The vast Amazon rainforest is sometimes called "the lungs of the planet" for its historic role in absorbing atmospheric CO2 and replenishing our supply of oxygen. That appears to be changing and not for the better.
A study finds that, over the past ten years, the trees of the Amazon are no longer absorbing nearly as much CO2 as in the past. The Amazon has accounted for up to a quarter of all CO2 sequestered on land. However, from 1990 to 2000, the forests' absorption dropped by 30% even as carbon emissions increased 21%.
Dr Roel Brienen of Leeds University said, “If this trend continues then that is worrying because that means that basically the subsidies that we have been getting from nature – the forests that are taking up part of the emissions that we have been putting out into the atmosphere – if that is going to stop then that means that we have to make even stronger cuts in our CO2 emissions in order to keep the rate of climate change as low as possible.”
Climate change has also transformed British Columbia's vast forest carbon sink into a net emitter of CO2 due to the massive pine beetle infestation, itself the result of climate change that prevents the necessary winter kill off to keep the pest populations under control.
Research has found that our greatest carbon sink, our oceans, are also losing their capacity to absorb atmospheric CO2. We've taken the carbon sinks for granted and we depend heavily on them for a viable environment.