The Amazon rainforest may be at a higher risk of extreme drought than previously thought, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
Current climate models disagree on whether climate change will make the Amazon wetter or drier. In order to understand the situation better, researchers from the University of Leeds analysed 38 known Amazon climate models.
They found that only a third of these models correctly reproduced the interactions between the atmosphere and land surface.
By focusing on this smaller group of models, the group showed wide agreement in predicting future rainfall changes, with severe drying expected in the eastern Amazon over the next 80 years, and rainfall increases expected in the western basin.
Based on this, the researchers highlighted that without urgent action, the eastern part of the Amazon could face severe drying by the end of the century.
This would lead to large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) being released from the forest into the atmosphere.
This increased dryness would also further threaten other parts of the rainforests, if the trees are already water-stressed then there is a greater risk of forest fires.
The droughts could also impact the water cycle, lead to biodiversity loss and impact the population that live in the region.
Dr Jessica Baker, from the University of Leeds’ School of Earth and Environment, who led the study said: ‘People in Brazil and across the globe are rightly concerned about what the future holds for the Amazon, and its valuable store of carbon and biodiversity.
‘The Amazon is at risk from the twin threats of deforestation and climate change.
‘This new study sheds light on how the Amazon climate is likely to change under an extreme warming scenario. It should ring alarm bells for governments around the world that this vital global resource must not be taken for granted.
‘Protecting and expanding existing forests – which absorb and store carbon – is of paramount importance to combatting climate change.’
Photo by Vlad Hilitanu