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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

A world without Amazon

In a recent research piece entitled Observations of increased tropical rainfall preceded by air passage over forests published in the journal Nature, authors have found that under a business-as-usual tropical deforestation pattern, massive reductions in rainfall over South America would occur during this century.

Aerial view of the Amazon, near Manaus (Brazil). Photo: CIAT repository.

Spracklen and colleagues, from UK Universities, have empirically combined measures of air moisture, rainfall and vegetation density with current trends of Amazonian deforestation and report “reductions of 12 and 21 per cent in wet-season and dry-season precipitation respectively across the Amazon basin by 2050, due to less-efficient moisture recycling“.

Further, the study shows the largest relative reductions are likey to occur towards the Brazilian Amazon and its borders with the Cerrado, where current deforestation trends may be the largest across the whole forest. If deforestation trends keep on the same track of recent years, humanity will be faced with even more challenges than the Global Climate Models from the IPCC predict.

Just wondering, what would be the effect of this on water flow in the Amazon and other rivers, on the ecosystem services the basin provides, and on the people that make use of these ecosystem services?

We need better and stronger policies that allow us to stray from the business as usual pathway, and better forest monitoring and conservation. It is not only about few protected areas helping to conserve few landscape patches and the species present in them, and allowing tourism. Rather, we must realise the importance of keeping forests as entire units that have an strong role in controlling regional climate and from which ecosystem services humanity receives large benefits.

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