In what could easily be considered a worst-case scenario for the fate of the world's largest rainforest, a study led by Brazil's National Institute of Special Research found that the size of the Amazon could be reduced 50 percent by 2050, the 'tipping point' for when it will slowly wither away entirely. Considering forest-threatening factors such as fires, deforestation, and the emission of greenhouse gases, the research found if the regions of the Amazon most crucial to maintaining the biome's climate are lost, large sections of the once lush rainforest may be reduced to a virtual desert.According to a report from Globo Amazônia, the study conducted by Gilvan Sampaio of National Institute of Special Research (INPE) found that the vegetation of the Amazon will be particularly impacted by rising global temperatures in the years to come, in addition to the continued threats posed by deforestation and fires. But because the Amazon rainforest itself plays a crucial role in regulating the climate worldwide, the rate of vegetation loss will gradually accelerate as there's less forest to maintain it.
"If the Amazon rainforest continues to decline, the southern and southeastern regions of Brazil will receive less water. If they minimize environmental preservation areas, the lands are more vulnerable to fire. Driest territories are dried yet," says Sampaio.
The study found that the cycle of forest loss will be most pronounced if the forests in eastern Amazon continue to be lost. According to Sampaio, changes to the climate of this region will lead to increased temperatures and decreased rainfall throughout the rest of the continent.
Once fires caused by these droughts and continued deforestation have reduced the Amazon's size by half, says Sampaio, desertification will slowly transform the terrain into a 'tropical savanna'. The report projects that this 'tipping point' level of forest loss could occur as shortly as 2050.