New research suggests that if the current rate of deforestation continues, the Amazon rainforest could transform into a savannah within 15 years. Do we have time to stop it?
The Amazon basin spans over 6 million square kilometers, and is home to one-fifth of the world’s land species. In addition, it supports the 30 million people who live and depend on the land as a source of food, medicine, and shelter. That’s not even including the key role it plays in regulating the regional AND global climate.
Trees absorb water through their roots and transport it to their leaves, where it’s released as vapor through small pores in a process called transpiration. As the water vapor rises and condenses, it forms rain clouds over the forest canopy. Basically, the rainforest is making its own weather. For example, one large tree can release 1,000 liters of water into the atmosphere in a single day.
The rainforest recycles this water up to six times before it moves out of the region, but as more trees are cut down, those that remain may not be able to recycle enough water to survive. Less trees means more sunlight will hit the forest floor, exposing the forest to higher temperatures. Since deforestation began accelerating in the 1970’s, 800,000 square kilometers of the Amazon have been lost. And over that same period, the average temperature of the basin has risen by 1 degree Celsius.