Blog – South America

Scientists Warn That The Amazon’s Tipping Point Puts Brazil’s Agribusiness, Energy Sector At Risk

Author: Shanna Hanbury

Scientists are concerned about the rising rates of deforestation occurring to the Amazon rainforest, and investigated potential economic impacts. In 2020 deforestation reached an 11-year all time high (yearly deforestation measured from Aug 1-Jan 31). This increased amount is partially due to the lessening of protective measures in place that were made to reduce that amount of deforestation occurring. The article did not state whether the amounts of the rainforest destroyed from the wildfire that occurred in 2019 were included in their measurements, or if this number comes from purely human-forest interaction. Scientists are concerned that this deforestation will severely impact the amount of rainfall that the region receives, and thus negatively impact hydro projects and agriculture in a country that relies heavily on these resources for its economy.  

The Amazon rainforest is responsible for a huge amount of water flow. Not only do its rivers carry more than 17 billion metric tons of water through Brazil and into the Atlantic Ocean each year, but the trees themselves release over 20 billion tons of water into the air. The water that these trees release is often referred to as "flying rivers" due to the shear amount of water and movement that is produced. Deforestation impacts the amount of precipitation each year. The rainy season has been occurring later and later every year, according to the article. Many water loving plants conducive to significant amounts of evaporation and transpiration are being replaced with plants that tend to hold on to the water they take in. This reduces the movement of water that is crucial to sustain Brazil's agriculture and hydroelectric resources. According to the article, two-thirds of Brazil's energy comes from hydroelectric projects. In a worst-case scenario prediction, scientists warn that the Amazon rainforest could transition into a savannah before the end of the century. Hopefully, the predictions are wrong, but they still amplify a growing concern for the state of the Amazon rainforest, and the need to protect this invaluable resource for future generations.