Following years of warnings and mounting fears among scientists, "terrifying" research revealed Wednesday that climate change and deforestation have turned parts of the Amazon basin, a crucial "sink," into a source of planet-heating carbon dioxide.
Though recent research has elevated concerns about the Amazon putting more CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than it absorbs, the new findings, published in the journal Nature, were presented as a "first" by scientists and climate reporters.
From 2010 to 2018, researchers for the new study—led by Luciana Gatti of Brazil's National Institute for Space Research—conducted "vertical profiling measurements" of carbon dioxide and monoxide a few miles above the tree canopy at four sites in Amazonia.
The researchers found that "Southeastern Amazonia, in particular, acts as a net carbon source" and "total carbon emissions are greater in eastern Amazonia than in the western part." The former, they noted, has been "subjected to more deforestation, warming, and moisture stress" than the latter in recent decades.
Even with a decree banning fires, flames and clouds of smoke were seen near the city of Novo Progresso, in southern Pará, Brazil, on August 15, 2020. (Photo: Ernesto Carriço/NurPhoto via Getty Images)