The Amazon rainforests are trapped in a vicious cycle of drought and death, study shows

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

The Amazon is an immense region that includes 1.4 billion densely forested acres and is home to 10% of the Earth's recorded species. It's also in serious danger. 

According to a new study published Monday in Nature Communications, the Amazon rainforests are trapped in a perilous self-perpetuating cycle of drought and destruction. Less rainfall leads to more deforestation, and more deforestation leads to less rainfall, and so-on. 

Unsurprisingly, humans are to blame.

The findings don't point to "complete Amazon dieback" by the end of the 21st century, but "they suggest that frequent extreme drought events have the potential to destabilize large parts of the Amazon forest," the researchers wrote.

The Amazonian rainforest in French Guiana, 2013
Source: 
AFP/Getty Images

The study looked closely at self-perpetuating forest loss that had already been reported, and found that the delicate balance of the Amazon water cycle is dangerously under threat — all thanks to humans.

Water should be evaporating from the trees in the rainforest and then falling back down onto them in the form of precipitation, but that process is being interrupted by human activities, like logging, study co-author Henrique Barbosa of the Universidade de Sao Paulo in Brazil said in a statement. The water cycle is delicate, and human activity is standing in the way of the forests' ability to keep itself alive and healthy.

Animals in a protected park in Bolivia's section of the Amazon rainforest, 2015
Source: 
Juan Karita/AP

Human activity is harming even the parts of the Amazon that aren't directly affected by deforestation, Barbosa said. 

But why should the rest of us care what happens in the Amazon? Aside from being a vast natural wonder, the Amazon affects the rest of the globe.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, there is "a clear link between the health of the Amazon and the health of the planet." The Amazon forests contain billions of metric tons of carbon; if its trees are destroyed, that carbon would be released into the atmosphere, further heating up the climate and creating "catastrophic consequences" for the planet. 

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Anna Swartz

Anna is a staff writer for Mic covering breaking news. She can be reached at aswartz@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Dow Jones won’t talk about its reported pay gap problem

A study released by the union representing Dow Jones employees found evidence of a "significant pay gap between men and women" who had the same job title and level of experience.

Mom slams ACA repeal, shows what's at stake in a tweetstorm about son's health

This mom says that without the ACA, her son wouldn't get the medical care he desperately needs.

Theresa May announces pact with Northern Ireland's conservative DUP

10 of the DUP's MPs will vote alongside May's party in exchange for more than $1 billion of funds.

Supreme Court will hear case of baker who refused service to gay couples on religious grounds

The Supreme Court will take on the case of a bakery owner who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Health care opposition, Trump on Russian meddling & Pakistan tanker explosion

The important stories to get you caught up for Monday morning.

Dozens missing after tourist boat carrying more than 160 passengers sinks in Colombia

At least six people are confirmed dead and dozens more unaccounted for.

Dow Jones won’t talk about its reported pay gap problem

A study released by the union representing Dow Jones employees found evidence of a "significant pay gap between men and women" who had the same job title and level of experience.

Mom slams ACA repeal, shows what's at stake in a tweetstorm about son's health

This mom says that without the ACA, her son wouldn't get the medical care he desperately needs.

Theresa May announces pact with Northern Ireland's conservative DUP

10 of the DUP's MPs will vote alongside May's party in exchange for more than $1 billion of funds.

Supreme Court will hear case of baker who refused service to gay couples on religious grounds

The Supreme Court will take on the case of a bakery owner who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Health care opposition, Trump on Russian meddling & Pakistan tanker explosion

The important stories to get you caught up for Monday morning.

Dozens missing after tourist boat carrying more than 160 passengers sinks in Colombia

At least six people are confirmed dead and dozens more unaccounted for.