Rainfall shift may benefit Amazon

Forests in the Amazon may be less vulnerable to damage from climate change than has been feared because many projections underestimate rainfall, Reuters reported. The agency cited British scientists whose newly published findings contrast with past projections that the Amazon forest could die and be replaced by savannah.


“The rainfall regime in eastern Amazonia is likely to shift over the 21st century in a direction that favours more seasonal forests rather than savannah,” wrote the team, led by Yadvinder Malhi of Oxford University, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That shift, they said, could favour new species of trees, other plants and animals.


After comparing 19 global climate models with observations of 20th-century climate, the new study found that almost all of the models underestimated rainfall in the Amazon, the world’s biggest tropical forest. Projected reductions in rainfall meant the region still would still be wet enough to sustain a forest, the scientists said in the American journal.


They also examined field studies of how the Amazon might react to drying. Their study said that seasonal forests would be more resilient to the occasional drought but more vulnerable to fires than the current rain forest. The scientists also concluded governments, led by Brazil, needed to manage their forests better, to help avert irreversible drying of the eastern Amazon, which is most at risk.


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