A warming climate and the ever-increasing likelihood of multi-year droughts may result in irreparable harm to the sustainability of the Amazon rainforest, a new study says.
Researchers for a study published in Water Resources Research say evidence suggests the future sustainability of the Amazon rainforest and the services it provides, including biodiversity, water cycling, carbon capture and others, may require adaptive management strategies to safeguard its key benefits, according to a press release.
The study noted that the Amazon basin has, in recent years, experienced multiple “once‐in‐a‐century” droughts, impacting the region’s water cycle, economy, vegetation and carbon storage.
The record does not go back far enough to determine whether the recent droughts are abnormal in the bigger picture, so the researchers set out to use other means to determine whether the recent droughts are out of the ordinary.
They studied core sediments collected from Lake Limón in the Peruvian Amazon and identified 31 dry periods over 1,400 years, which is about double the number simulated by climate models over a similar time period, according to a press release.
“Drought variability in the Amazon is much greater than currently thought,” said Jonathan Overpeck, dean of the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability and one of the study’s authors.
“Whereas the longest drought in the rain-gauge record is a year, the paleoclimate record shows that droughts of many years—and even some that span more than a decade—have occurred in the recent past,” he said.
The researchers say droughts will only worsen with climate change and say the study highlights the need for resource managers to plan for future droughts in order to protect the Amazon’s precious resources.
“Future multiyear droughts will be hotter—and thus more severe—than in the past,” said Overpeck. “And with the Amazon’s growing population, wildfires become a real threat during times of drought. We hope that forest managers can better prepare for these scenarios when they know the long-term drought history of the region.”
Source: The Weather Channel