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South-East Amazon is now a Carbon emitter

South-East Amazon is now a Carbon emitter

The findings of a recently released 8 year study have revealed that the south-east Amazon is now releasing more carbon than it absorbs

The issue of burning vast tracts of the Amazon to clear it for farming has dominated headlines for years - and to the point where we pretty much eye roll and keep moving. Problem is that Amazonia is home to the world's largest tropical forests and burning it down is literally sucking the oxygen out of the air for the rest of our interconnected world. (More scientifically, there is less of it to make oxygen and as logged forests decompose, carbon (CO2) is released.)

The Amazon rainforest is one of the world's large carbon sinks, meaning that it absorbs more CO2 than it emits - which, given its size has a huge impact on GHG levels in the atmosphere. This latest work seems to be collaborating what many people fear - that the Amazon as a whole is an increasingly unreliable CO2 sink. 

8-year study

The results of an 8 year study by, measuring the lower-tropospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide from 2010 to 2018 has found that carbon emissions in the easter Amazonia are greater - mostly brought about by carbon monoxide derived fire emissions.
Fires are not the only source of elevated CO2 as the impacts of climate change also create a (un)virtuous circle.

Over the past 40 years, eastern Amazonia has been subjected to more deforestation, warming and moisture stress than the western part, especially during the dry season, with the southeast experiencing the strongest trends.

The (un)virtuous circle

The research explores the effect of climate change and deforestation trends on carbon emissions, and finds that the intensification of the dry season and an increase in deforestation seem to promote ecosystem stress, increase in fire occurrence, and higher carbon emissions in the eastern Amazon. This is in line with recent studies that indicate an increase in tree mortality and a reduction in photosynthesis as a result of climatic changes across Amazonia. (Which brings us back to the lack of oxygen.)

Widely published

The results of this research have been widely published and its surprising that the issue hasn't gotten more attention, given its global implications. You can read more about it at NPR | Science Focus

Image from by Harold Palo Jr.

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