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Scientists sound alarm after making disturbing discovery in the Amazon: 'We have all this information; now let's act on it'

The problem is worst in the heavily deforested southeastern Amazon.

The problem is worst in the heavily deforested southeastern Amazon.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

A new study has found that over a third of the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, is having a harder time bouncing back after droughts.

This "critical slowing down" is raising alarm bells about the future of this vital ecosystem, according to The Guardian.

What's happening?

Researchers analyzed monthly satellite images of the Amazon from 2001 to 2019 and found troubling signs.

The data revealed 37% of the rainforest is showing a worrying loss of resilience. In the past, the forest could recover from a single drought. But now, after four severe dry spells in less than 20 years, many areas are struggling to rebound.

The problem is worst in the heavily deforested southeastern Amazon. There, the risk of a catastrophic "tipping event" — where the lush rainforest irreversibly degrades into a much drier ecosystem — is greatest.

While weather patterns play a role, human activities such as logging and burning trees to clear space for agriculture are making the forest far more vulnerable.

Why is drought recovery important?

The Amazon is often called the "lungs of the Earth." Its 390 billion trees absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide, helping to stabilize the climate.

But as more of the forest struggles to recover from droughts, its crucial ability to soak up dirty gases is declining.

This isn't just bad news for our planet's health. The Amazon is also home to 10% of Earth's known species and hundreds of Indigenous communities. A permanently damaged rainforest would be devastating for global biodiversity and the ancestral way of life of many native populations.

As the study's lead author, Johanna Van Passel, put it: "We must stop climate change. We have all this information; now let's act on it. … I'm worried, but hopeful."

What's being done to help the Amazon?

While the scale of the problem can feel overwhelming, there are meaningful steps we can all take to reverse it.

One of the most impactful is reducing your consumption of products linked to deforestation, including certain meats, soy, palm oil, and wood. Look for certifications such as "RSPO" for palm oil and "FSC" for wood that indicate more sustainable production — or, oftentimes even better, alternatives such as Palmless that use other ingredients altogether.

You can also support organizations working to protect the Amazon, such as the Rainforest Alliance and Amazon Watch. They partner with Indigenous peoples to secure land rights, combat illegal logging, and promote alternative livelihoods that don't rely on forest destruction.

Ultimately, safeguarding the Amazon and other vital ecosystems will require bold and rapid action to slash dirty gas pollution. By making climate-conscious choices — including reducing food waste, choosing renewable energy, and advocating for clean transportation — we can all play a part in building a world in which the mighty Amazon can thrive.

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