The Amazon rainforest may disappear from the face of Earth in decades, said the researchers from the Bangor University in their recent study published in the journal Nature Communications. The unique ecosystems may collapse and disappear alarmingly quickly, once a critical point in their destruction is reached.
The study calls for improved conservation efforts to protect these Amazon rainforests prior to their reaching the critical point of so-called no-return. According to the latest calculations, the speed at which ecosystems of different sizes will disappear depends on one crucial moment. That is reaching a point beyond which rainforests transform into an alternative habitat.
The Amazon rainforests and Caribbean coral reefs are the brightest examples, which demonstrates the fragility of the ecosystems on the planet. The regular shifts in them occur over human timescales of years and decades, meaning the collapse of large vulnerable ecosystems. Under the current circumstances, it “may take only a few decades once triggered.”
As study co-author Simon Willcock from Bangor University, UK said, once the “point of no return” is reached, the iconic Amazon rainforest could shift to a savannah-type ecosystem within 50 years, so, humanity needs to prepare for changes far sooner than expected.
“These rapid changes to the world’s largest and most iconic ecosystems would impact the benefits which they provide us with, including everything from food and materials, to the oxygen and water we need for life,” Willcock stressed.
Amazon rainforests may be turned into savannah by 2070
The scientists explained that ecosystems which are made up of a number of interacting species, rather than those dominated by one single species, may be more stable and take longer to shift to alternative states. Of course, the Amazon rainforests is one of the examples of such biodiversity.
Meanwhile, the researchers say they intuitively knew that big systems would collapse more slowly than small ones — due to the time it takes for impacts to diffuse across large distances.
In other words, these findings provide opportunities to mitigate or manage the worst effects. The scientists add that the loss of the ‘key stone’ species like elephants, for instance, may lead to a rapid and dramatic change in the landscape within our lifetime.
“This is yet another strong argument to avoid degrading our planet’s ecosystems, and we need to do more to conserve biodiversity,” said Gregory Cooper from the University of London.
To summarize, the British scientists said it was unexpected to find that big systems like the Amazon rainforests collapse much faster, “even the largest on the Earth only taking possibly a few decades.”