THE AMAZON rainforest and other large ecosystems could collapse and disappear at an alarming speed once a tipping point is reached.
This is according to a new study that used real-world data to determine how quickly our most important ecosystems could pass the point of no return.
The Amazon is increasingly under threat due to factors like climate change and deforestation[/caption]
The study has been published in Nature Communications and involved researchers from across the UK.
They wrote that once the ‘point of no return’ is reached, the Amazon rainforest could become more like a savannah-type ecosystem within 50 years.
This means less trees and rain and more grass and open spaces.
Many scientists agree that other ecosystems are heading the same way.
A deforested patch of the Amazon can be seen here[/caption]
Fires in both Australia and the Amazon are cause for concern.
Joint lead author Dr Simon Willcock of Bangor University said: “Unfortunately, what our paper reveals is that 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.”
Experts think that ecosystems containing more interacting species will probably take longer to collapse than others.
The scientists think the point of no return for the Amazon rainforest is within the next 50 years[/caption]
The researchers of the recent study think focusing on saving ‘keystone species’ could help the entire ecosystem.
For example, animals like elephants are known to disperse seeds over large distances and are crucial to supporting the wider landscape of their natural habitat.
Deforestation, drought and wildfires threaten to turn the world’s rain forests into huge sources of carbon[/caption]
Dr Gregory Cooper from the School of Oriental & African Studies at the University of London said: “This is yet another strong argument to avoid degrading our planet’s ecosystems; we need to do more to conserve biodiversity.”
Prof John Dearing from Geography and Environment at Southampton University said: “We 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.
“But what was unexpected was the finding that big systems collapse much faster than you might expect – even the largest on Earth only taking possibly a few decades.”
Climate change explained
Here are the basic facts…
- Scientists have lots of evidence to show that the Earth’s climate is rapidly changing due to human activity
- Climate change will result in problems like global warming, greater risk of flooding, droughts and regular heatwaves
- Each of the last three decades have been hotter than the previous one and 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have happened during the 21st century
- The Earth only needs to increase by a few degrees for it to spell disaster
- The oceans are already warming, polar ice and glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising and we’re seeing more extreme weather events
- In 2015, almost all of the world’s nations signed a deal called the Paris Agreement which set out ways in which they could tackle climate change and try to keep temperatures below 2C
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In other news, the Amazon rainforest is nearly ‘full’ of greenhouse gases – and could start polluting Earth in next 15 years.
Soaring temperatures in Antarctica have resulted in a never-before-seen island emerging from the ocean.
And, extreme sea level rises that occurred over 100,000 years ago could happen again due to climate change.
Are you concerned about climate change? Let us know in the comments…
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