Rainforests help to maintain the balance of nature by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air. However, a phase of role reversal is underway as revealed by recent research. The forests are unable to act as “carbon sinks.” In fact, they are accelerating the prospects of an increase in incidents of climate breakdown. The Amazon rainforest used to be one of the biggest absorbers of the gas. It is gradually losing that power due to human activities like logging and cultivation. This green cover is vital for survival and its loss endangers the world. A situation might arise when the frequency of climate breakdown increases.

Once that happens, the world will hopefully evolve suitable systems to cut down much faster on carbon-producing activities. These could be in the form of moving away from fossil fuels and embracing alternates. That would be necessary to counteract the loss of the carbon sinks.

Simon Lewis is a professor at Leeds University. He's one of the senior authors of the research. The Guardian quotes him as saying, “We’ve found that one of the most worrying impacts of climate change has already begun. This is decades ahead of even the most pessimistic climate models.” He adds, “The typical tropical forest may become a carbon source by the 2060s.” Instead of absorbing CO2, the forest would be generating it.

That would undoubtedly be a frightful scenario.

Rainforests are losing out

The study conducted by a number of scientific institutions found that over the last three decades, rainforests have lost their effectiveness. They are supposed to absorb carbon dioxide but that has fallen. The study found that the absorption now is considerably less than what it was in the 1990s.

This could be because of factors like the impacts of higher temperatures, droughts, and deforestation. There were fires in the Amazon rainforest last year that destroyed large expanses of greenery. The study feels this trend might continue because forests are under threat from climate change and exploitation by humans.

The Guardian mentions the forthcoming Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow during November. The subject of rainforests could feature in the discussions. Some countries could announce plans to reduce their emissions by preserving, replanting, or growing new forests. The research brings out a salient point. That is about reliance on tropical forests to counter large-scale emissions. Forests lose their ability to absorb carbon due to various reasons.

Some of these are natural die-outs. Others are due to drought and higher temperatures, which are offshoots of global warming. However, the worst is the loss of rainforests attributed to direct human activities. Examples are logging, burning and other forms of exploitation.

Difficult task ahead for rainforests

According to The Science Alert, tropical rainforests are finding it difficult to absorb carbon dioxide from greenhouse gas emissions. These forests are a source of medicine, food, shelter, and water and play a vital role in the Environment by accounting for around half of all terrestrial carbon absorption. However, that will not last forever. They are reaching a saturation point in view of the increase in the quantity of man-made emissions.

The rate of decline for the Amazon rainforest is comparatively more than the tropical forests of sub-Saharan Africa. This is detrimental to the health of the world as a whole.

Preservation of rainforests is necessary

Greenery absorbs greenhouse gases in order to maintain the equilibrium in nature. However, as the world advances to keep pace with high-speed society, the environment suffers. Trees are cut down and forests are razed in the name of development like construction of roads and expansion of human settlements. The loss becomes evident much later and there is a rush to control the damage through international conventions and loads of promises.

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