Subject: Dire Amazon Rainforest Predictions
Forest Networking a Project of Ecological Enterprises -- Forest Conservation Archives -- Discuss Forest Conservation

The Amazon, a monstrously large and important planetary ecosystem 
engine, is sick, and its continued existence in doubt.  Following are 
two reports.  We have to do something, what?  Come and have your say 
at  Just do something!


Title:    Amazon Flames -- CO2 Emissions UP
Source:   Wood Hole Research Center
Status:   Distribute freely properly accredited to source
Date:     November 11, 1998

[The following is being distributed on behalf of colleagues at the 
Woods Hole Research Center and IPAM - Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental 
da amazonia]

Contact Information:

Adriana Moreira
Woods Hole Research Center
+55 61 3409992 (in Brazil)

Information Bulletin for the Buenos Aires Conference

Flames in the Amazon forest:  carbon emissions go up.

In May of 1998, researchers of the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da 
Amazonia (IPAM), a non- governmental research institute based in 
Bel?m, Brazil, and the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), based in
Massachusetts, predicted that approximately 400,000 km2 of forest in 
the Brazilian Amazon would become vulnerable to fire during the 1998 
dry season.  A recent update of this fire prediction model, using
additional rainfall data collected across the region, shows that the 
unusually low amounts of rainfall in 1998 have increased the area of 
fire-vulnerable fire to more than one million square kilometers, or 
one third of the forests of Amazonia.  These researchers calculate 
that more one half of this drought-stressed forest (700,000 km2) had 
depleted all available soil water to five meters depth by the end of 

In the first field study conducted to test this prediction, these 
researchers measured the amount of fire-vulnerable forest that 
actually caught fire in a small test region in southeastern Amazonia.  
They discovered that three to five thousand square kilometers of 
standing forest caught fire in 1998 in this region.  This area of 
burned forest is one-fifth the size of the entire forest area that is 
"deforested" through clear-cutting and burning each year (average is
~19,000 km2/yr), as measured by the Brazilian Government's very 
important deforestation monitoring program. 1/  And yet, the burned 
forests were documented within a very small (45,000 km2) region that 
is less than one percent of the legal Amazon (5,000,000 km2).   The 
burning of standing forests is not currently included in the 
government's monitoring program.

The study was conducted in September, 1998, in a 300 x 150 km area 
that extends from Marab  south to Reden?ao, Par  State, in the 
southeastern corner of Brazil's "arc of deforestation", near the edge 
of the Amazon forest.  This estimate is based upon 1,110 observations 
made from a low-flying airplane along an 800 km flight path that 
criss-crossed the region, combined with field visits to burned and 
unburned forests.  Forests in which ash was observed on the ground, or 
in which leaves were scorched brown from flames, were recorded as 
burned.  Burned forests were recorded at 9% of the observation points.

Although this study was conducted in a region that is highly prone to 
forest fires because of severe drought, these results are of major 
significance for estimates of human damages to Amazon forests, and of
carbon emissions from Amazon forests associated with land use 
practices. According to recent field studies2/, the burning of 
standing forest can release 10 to 80% of forest biomass to the 
atmosphere as heat- trapping carbon dioxide.  Therefore, the forest 
fires such as those observed between Marab and Redenao release large 
amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere that are not included in 
current estimates of carbon emissions from Amazonia.  Contrary to 
media reports, there have been hundreds of Amazon forest fires in 


1. Amazonia:  Desflorestamento 1995-1997.  INPE/IBAMA. 1998  

2 Holdsworth, A. R. and C. Uhl. 1997. Fire in Amazonian selectively 
logged rain forest and the potential for fire reduction. Ecological 
Applications 7 (2): 713-725.

Cochrane, M. A. and M. D. Schulze. In press. Fire as a recurrent event 
in tropical forests of the eastern Amazon: effects on forest 
structure, biomass, and species composition. Biotropica.

Title:     Amazon forest 'will be dead in 50 years' 'probably 
Status:    Distribute freely properly accredited to source
Date:      November 11, 1998
Byline:    By Michael McCarthy, Environment Correspondent

The British government yesterday predicted the death of the Amazon 
rainforest in 50 years' time - and a resultant surge in global 

The disappearance of the Amazon forest is probably unstoppable because 
of the climate change already occurring, according to the UK's latest 
computer models of the climate.

Temperatures up to seven degrees higher than today and decreases in 
rainfall of up to 50 centimetres a year will kill off vast areas of 
what is now lush tropical forest, the world's richest wildlife 
habitat, and turn it into grassland or even desert.

But even more critically, the Amazon and other forested regions will 
be transformed from areas which now absorb carbon dioxide, the 
principal gas causing global warming, into areas which give it out.

The result will be an enormous and relatively sudden increase in the 
amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, perhaps more than 50 per 
cent, and a rapid or even runaway escalation of climate change in a 
"positive feedback loop" - global warming causing more global warming.

The predictions, some of the direst yet, were unveiled yesterday by 
the Environment minister, Michael Meacher, to coincide with the 
opening of the two-week conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which 
will try to carry forward last year's Kyoto climate change treaty.

"They make frightening reading," Mr Meacher said.

They come from Britain's latest supercomputer model of the global 
climate at the Meteorological Office's Hadley Centre for Climate 
Research in Bracknell, Berkshire, and five associated models of areas 
of potential impact - food production, water supplies, flood risk, 
human health and natural vegetation cover.

The predictions about Brazil come from the natural vegetation model 
run by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology (ITE) in Edinburgh. This 
is the first time anyone has put a date on the death of the Amazon 
rainforest, and it suggests a very rapid end.

"The ecosystem model predicts that [forest] dieback will occur over 
vast areas of northern Brazil, beginning in the 2040s," the government 
report says. "After 2050, and as a result of vegetation dieback and 
change, primarily in Amazonia, Europe and North America, the 
terrestrial land surface becomes a source of carbon, releasing 
approximately 2 billion tonnes of carbon per year into the 

At the moment the trees are absorbing between two and three billion 
tonnes of carbon dioxide a year - nearly half the amount that is 
released from man-made sources.

"It is absolutely essential that world-wide political action is taken, 
going further than Kyoto to arrest and ultimately reverse this 
process," Mr Meacher said.

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