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Southeast Amazon Rainforest Net Generator of Carbon Dioxide


A nine-year study conducted by the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil (equivalent to U.S. NOAA) reported that carbon dioxide concentrations in columns of air above the southeast quadrant of the Amazon rainforest is releasing more carbon dioxide then it accumulates.  Previously models have not detected the reversal from absorption and storage of carbon dioxide to release. More precise measurements using specially designed sampling vessels deployed in aircraft detected the change that is attributed to both burning and deforestation especially during the August to October quarter.


The southeastern Amazon rainforest is vulnerable to elevated ambient temperature and drought and is therefore more sensitive to burning.  The southeastern rainforest is approximately 28 percent deforested. During the months of August through September 2020 the region had 24 percent less precipitation and ambient temperatures increased on by 5F compared to historical records.

These alarming results have implications extending beyond Brazil. The integrity of the Amazon rainforest is an important to countering the release of carbon dioxide worldwide by absorbing this greenhouse gas. If burning and deforestation continue the Amazon will pass a tipping point and will no longer generate the microclimate that maintains precipitation required to support the number and diversity of trees that serve as the “World’s lung.” EGG-NEWS has previously commented on the need for international action to slow the degradation of the Amazon rainforest. Deforestation by both legal and clandestine logging and burning is carried out to clear areas for cattle grazing and then subsequently for soybean production. Multinational grain buyers and meat packers are initiating programs to discriminate against illegal production but it remains to be seen if there is a decline in the rate of depredation of this valuable resource for short-term financial and political gain. 


Gatti, al Amazonia as a carbon source linked to deforestation and climate change Nature. 595;388-393 (2021)