tirsdag 21. februar 2012

Climate change post 6: The Amazon rainforest tipping point

I have witnessed the effects of the Amazon rainforest tipping point myself. The prolonged dry season back in 2007 caused a water level in the flooded forests five meters below normal. Changes in the precipitation patterns also causes sudden droughts, confusing the natural ecosystems established over hundreds of centuries.

The indigenous people of Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon, were deeply worried about climate change. Rightly so, as increased temperatures causes changed precipitation patterns, withdrawing glaciers in the Andes mountains and unpredictable water levels in the Amazon river. Check out the first two minutes of this video for some more info!

Passing over to research scientist Schalk Cloete:

"The Amazon contains about half of the entire planet's biodiversity, produces about a fifth of the world's oxygen and contains about a fifth of the planet's fresh water. Quite an impressive repertoire…

Unfortunately though, the Amazon is already threatened by climate change. Two recent droughts, one in 2005 and another in 2010, have killed almost 4 million km2 of trees, releasing in the order of 10 billion tons of CO2 – a third of the annual human contribution.

The ecosystems within the Amazon are tightly interconnected, meaning that, if one or two crucial constituents fail, the entire system unravels. As a result, it takes only a 3 degree rise in temperature to wipe out the greatest biodiversity treasure on earth, releasing 10 years' worth of human carbon emissions."