Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bleak 'tipping point' looming for parts of Amazon

The most heavily deforested regions of the Amazon rainforest may have are close to the point of no return, "and may soon be on a one-way route to becoming a dry and relatively barren savannah." (New Scientist) This according to a computer model developed by University of Oxford researchers.

When you wipe out forests, soil quality is diminished (due to a lack of decaying vegetation) and you reduce the region's rainfall. Yeah, really. A 20 percent deforested region loses 7 inches of rainfall per year. Forty percent costs 14 inches.

Right now, the most heavily deforested region of the Amazon rainforest, Mago Grosso (an area double the size of California) has lost 17 percent of its trees. If you were to stop deforestation now, the Oxford model shows the forest recovering. But if you hit 20 percent deforestation, the model shows "northern Mato Grosso was not able to recover its forested state even after 50 years. Instead, it became a dry, bare savannah.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.