40% of Amazon at risk of turning into savanna, study warns

London, Oct 5 (efe-epa).- Around 40 percent of the Amazon rainforest is at risk of becoming a savanna-type ecosystem due to the climate crisis, according to a scientific study published on Monday.

These tropical forests in South America are sensitive to changes in rainfall over long periods of time, so a drop in precipitation below a certain threshold can see areas turn into savanna, a research paper in the Nature Communications journal warned.

Savanna is an ecosystem with a low density of vegetation and is located in subtropical and tropical regions.

One of the authors of the study Arie Staal, of independent research institute the Stockholm Resilience Centre, said in the report that rainfall is at a level where around 40 percent of the Amazon can exist as forest or savanna.

These conclusions are worrying since some areas of the Amazon currently receive less rain than before and this trend is expected to deteriorate as the area warms up due to higher greenhouse emissions.

Study co-author Obbe Tuinenburg said researchers were able to simulate the effect of forest disappearance using the latest available atmospheric data.

The expert was able to explore the resilience of tropical forests in various scenarios.

Staal said the process is a vicious circle because as forests contract there is less rainfall which causes more drying, more fires and more loss of tree canopy.

Researchers found that as emissions increase more areas of the Amazon lose their natural resilience becoming more unstable and dry and a shift to a savanna-type ecosystem becomes more likely.

Co-author of the report Ingo Fetzer of the SRC said: “We understand now that rainforests on all continents are very sensitive to global change and can rapidly lose their ability to adapt.

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