The Amazon Tipping Point is here, say leading climate scientist Carlos Nobre and renowned conservation biologist Thomas Lovejoy in a new science policy editorial published today, December 20. The tipping point’s arrival could mean a rapid rainforest die-off — releasing massive amounts of carbon to the atmosphere at a time when the world most needs carbon reductions.
For more than a half century, write the researchers, scientists have known that the Amazon creates its own hydrological cycle: rainforest trees regulate the region’s evaporation, transpiration and rainfall. However, the more tree cover loss there is, the more droughts are intensified. And when the rainforest no longer receives enough rain to sustain itself, trees begin to die back into a form of degraded savanna or shrubland.