Lungs of the Planet

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With the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) or the United Nation Conference on Climate Change scheduled for the end of the month, I am focusing on the Amazon and its role in mitigating carbon. The Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, is primarily found in Brazil. It is often called the “lungs of the planet” due its production of oxygen through photosynthesis. It is an important carbon sink, absorbing a quarter of the total carbon dioxide taken in by forests worldwide. About 30% of the world’s species are found in the Amazon so it is also important to biodiversity. The impacts of deforestation for lumber and agriculture on the Amazon rainforest are well documented. About 750,000 square kilometers (289,000 square miles) have been lost since the seventies for soybean production, timber, and cattle. In addition droughts in 2005, 2010, and the current drought are impacting forest health and leading to significant die-offs. The longterm health of the Amazon is unknown but scientists are closely monitoring the region through remote observation as well as on the ground monitoring and research.  By studying the Amazon and how it responds to existing and future stressors, scientists can also understand how the planet will respond to its own stressors (particularly climate change) now and in the future. One thing is for sure, without the Amazon to help balance the global carbon budget we could experience some significant tipping points in the future.

About This Illustration

Watercolor and micron pen-NPR was doing a series on the Amazon and throughout their reporting they  referred to it as the lungs of the planet so I took that title and went with it. This image is available via Redbubble.

For More Information

Wikipedia, Amazon Rainforest: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_rainforest

Science Daily, Lungs of the planet reveal their true sensitivity to global warming: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130206131050.htm

NPR, Look At This: Rain Forest Was Here: http://apps.npr.org/lookatthis/posts/brazil/

Washington Post, Climate Change could triple Amazon drought, study finds: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/10/12/climate-change-could-triple-amazon-drought-study-finds/

Science, Rainforest ability to soak up carbon dioxide is falling: http://news.sciencemag.org/climate/2015/03/amazon-rainforest-ability-soak-carbon-dioxide-falling

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