Amazon emitted more Co2 than it absorbed since 2010: study
Researchers estimated Thursday in the journal Nature Climate Change that from 2010 to 2019, Brazil's Amazon basin released 16.6 billion tonnes of CO2 while absorbing just 13.9 billion tonnes.
The researchers compared the amount of CO2 consumed and retained by the forest as it grows to the amount released back into the atmosphere when it is burned down or destroyed.
"We half-expected it, but it is the first time that we have figures showing that the Brazilian Amazon has flipped, and is now a net emitter," said co-author Jean-Pierre Wigneron, a scientist at France's National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA).
"We don't know at what point the changeover could become irreversible," he told AFP in an interview.
Deforestation rose nearly fourfold in 2019 compared to the previous two years, from around one million hectares (2.5 million acres) to 3.9 million hectares, a region the size of the Netherlands, according to the report.
"Brazil saw a sharp decline in the application of environmental protection policies after the change of government in 2019," the INRA said in a statement.
On January 1, 2019, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office.
Globally, terrestrial ecosystems have proven to be a valuable ally in the fight to reduce CO2 emissions, which reached 40 billion tonnes in 2019.
Plants and soil have continuously absorbed about 30% of those emissions over the last half-century, despite the fact that emissions have risen by 50%.
Oceans have also played a role, absorbing over 20% of the carbon dioxide emissions.
Around half of the world's tropical rainforests are found in the Amazon basin, which is more powerful than other forms of forests at absorbing and storing carbon.
Combating the climate crisis would be made even more difficult if the country becomes a net source of CO2 rather than a "sink."
The international team of researchers also demonstrated for the first time that degraded forests were a greater source of planet-warming CO2 emissions than outright deforestation, using new methods of analyzing satellite data produced at the University of Oklahoma.
Deforestation caused three times more emissions than outright forest destruction over the same 10-year period, thanks to deforestation, selective logging, and fires that cause tree damage but not destruction.