According to a preliminary report by The Guardian, Amazon rainforest emissions produce 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year. Researchers say the rainforest, once considered a carbon sink for harmful emissions, is now the most powerful booster of it. These emissions are due to the deliberate lighting of forest fires to produce beef and soybeans, but even ignoring forest fires, rising temperatures and drought in the area indicate that it is moving from one carbon sink to one source.
In this study, researchers used light aircraft to measure the carbon dioxide content of 4,500 meters above the forest in the past ten years; here, they recorded 600 profiles carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide produced by fires from 2010 to 2018. It produces 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, while forest growth has only reduced by 500 million tons. The remaining 1 billion tons is equivalent to Japan’s annual carbon emissions, which is also the fifth most polluting country in the world.
This study also shows the changes in the entire rainforest. Previous studies have shown that Amazon has emitted more carbon dioxide in the past, but based on satellite data, these data may be affected by cloud cover or ground measurements of trees, which may cover only a small part of a vast area.
Scientists pointed out that the increase in carbon dioxide emissions in non-fire areas is even more alarming. They believe this is mainly due to annual deforestation and fires that make them more vulnerable the following next year. Fewer trees mean higher temperatures, which can cause unusual heat waves and eventually forest fires.
Luciana Gatti of Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research, who led the research, said: “The first very bad news is that burning wood produces about three times the carbon dioxide absorbed by forests. The second bad news is that the carbon dioxide emissions of places with a deforestation rate of 30% is 10 times to that of places with a deforestation rate of less than 20%.
She added, “The worst thing is that we don’t use science to make decisions. People think that using more land for agriculture can increase productivity, but in fact we are losing productivity due to the negative effects of rainfall.”