Climate change: scale of degradation in Amazon rainforest is very concerning

27 Jan 2023

More than a third of the Amazon rainforest is affected by degradation – with effects similar to those of clear-cutting the forest – shows a study published in Science.

The Amazon rainforest is vitally important to climate protection and the biodiversity of our planet. But systematic land-clearing is still taking place at an increasing rate. Broad swaths of the Earth’s “green lungs” are going up in smoke. All this has attracted a lot of attention worldwide.

However, complete land-clearing is by no means the only danger for the rainforest there, as an international team of scientists, including Julia Pongratz, Professor and Chair of Physical Geography and Land Use Systems at LMU, now reports in the prestigious journal Science. More than a third (38 percent) of remaining forest areas in the Amazon are affected by degradation, which occurs along the deforested edges or as result of selective (often illegal) logging, fire, and extreme drought. This has similar – and sometimes even greater – effects on emissions and climate, biodiversity, and the wellbeing of the population to those caused by clear-cutting. The study was led by David Lapola, Professor at the University of Campinas in Brazil.

“In the future scenarios that we examine in the study, degradation will become substantially more widespread. To detect these forest disturbances in time, we need innovative approaches to monitoring, which combine new high-resolution satellite data, modeling, and regular ground-based inventories into a "smart forest”. This will help us detect and curb in particular illegal activities in time,” says Julia Pongratz.

David M. Lapola et al.: The drivers and impacts of Amazon forest degradation. Science 2023.

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