Record Amazon fires stun scientists; sign of sick, degraded forests
by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres on 11 October 2017
In truth, the very survival of the Amazon may depend on humanity’s rapid success in radically reducing its release of greenhouse gases planet-wide. Bruno Lopes, a Ph.D student at the Federal University of Viçosa, spells this out: A recently published scientific study, to which he contributed, created a model demonstrating how the collapse of the Amazon forest might occur. If the world continues on its present track, he told Mongabay: “More severe droughts are going to make the soil drier and make the trees lose their leaves and branches. This combustible material… will accumulate in the soil and make the forest more vulnerable to high intensity fires.”
Change, he says, will not be slow, gradual or continuous. Instead, “If we follow present trends and we move toward a 4 degrees Celsius [7.2 degrees Fahrenheit] increase in global temperature by the end of the century, forest degradation will probably increase abruptly by the middle of the century.” The accumulation of combustible material may trigger mega-fires that, in the intensity suggested by their model of 600 kW/m, [a measure of the amount of fuel contained within a source] will be lethal to most trees.