Amazon rainforest could disappear by 2064

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The world’s largest rainforest ecosystem, the Amazon, will collapse and largely become a dry, scrubby plain by 2064 because of climate change and deforestation, a University of Florida professor predicts.

That forecast, published online in the journal Environment, gives the most specific date yet for the general demise of the Brazilian ecosystem, according to scientists familiar with Amazonian research.

The article, “Collision Course: Development Pushes Amazonia Toward Its Tipping Point,” was written by Robert Walker, a professor on the faculty of the university’s Center for Latin American Studies, who describes himself as a land change scientist.

“The best way to think of the forest ecosystem is that it’s a pump,” Walker said in a media interview. “The forest recycles moisture, which supports regional rainfall. If you continue to destroy the forest, the rainfall amount drops … and eventually, you wreck the pump.”

Walker said he’s spent a lot of time in the Amazon region talking to farmers and loggers who live there. He said poverty and poor use of government resources ultimately drives much of the deforestation.

“The people there, they don’t worry so much about biodiversity, the environment, when they have to worry about eating their next meal,” he said.

The rainforest can recover from periodic drought if those dry spells come years apart, according to Walker’s article. But a severe drought in 2005 began a period of more frequent and longer drought periods.

The Amazon covers about 2.7 million square miles, a little less than the lower 48 US states. But it has shrunk by about 20 percent since intense development began, Walker noted.

“If southern Amazonia’s dry season continues lengthening as it has over the past few decades, the drought of 2005 will become the region’s new normal before the end of the century,” Walker wrote. CURRENTPH

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