News / Science & Technology

Study: Amazon Forest More Resilient to Climate Change Than Feared

Research assistant Fabian Limonchi checks equipment on a 42-meter observation tower in the Tambopata National Reserve in the Amazon rainforest in Madre de Dios, Dec. 4, 2012.
Research assistant Fabian Limonchi checks equipment on a 42-meter observation tower in the Tambopata National Reserve in the Amazon rainforest in Madre de Dios, Dec. 4, 2012.
Reuters
The Amazon rainforest is less vulnerable to die off because of global warming than widely believed because the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide also acts as an airborne fertilizer, a study showed on Wednesday.

The boost to growth from CO2, the main gas from burning fossil fuels blamed for causing climate change, was likely to exceed damaging effects of rising temperatures this century such as drought, it said.

"I am no longer so worried about a catastrophic die-back due to CO2-induced climate change,'' Professor Peter Cox of the University of Exeter in England told Reuters of the study he led in the journal Nature. "In that sense it's good news.''

Cox was also the main author of a much-quoted study in 2000 that projected that the Amazon rainforest might dry out from about 2050 and die off because of warming. Others have since suggested fires could transform much the forest into savannah.

Plants soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it as an ingredient to grow leaves, branches and roots. Stored carbon gets released back to the atmosphere when plants rot or are burned.

A retreat of the Amazon forests, releasing vast stores of carbon, could in turn aggravate global warming that is projected to cause more floods, more powerful storms and raise world sea levels by melting ice sheets.

"CO2 fertilization will beat the negative effect of climate change so that forests will continue to accumulate carbon throughout the 21st century,'' Cox said of the findings with other British-based researchers.

Root and branch

The scientists said the study was a step forward because it used models comparing forest growth with variations in the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

It estimated that the damaging effects of warming would cause the release of 53 billion tons of carbon stored in lands throughout the tropics, much of it in the Amazon, for every single degree Celsius (1.8F) of temperature rise.

The benefits of CO2 fertilization exceeded those losses in most scenarios, which ranged up to a 319 billion-ton net gain of stored carbon over the 21st century. About 500 to 1,000 billion tons of carbon are stored in land in the tropics.

Climate change would be more damaging for the Amazon if greenhouse gases other than CO2, such as ozone or methane which do not have a fertilizing effect, take a bigger role, the study said.

It did not factor in damaging effects from deforestation, mostly burning to clear land for farms, that is blamed for perhaps 17 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

Brazil has sharply reduced forest losses in recent years. But predictions of a die-back in coming decades had led some people to conclude that there was no point safeguarding trees.

"Some people argued bizarrely that it would be better to  chop them down and use them now,'' Cox said, adding that the new findings meant that reasoning was no longer valid.
       
By underlining the importance of trees for soaking up CO2, the study could also bolster slow-paced efforts to create a market mechanism to reward nations for preserving tropical forests as part of U.N. negotiations on a new treaty to slow climate change, due to be agreed by the end of 2015.

You May Like

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid