The Amazon rainforest is in trouble. In fact, according to a new study, it’s in worse shape than we thought and degrading at an alarming rate. But a new initiative has brought renewed hope that this cycle may soon be broken.

The Declining State Of The Amazon

Without intervention, the Amazon rainforest is at risk of being unable to continue supporting itself as a viable ecosystem.

For years we’ve known that the Amazon rainforest was in a bad way due to rampant deforestation, water shortages, land conversion and other adverse human activities. But now a recent study has shed light on just how poor the situation has become, along with the accelerating speed at which the rainforest is degrading. According to the report, published in the academic journal Science, more than one third (38%) of the remaining forest area has been compromised in terms of its ability to host biologically diverse ecosystems and regulate the climate. Moreover, without intervention, the Amazon rainforest is at risk of being unable to continue supporting itself as a viable ecosystem.

If you feel like you’ve heard it all before, you may want to take a beat, as this latest news has fresh implications. Previous reports had warned that we were fast reaching a point of no return regarding the rainforests ability to naturally recover from the negative effects of human activity. This latest research delivers a more sobering assessment, provided by an international team of 35 scientist and researchers, with findings indicating that we are in fact now on track to reach a tipping point.

The researchers found that record water shortages, logging, land conversion and fires continue to hammer the rainforests resilience, with an area of up to 2.5 sq km of forest (roughly 10 times the size of the entire UK) now critically weakened. This land has become more susceptible to “megafires”, due to these factors rendering it drier and thus flammable. Considering these findings, the continued abuse of the rainforest occurring without intervention would be catastrophic. What’s at risk is the Amazon rainforest’s ability to regulate the climate, store carbon, generate rainfall, provide a home to diverse flora and fauna, along with the possibility of collapsing as an ecosystem itself.

The Amazon rainforest.
The Amazon rainforest produces twenty percent of the Earth’s oxygen.

Again, you might feel like you’ve heard all of this before. But what happens to a natural carbon sink when you start to remove its ability to function as intended? Home to one-third of all known species on Earth and having captured up to 180 billion tons of carbon in its trees and soil, this delicate and vital ecosystem is under increasing threat of destabilisation. For the past 50 years, approximately 17% of the total forest area has been cleared and this past September saw record levels of deforestation, amounting to a total coverage loss of 1,455 sq km (563 sq mi). Along with rampant wildfires, this has led to the Amazon rainforest transitioning to become a major carbon emitter, with the fires outputting up to three times more carbon than the forests can naturally absorb. In fact, in 2021 it was revealed that the Amazon emitted up to a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, an amount equivalent in scale to Japan, the world’s fifth largest polluter.

Hope Is On The Way

Days after the release of this new study, German Development Minister Svenja Schulze announced that the country would be pledging $38m to the Amazon Fund, an international mechanism that is focused on reducing emissions as a result of forest degradation and deforestation. The fund was restarted by the newly appointed Environment Minister Marina Silva, after being halted by the previous administration, which leading to defunding by its biggest contributors, Norway and Germany, due to political differences and opposing environmental policy.

In addition, Germany also announced a package of $87m to be provided to farmers in the form of low-interest loans, along with $34m for Brazilian states. The funds are designed to help farmers restore degraded land and administrative jurisdictions protect the rainforest itself. The total sum equates to $200 million euros worth of credits and donations to help preserve and restore the rainforest.

Speaking to the newly announced aid package and renewed international commitment to defend the Amazon, Minister Schulze noted that “with the new government and the team of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and (environment) Minister Marina Silva, we have a great chance to protect the forest and to offer a new perspective to the people who live there.”