LOWING cattle and sterile fields of soya are replacing Amazonian rainforest so fast that 40 per cent of the forest will be gone by 2050, if present trends continue. Even discounting land cleared for the wood itself, deforestation is threatening ecological meltdown in the region.
Britaldo Silveira Soares-Filho of the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, along with colleagues in the US, used a computer model to predict how the Amazon might look in mid-century under eight different development scenarios. The destruction of 40 per cent of its forest, in line with current rates, would release 32 billion tonnes of carbon, the equivalent of more than four years' emissions worldwide at today's rates (Nature, vol 440, p 520).
The Amazon contains more than half the world's remaining rainforest, and loss of even part of it threatens hundreds of mammal species, including 35 primates. The integrity of the forest as a rain-making machine for the region is also at risk.
At least half this loss could be prevented by proper policing of conservation laws that are now widely flouted. This would keep eight times as much carbon out of the atmosphere as the Kyoto protocol intends to do. Rich countries should be willing to pay for this, the authors say.
Source: New Scientist
I have been giving quite a lot of thought recently to the idea that three processes must be - in some form or another - interconnected. These processes are:
1/ Global demographic changes and their economic impact
2/ Global resource depletion
3/ Global climatic changes
The big issue is how they are interconnected and how to model these interconnections. For the time being I have enough on my plate with problem number (1), but as we get to understand this issue better it will be essential to move on to the more general level. Is this a possible programme for my future? Time will tell.