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Scientists warn that a disturbing trend in the Amazon Rainforest is not an isolated anomaly: 'We should be really worried'

"People were forced to make huge journeys … to access food, medicine, and other essential goods."

"People were forced to make huge journeys ... to access food, medicine, and other essential goods."

Photo Credit: iStock

Scientists are warning that a record-setting drought in the Amazon rainforest shouldn't be written off as an anomaly.

What's happening?

According to Reuters, a study released on Jan. 24 found that rising global temperatures were the driving factor behind the historic drought, which led to the deaths of endangered pink and gray river dolphins and disrupted the lives of millions of people. 

Analysis by the World Weather Attribution discovered that the changing trends in weather "made the drought 30 times more likely, drove extreme high temperatures, and contributed to lower rainfall."

Researchers reportedly fear the combined effects of warming temperatures and deforestation will lead the Amazon "toward a point of no return," transforming it from a lush forest into a dry savannah

"We should be really worried with the health of the Amazon forest," Regina Rodrigues, a study co-author and researcher at Brazil's Federal University of Santa Catarina, told the news outlet. 

The drought reportedly affected all nine Amazon rainforest countries, including Brazil, which houses 60% of the jungle, according to The Nature Conservancy

"Waterways dried up in a matter of months. People were forced to make huge journeys, dragging boats over dried-up sections of river to access food, medicine, and other essential goods," said Simphiwe Stewart, a study co-author and researcher with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre in the Netherlands.

Why is this concerning?

Temperatures on Earth have been rising at an accelerated rate since the 1980s, but the Amazon rainforest has been a steadfast ally in helping to regulate the climate. It acts as a carbon sink, soaking up more planet-warming pollution than it releases.

As noted by National Geographic, however, the amount of carbon gas the Amazon is able to absorb is decreasing because of deforestation, which in turn contributes to warming global temperatures linked to extreme weather events like wildfires

Biodiversity is another factor to consider, as a breakdown in our ecosystem's natural balance can have far-reaching effects. 

Plants from the Amazon are commonly used in modern medicine, for example, with the U.S. National Cancer Institute noting that "70% of plants useful in the treatment of cancer are found only in rainforests," per National Geographic

What can be done about the rainforest drought?

Human activities, including the use of dirty energy and overconsumption of resources, have been driving the change in global temperatures. Because it took a long time for the rainforest to reach this point, it won't be an overnight fix.

The great news is that it's not too late to protect the future of the Amazon, as well as support the millions of people who depend on it for their livelihoods.

Supporting decision-makers who care about environmental issues, donating or recycling unwanted items, and using less polluting modes of transportation are all ways to help create a more hopeful and healthy future.   

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