The study, to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, contends state and federal governments in Brazil have created a sustainable core of protected areas within the Amazon. And even if the remaining Brazilian Amazon is deforested, the climate will not significantly change – thereby protecting the Amazon's ecosystems.
"The thought has been that if you deforest up to a certain point in the Amazon, the forest will completely lose the ability to recover its tropical vegetation – that you will basically convert it to a desert, especially in the south and southeastern margins of the basin," said Robert Walker, MSU professor of geography and lead researcher on the project.
"But our research shows that if you protect certain areas of the Amazon, as the Brazilian government is currently doing, the forest will not reach a tipping point, which means we can maintain the climate with levels of deforestation beyond which was originally thought."
Roughly the size of the 48 contiguous states, the Amazon River Basin is home to the world's largest rainforest, most of it in Brazil, and is the largest freshwater source on Earth. The Amazon is made up of a wide variety of exotic plant and animal life, including macaws, jaguars, anteaters and anacondas.
In Brazil, the government has set aside about 37 percent of the Amazon basin as protected area, Walker said.
Meanwhile, about 17 percent of the Brazilian Amazon has been deforested since the opening of the basin to development in the mid-1960s, he said.
Critics warn the Amazon is close to a tipping point in which the continued stripping of forests will stem rainfall and turn the tropical region into scrubland. Because trees pull moisture from the ground and release it back into the atmosphere, leading to rainfall, cutting them down threatens this "vegetative recycling" process, Walker said.
Walker and fellow researchers from Brazil and the United States conducted three years of atmospheric computer modeling on the region. Their study assumed the worst-case scenario – that all of the Brazilian Amazon not protected by the government would be deforested.
Even under this scenario, their findings indicate rainfall levels would not decrease to the point of changing the landscape and harming the ecosystems within the protected areas.
"Some people think the tipping point is going to occur at 30 percent to 40 percent deforestation," Walker said. "Our results suggest this is not the case; that you can have quite a bit of deforestation – perhaps up to 60 percent – before you get to the crash point."
The study also assumes the government-protected forests would not be altered beyond their current condition.
The research was supported by a grant from NASA and conducted under the auspices of the Large-scale Biosphere/Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia, an international project led by the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology.
Joining Walker on the research team were Nathan Moore, Cynthia Simmons and Dante Vergara from MSU, and researchers from the University of Florida, Kansas State University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York and the Universidade Federal Fluminense in Brazil.
Andy Henion | EurekAlert!
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
28.03.2017 | Life Sciences
28.03.2017 | Information Technology
28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy