FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, March 23, 2006

40 Pct. of Amazon Rainforest Could Vanish by 2050

Ranching, logging and farming, while profitable ventures for the South American economy, have been eroding the Amazon rainforest for years. A report in Nature estimates that up to 40% of the rainforest could disappear within 45 years if development goes unchecked.

Britaldo Soares-Filho, of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil, ran computer models simulating the effects of agricultural and industrial encroachment on virgin forests in three different scenarios. In the worst case, up to 777,000 square miles of forest could be lost by 2050, threatening the continent's ecosystem and endangering 100 native plant and animal species. Best-case scenarios, though, show that reduction could be minimized through land preservation and controlled growth.

The Amazon rainforest is important not just to South America, but the entire planet, as it absorbs a large amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Without the rainforest, carbon emissions would go unchecked, thereby accellerating global warming.

Faced with this, South American countries have a dilemma: how to protect the rainforests without harming desperately needed jobs and economic growth. Scientists taking the long view would invariably argue that the rainforest is the greater priority, though protecting it will be politically treacherous if means lost jobs and incomes.

Source: Reuters