Understanding how the Amazon jungle will behave in the face of climate change is the objective of a project in Manaus, which aims to study nature’s reaction to an excess of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the middle of the jungle.
Through the project, scientists anticipate a scenario of critical levels of CO2 concentration, in a laboratory in the heart of the largest tropical forest on the planet, at the top of a metal tower of more than 35 meters, 80 kilometers from Manaus. .
Around the tower, encircling the forest, sixteen vertical aluminum panels of the same height stand in a circle to form a “carbon ring” 30 meters in diameter.
These panels will release CO2-enriched air over fifty trees, turning this small piece of Amazonia into a sample of an experiment that could herald the future of the planet.
The AmazonFACE project, co-financed by the governments of Brazil and the United Kingdom, “will allow us to understand how the forest will behave in the face of climate change,” explains Carlos Quesada, one of those responsible for the experiment, quoted by the AFP agency.
“How will you react to rising temperatures and scarcity of water in a more carbon-intensive world?”asks the researcher from the National Institute for Research on the Amazon.
Similar experiments have already been carried out in forests in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, but AmazonFACE is the first of its kind in a tropical environment.
By 2024, six rings spread across the Amazon rainforest will release air enriched with carbon 40-50% more concentrated than the current rate. Over 10 years, the researchers will closely examine the impact on leaves, roots, soil, and the water cycle.
The objective is to try to understand “how the Amazon rainforest can help combat climate change by absorbing CO2,” explains David Lapola, a researcher at the University of Campinas, who is coordinating the experiment with Carlos Quesada. But the objective is also to evaluate “the impact of these changes on the forest.”
Rising carbon levels in the atmosphere could lead to a “savannization” of the Amazon, with vegetation that is adapted to higher temperatures and prolonged periods of drought. But CO2 could also, in a first phase, make the forest more resistant to climate change, increasing its biomass.
“This would have a positive impact, at least for a while, in which it would be very important to implement policies to drastically reduce emissions,” says Carlos Quesada, for whom this experience is a “window to the future.” ”.
“When you open it, we can see what will happen in the next thirty years and, thanks to that, we will save time”, he added.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in a report released in March that global warming will reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2030-2035.
A historic study published in 2018 by researchers Thomas E. Lovejoy and Carlos Nobre estimates that the Amazon will reach the point of no return to become savannah if between 20 and 25% of its territory is affected by deforestation, compared to the 15% current.