amazon rainforest aids in the regulation of the world’s oxygen and carbon cycles.
  • It generates around 6% of the world’s oxygen and has long been considered to function as a carbon sink, absorbing enormous amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • The Amazon basin provides roughly 20% of the world’s freshwater flow into the oceans; nevertheless, when trees are cut down and the forest is burned, massive amounts of carbon are released into the sky.
  • According to recent study, these trees may be releasing more carbon dioxide than they are absorbing.
  • Deforestation and forest fires have posed a danger to the forest in recent years. Fires in the Amazon were seen from orbit in 2019. According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), forest fires have increased by a factor of two since 2013.

Threat to Amazon rainforest:

  • Over the last few years, the forest has been under threat due to deforestation and burning.
    • In 2019, fires in the Amazon were visible from space.
    • Forest fires, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), have doubled since 2013.
    • One reason that they happen is when farmers burn their land to clear it for the next crop.
  • In the 1970s and 1980s, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, which covers roughly two-thirds of the rainforest’s area, began.
    • When large-scale forest conversion for cattle grazing and soy production started.
  • According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, state programs that encourage economic growth, such as railway and road construction projects, have led to “unintentional deforestation” in the Amazon and Central America.

Reasons for Amazon region for not being able to absorb as much CO2:

  • Deforestation and fast warming trends have contributed to alterations in the carbon balance. It is particularly severe in the southeastern area of the Amazon, where there are both rising temperatures and decreased rainfall in the dry season. The following alterations have been noted by scientists:
    • There will be a 25% decrease in precipitation. During the dry season, the southern areas warmed by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Forest conversion to agricultural land: This has resulted in a 17% reduction in forest cover, an area nearly the size of the continental United States.
  • Forest fires: Farmers burn their land to clear it for the following harvest, which contributes to forest fires. “The precious Amazon is teetering on the verge of functional destruction,” according to an editorial published in the journal Science Advances in 2019.

Why does Amazon matter to the world?

  • Amazon rainforest impacted by climate change:
    • The Amazon rainforest is critical for local and regional climate change control.
    • The Amazon trades a lot of energy and water with the atmosphere.
    • As a result, it has an impact on world climate and ocean current circulation.
  • Amazon rainforest respiratory system of the earth:
    • It is undeniable that trees play an important role in lowering pollution levels in the atmosphere.
    • Humans have emitted a huge amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during the last century, resulting in disastrous repercussions such as climate change and global warming.
    • The Amazon rainforest aids in the filtration and reprocessing of carbon dioxide to lower levels in the atmosphere.
  • Potential of Amazon in the health sector:
    • Only around half of one percent of the Amazon’s blooming species have been investigated for their medicinal potential, according to estimates.
    • There are still a lot of flora and fauna species that haven’t been discovered.
    • Due to the loss in forest cover, the forest’s potential remains untapped.

Steps taken at global level to protect the Amazon Rainforest:

  • G7 Countries:
  1. The G7 nations have given $20 million in help to the Amazon countries in their fight against the wildfire.
  2. These nations have also decided to begin a long-term global effort to save the Amazon rainforest.
  3. Reduced deforestation and increased afforestation of the Amazon rainforest would be part of this strategy.
  4. Environmentalists criticized Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies for the deteriorating wildfire situation in the Amazon.
  5. If President Bolsonaro does not modify his attitude, France and Ireland have vowed to veto the EU trade pact with Brazil and three other Latin American countries.
  6. The Brazilian president retaliated by turning down a $20 million offer from the G7 countries.
  7. Despite these political difficulties, many analysts feel that G7 financing will not be enough to resolve the current crisis.
  • Germany and Norway: Germany and Norway have stopped funding programs aimed at preventing Amazon rainforest destruction. Both nations had accused Brazil’s government of failing to take the required measures to put out the forest fire.

Way Forward:

  • The ability of tropical forests to act as carbon sinks is to be maintained.
  • Fossil fuel emissions need to be reduced.
  • Temperature increases need to be limited as well.
  • Bolivia and Paraguay – Brazil’s neighbors are presently battling forest fires that are ravaging the country.
  • The Brazilian government committed to restoring 12 hectares of deforested land in 2016. It appears to have devolved into mere rhetoric under the Brazilian government’s present policies.
  • The international community must put its differences aside and work together to tackle the racial inequality problem.

Mains oriented question:

Deforestation continues to happen, it could eventually lead to the development of savannah in the eastern and southern portion of Amazon. Comment. (200 words)