Is the Amazon rainforest really reaching a tipping point?
Environment Ecology Rainforests

Is the Amazon rainforest really reaching a tipping point?

Prof Dr Ilan Kelman
Prof Dr Ilan Kelman

In 10 seconds? A new paper states that three-quarters of the Amazon rainforest has suffered significant harm over the past twenty years due to human activity. The conclusion is that this ecosystem might be reaching a point from which it cannot recover, instead becoming a savanna.

How did they conclude this? The authors considered only areas of the forest which comprise 80% or more evergreen broadleaf vegetation and which do not show major, on-the-ground human activity. Satellite observations between 1991-2016 were used to calculate two indicators: The amount of vegetation mass and the amount of photosynthesis activity. The researchers then calculated the trends in these values, finding decreases in photosynthesis activity which were compared to a stable trajectory to work out a value describing the “resilience” of the forest, i.e. to what extent it can recover after disturbances. Over 75% of the studied areas showed decreasing resilience, primarily after the early 2000s.

Get unlimited access to our 3-min Digests and other premium features!

Choose your plan.

Sparrow Insiders

$0 (Limited Offer)
  • Receive our daily Digest in your inbox
  • Created & reviewed by real scientists
  • Preview 380+ Digests in our library
  • Upgrade for unlimited learning
  • Unsubscribe anytime
  • Subject to availability
Join our first 25k subscribers for free! Signup Progress Bar Subscribe now for free

Sparrow Unlimited

$19 / month
  • Talk with our scientists and ask them anything
  • Access 380+ summaries anywhere, anytime
  • Listen to our premium podcast
  • Weekly newsletter of the top 5 scientific findings
  • Daily updates with new content
  • Support independent science publishing
  • No advertisement
  • Cancel anytime
Learn more Subscribe now

Sparrow Unlimited

$99 / year
  • One easy payment - save 56%
  • Talk with our scientists and ask them anything
  • Access 380+ summaries anywhere, anytime
  • Listen to our premium podcast
  • Weekly newsletter of the top 5 scientific findings
  • Daily updates with new content
  • Support independent science publishing
  • No advertisement
  • Cancel anytime
Learn more Subscribe now