More than a third of the Amazon rainforest may have been destroyed by human activities and drought, according to a scientific study published Thursday in the journal Science.
The damage to this forest, which spans nine countries, is significantly greater than that seen previously, researchers from Brazil’s Universidade Estadual de Campinas University, among others, have pointed out.
In their study, they analyzed the effects of fires, logging, drought, and habitat changes on the fringes of forests—what they call edge effects.
Excluding drought, these events led to the degradation of at least 5.5% of the remaining forests that make up the Amazon ecosystem, or 364,748 square kilometers, between 2001 and 2018, according to the study.
If the effects of drought are taken into account, the degraded area is 2.5 million square kilometers, or 38% of the rest of the forests that make up the Amazon ecosystem.
“Extreme drought is becoming more common in the Amazon due to changing land use patterns and anthropogenic climate change affecting tree death, fires and carbon emissions,” the scientists said.
“Wildfires intensified in dry years,” he added, warning of the danger of “major fires” in the future.
Scientists from Lafayette University in Louisiana and other institutions are calling for action in a separate study of human impacts on the Amazon ecosystem, also published in the journal Science.
“Change is happening too fast for Amazon species, populations and ecosystems to adapt,” they argue.
“Laws to avoid the worst consequences are known and must be enacted immediately.”
“Losing the Amazon means losing the biosphere, and inaction is our danger,” the scientists concluded.