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Indigenous and Afro-descendant Communities Living in the Amazon Rainforest Are in Danger as Scientists Have Warned That Their Habitat Could Collapse By 2050

In a chilling revelation, a study published in the renowned journal Nature warns that by 2050, nearly half of the Amazon rainforest could collapse beyond recovery. The cause of this impending catastrophe extends far beyond deforestation, as rising temperatures, extreme droughts, and rampant wildfires have placed unprecedented stress on the world’s largest tropical rainforest. 

The dire prediction, featured on the cover of Nature, stems from research conducted by Brazilian scientists. According to the study released on Wednesday, February 14, the Amazon could reach a point of no return within the next 25 years, with anywhere from 10 percent to 47 percent of the rainforest facing such severe degradation that it may lose its capacity for full recovery. 

“The forest is entering a transition process towards a different state of vegetation,” stated Bernardo Flores, from the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), the lead author of the study. 

Even if the disturbances considered in the research – global warming, annual precipitation volume, intensity and duration of the rainy season, and deforestation – affect only 10 percent of the existing forest, the consequences would be devastating. 

“If we add this to the 15 percent of native vegetation already lost, we would reach a total of 25 percent destruction. In other words, we would exceed the threshold estimated by Carlos Nobre’s studies, which predicted that the point of no return would be reached with a 20 percent degradation of the Amazon,” Flores explained. 

The impacts extend far beyond irreversible biodiversity loss. Approximately 25 million people, including indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, inhabit the Brazilian Amazon. The loss of the rainforest would directly affect their livelihoods, ways of life, and traditional knowledge. 

Central to the Amazon’s health is its relationship with water. When the rainforest loses vegetation, it generates less rainfall – leading to increased drought, stress, and forest loss. The delicate balance between the forest and rainfall plays a crucial role in the Amazon’s well-being. 

The Amazon Rainforest is a Cautionary Tale on the Effects of Climate Change 

In light of these disruptions, the study focused on five factors causing water stress and sought to estimate their thresholds. Results indicate that a global mean temperature increase of several degrees, a dry season lasting more than five months, deforestation exceeding 10 percent of the original forest cover, combined with insufficient restoration of at least 5% of the biome, would mark the safe thresholds of the tipping point. 

“One novelty of this work is that we are able to indicate where the areas that could suffer the point of no return are located. The worst part is that this region is within the arc of deforestation, where the situation is more severe because the forest is more sensitive after being pushed to the limit for decades,” explained Natália Nascimento, a researcher from the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of São Paulo. 

The most at-risk regions are located in northern Mato Grosso and Rondônia. The central region of the state of Amazonas also warrants significant attention, Nascimento warned. 

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