One-third of the Amazon rainforest has been degraded by a combination of human activity and drought, according to a scientific report carried this week by the journal Science. The study released on Thursday yielded results much higher than previously thought and underlined that, in addition to deforestation, degradation can be just as harmful.
In this scenario, President Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva and his French colleague Emmanuel Macron discussed the environmental crisis during a telephone conversation.
The report found that 38% of what remains of the world's largest rainforest has been degraded in some way by humans. Fire, timber extraction, and edge effects degraded at least 5.5 % (364,748 square kilometers) of the forest between 2001 and 2018, researchers from Brazil's Universidade Estadual de Campinas and other institutions found based on satellite images and other data. Once the effects of drought are factored in, the degraded area increases to 2.5 million square kilometers, or 38 % of the remaining forests.
Extreme droughts have become increasingly frequent in the Amazon as land-use change and human-induced climate change progress, affecting tree mortality, fire incidence, and carbon emissions to the atmosphere, the study noted. Since forest fires intensify during drought years, much larger megafires were forecast.
In a separate study on the human impacts on the Amazon, researchers from the University of Louisiana Lafayette called for action. The Amazon is perched to transition rapidly from a largely natural to degraded and transformed landscape, under the combined pressures of regional deforestation and global climate change, they said. The changes are happening much too rapidly for Amazonian species, peoples, and ecosystems to respond adaptively, they added while calling for protective policies to be enacted at the earliest. To fail the Amazon is to fail the biosphere, and we fail to act at our peril, they said.
Lula, who has pledged to end deforestation of the Amazon by 2030, insisted on the importance of Macron attending a summit of the eight countries of the Amazon forest that Brazil plans to host in the next few months. France is the only European country to share the biome, through its overseas territory of French Guiana.
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