Amazon rainforest and other ecosystems could collapse ‘very soon’, researchers warn
Deforestation of the Amazon, near Santarém, Brazil. Photograph: Brazil Photos/LightRocket/Getty Images
Ecological collapse is likely to start sooner than previously believed, according to a new study that models how tipping points can amplify and accelerate one another.
Based on these findings, the authors warn that more than a fifth of ecosystems worldwide, including the Amazon rainforest, are at risk of a catastrophic breakdown within a human lifetime.
“It could happen very soon,” said Prof Simon Willcock of Rothamsted Research, who co-led the study. “We could realistically be the last generation to see the Amazon.”
The research, which was published on Thursday in Nature Sustainability, is likely to generate a heated debate. Compared with the long-established and conclusively proven link between fossil fuels and global heating, the science of tipping points and their interactions is relatively undeveloped.
The United Nations’ top science advisory body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has been more cautious. In its latest report, it said there was a chance of a tipping point in the Amazon by the year 2100.