“The Amazon now is in an emergency situation,” says Luciana Vanni Gatti, who studies the rainforest at Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research. “Deforestation is increasing year by year: 2020 was worse than 2019, 2021 was worse than 2020, and we are sure 2022 will be worse yet.”
Now scientists are racing to figure out if and when the Amazon might reach a dreaded tipping point, a sort of point of no return when the greatest rainforest on earth could dry out and turn into a sprawling savanna. The end result will be the loss of an irreplaceable ecosystem and major player in global climate dynamics.
A paper published last week in the journal Nature Climate Change aims to provide more clarity on that tipping point, which may be rapidly approaching. While prior research used complicated modeling to predict how the decline might unfold, this new research is based on satellite data that shows 75 percent of the Amazon has become less resilient to disturbances like drought.