A newly published study shows that parts of the Amazon rainforest are emitting more carbon dioxide than they absorb.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal “Nature,” shows that areas in the eastern part of the region, particularly in the southeast, are net sources of carbon. But the Amazon has historically provided a “carbon sink” for global emissions.
The study notes that southeastern areas of the Amazon rainforest have been greater targets of deforestation, rising temperatures and other effects that make it harder to take in emissions.
Researchers also said that deforestation and other trends make the area “more susceptible” to destructive fires. These effects, which researchers said are “superimposed on the backdrop of global warming,” have made the area a “steadily increasing” source of carbon.
“In the eastern part of the Amazon, which is around 30% deforested, this region emitted 10 times more carbon then in the west, which is around 11% deforested,” said the study’s lead author Luciana Gatti, with Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, the BBC reported.
The study is based on measurements of carbon levels taken from small planes during approximately 600 flights between 2010 and 2018.
The pilots during the research flew several miles above tree canopies in the Amazon before descending to take measurements in the vertical columns in air.
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University College London Professor Simon Lewis called the study “truly impressive,” the Guardian reported.
“The positive feedback, where deforestation and climate change drive a release of carbon from the remaining forest that reinforces additional warming and more carbon loss is what scientists have feared would happen,” he said.
“The south-east Amazon sink-to-source story is yet another stark warning that climate impacts are accelerating,” he added.
Multiple other studies have suggested that the region is losing ground in taking in carbon, The New York Times reported.
That includes a 30-year study published in 2015 that found the Amazon’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide showed “a long-term decreasing trend of carbon accumulation.”
Efforts to decrease deforestation in the region face an uphill political battle. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration has long clashed with environmental groups, and world leaders, over development of the Amazon and other climate issues.