As deforestation destroys the Amazon, tons of carbon are released into the atmosphere to worsen global warming. Photo by Raechel Running.

The Amazon Rainforest plays a huge role in moderating the world’s climate. All plants take in carbon dioxide, CO2, from the atmosphere and store it as food. This means that a place so rich in plant life as the Amazon is a major carbon sink. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which means that it traps heat when it’s in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. In fact, carbon dioxide is the greenhouse gas that plays the biggest role in climate change. However, the carbon stored within the trees and plants of the Amazon is not functioning as a greenhouse gas; therefore, the Amazon mitigates global warming.

Unfortunately, these effects are undone with deforestation. When trees are burned, all their stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere. Roughly 30% of carbon emissions comes from burning rainforests alone. So, not only is deforestation removing the role these forests play in counteracting climate change, it’s also contributing to climate change.

The whole world feels the effects of global warming, including the biodiverse Amazon Rainforest. Temperatures will rise and precipitation will decrease over the rainforest as a result of global climate change. This means that species which exist in specific, temperature- or rain-dependent habitat ranges will have to move to keep up with the changes. However, for species such as trees whose seedlings can only grow under the shade and protection of older trees’ canopies, and can’t exactly get up and move, this necessary migration may not be achievable. Therefore, unless action is taken to both help such species move into their new ranges and to decrease our consumption of fossil fuels and consequent emissions of greenhouse gases, climate change will lead to extinctions and irreversible loss of biodiversity.

For more information on climate change and the Amazon, click here.


 

Sources

Berenguer, E., Ferreira, J., Gardner, T. A., Aragão, L. E. O. C., De Camargo, P. B., Cerri, C. E., Durigan, M., Oliveira, R. C. D., Vieira, I. C. G. and Barlow, J. (2014), A large-scale field assessment of carbon stocks in human-modified tropical forests. Global Change Biology, 20: 3713–3726. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12627

Lawrence, D., and Vandecar, K. (2014) Effects of tropical deforestation on climate and agriculture. Nature Climate Change, published online: 18 December 2014. doi: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2430

Hance, Jeremy. “Climate Change Could Kill off Andean Cloud Forests, Home to Thousands of Species Found Nowhere Else.” Mongabay. Mongabay, 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 14 Mar. 2015.