Amazon Rainforest Lost Almost 5 Million Acres in 2020, Could Trigger Dangerous Tipping Point: Report

Environmentalists worry that large-scale deforestation could trigger a tipping point in the world's largest tropical rainforest within decades.

The Amazon rainforest, which is known as the lungs of the world lost an estimated five million acres in 2020, according to a report. Experts said that the massive deforestation at the Amazon basin could trigger a tipping point in the world's largest tropical rainforest within decades.

The report by Amazon Conservation Association and Monitoring the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) used satellite images which provided an early glimpse of deforestation in the Amazon throughout the last year. The accumulated data showed a large-scale deforestation in Brazil and Bolivia.

Dr. Matt Finer, a researcher with Amazon Conservation and the director of MAAP, said: "In terms of deforestation and fire, the data indicate that 2020 was actually worse than 2019 across the Amazon. Over 2 million hectares (8,000 square miles) of primary forest were lost in 2020, which was much more than 2019."

Amazon forest
Amazon forest Reuters

Deforestation is Escalating

Hundreds of thousands of acres have been destroyed for agricultural and extractive purposes and Finer said that there is no smoking gun as "deforestation is not a linear wave, it's death by a thousand cuts." The majority of deforestation took place in the Brazilian region, where more than 50,000 acres of forest were lost, much of it due to fire.

More than the 2019 Amazon fire incident, 2020 was worse, said the Amazon Conservation. A large number of those fires in the Brazilian Amazon were human-caused fires.

As per the report, in the case of the Bolivian Amazon, almost 205 large fires burned in the region in 2020, engulfed more than 600,000 acres of the Chiquitano tropical forest from April to November last year.

Amazon fire
Deforested land in the Amazon Marizilda Cruppe/Rede Amazônia Sustentável

The entire Amazon basin is twice the size of India that covers almost 40 percent of the South American continent. Some scientists worry that the Amazon forest region could soon reach a dangerous tipping point in which it won't be able to produce enough rainfall to support the ecosystem, while an American scientist predicted that the rainforest will dry out and become arid by 2064.

Enrique Ortiz, tropical ecologist and co-founder of Amazon Conservation said: "The short answer is, the tipping point is already here. Not throughout the entire Amazon, but in parts."

However, the ecologist said there is still probably 80 percent of the forest is intact. "So we have room to maneuver," he added.

As U.S. President Joe Biden said that he would protect the Amazon, environmentalists have placed their hopes in the Democratic leader. "There has been a confrontation between the West and Amazonian countries. If Biden is smart and able to reverse that confrontation, then we can work together," said Ortiz.

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