Deforestation in the Amazon causes land surfaces up to 100 kilometres away to get warmer, according to a new study by a team of British and Brazilian scientists.
The research led by Dr. Edward Butt at the University of Leeds underscores the vital role played by tropical forests in cooling the Earth’s surface and highlights the far-reaching consequences of deforestation.
IMMEDIATE AND DISTANT EFFECTS
It has long been known that clearing tropical forests leads to localized warming in the immediate vicinity. However, this study aimed to understand if the consequences of Amazon deforestation extended to distant regions. The research investigated the impact of forest loss on sites located up to 100 kilometres away from deforested areas.
Dr. Butt, a research fellow at the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds, emphasized the critical importance of comprehending the consequences of Amazon deforestation, particularly in the context of global climate change. The study seeks to shed light on how deforestation in the Amazon ecosystem contributes to climate warming and its implications for regions beyond the Amazon itself.
For this study, satellite data on land surface temperature and forest loss in the Amazon were analyzed from 2001 to 2020. The researchers examined data at 3.7 million locations across the Amazon basin and compared temperature changes in areas with varying levels of local and regional deforestation.
IMPACT ON LOCAL POPULATIONS
The findings indicated that areas with both local and regional deforestation experienced the most significant temperature increase, with an average rise of 4.4°C. The researchers also emphasized the detrimental impact of Amazon deforestation on the 30 million people living within the Amazon basin, many of whom are already exposed to high levels of heat.
The study also examined how future deforestation might impact the Brazilian Amazon over the next 30 years. Two scenarios were considered—one where the Forest Code is not enforced and protected areas are not safeguarded, and the other with some protection measures in place. The results indicated that reducing deforestation would significantly reduce future warming, benefiting the region by decreasing heat stress and mitigating negative impacts on agriculture.
CRUCIAL FOR CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION
Professor Dominick Spracklen from the University of Leeds emphasized that protecting tropical forests is essential in the fight against global climate change. The study underlines that safeguarding forests not only addresses global issues but also provides substantial benefits at local, regional, and national levels. Reducing deforestation would particularly benefit the southern Amazon, where forest loss is most pronounced.
The Road Ahead: Dr. Celso von Randow, a researcher from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research and a co-author of the study, highlighted the positive impact of recent efforts to control deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, leading to a decline in deforestation rates. Recognizing the benefits of reduced warming for the region’s residents could encourage continued efforts to curb deforestation and protect these invaluable forests.
This study serves as a stark reminder of the interconnectedness of environmental actions and their far-reaching consequences, emphasizing the importance of preserving vital ecosystems like the Amazon rainforest.