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Eerie campaign reminds us that the Amazon rainforest is still on fire

Saturday, December 21st 2019, 6:40 pm - A new campaign recreates the classic Yule Log Fireplace channel with real footage of the Amazon rainforest burning.

Just a few months back the world watched the severe wildfires ravage the Amazon rainforest, one of the most ecologically significant environments on Earth, and now it seems to be left behind in the news cycle.

Despite the waning coverage, scientists warn that the Amazon rainforest is approaching a dangerous tipping point that could have catastrophic changes on the continental hydrological system and the global carbon cycle. The amount of deforestation is currently equal to the 48 continental U.S. states and parts of the rainforest are at risk of converting into tropical savanna.

The Amazon Rainforest Conservancy (ARC) has launched a holiday initiative that recreates the classic Yule Log Fireplace channel with real footage of the Amazon burning “to draw attention back to the fire that really matters this holiday season -- the burning Amazon rainforest,” which can be seen in the video above.

ARC will be livestreaming the footage from the rainforest fires to show that the burning is still happening and says that the idea is for people to participate by sharing the channel, which can be viewed at this link, with the hashtag #RainforestFireChannel across social media so awareness and relief efforts can be raised.

WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE AMAZON WILDFIRES?

Concern that a dangerous tipping point is fast approaching for the Amazon rainforest comes from two renowned scientists, Thomas E. Lovejoy and Carlos Nobre, who recently published an editorial in the journal Science Advances. The editorial states that 2019 was not the worst year for wildfires or deforestation in the Amazon, but it was when the world finally faced the harsh reality that the rainforest is “teetering on the edge of functional destruction.”

The entire hydrological cycle of the Amazon depends on the amount of water vapour that is captured and released by the rainforest’s leaves and when it rains, at least 75 per cent of the moisture that falls in the rainforest is returned to westward-moving air masses. Moisture within the rainforest is recycled by the trees five to six times to help retain the moisture before it turns southward and feeds into the Andes.

The massive size of the Amazon means that these environmental processes impact the entire continental climate system and without this recycled moisture, large parts of the rainforest would convert into tropical savanna. Researchers predict that deforestation will result in rainforests converting to tropical savanna, since over 50 per cent of rainwater runs off and is not available to be recycled. The transition to savanna configurations would lead to reduced rainfall, increased temperatures, staggering losses of biodiversity and that weakened ability to capture carbon.

wiki cc amazon fire Forest fire in Porquinhos Indigenous Land, Maranhão, Brazil in 2017. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Signals of an approaching tipping point include dry seasons in Amazonian regions becoming hotter and longer, an increased mortality rate of wet climate species while dry climate species are showing resilience, and an increased frequency of unprecedented droughts including those in 2005, 2010, and 2015/16.

The scientists say that the Amazon cannot withstand further deforestation but also requires rebuilding so that is can continue to stabilize the continental climate for the planet and continue being a significant carbon sink for the planet. Immediate, active, and ambitious reforestation in deforested regions, such as abandoned cattle ranches and croplands. Effective conservation efforts include matching any additional increment of deforestation with three times as much reforestation and creating a new vision of the Amazon with a biologically-based view of economic development and sustainable management.

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