Construction continues at the Belo Monte dam complex in the Amazon basin on June 15, 2012 near Altamira, Brazil. (Photo : Mario Tama/Getty Images)
An entirely different future awaits the Amazon, and it's very, very dry.
Tell us it isn't true.
The Amazon could become a savannah grassland in the future.
There's no place quite like the Amazon rainforest. The largest rainforest on Earth, the Amazon basin has around 300 billion trees housing the richest ecosystem on the planet crucial to the Earth's water and carbon cycle. Fifty percent of all the species of plants and animals on Earth live there.
However, the Amazon is vulnerable to the effects of climate change---intense droughts, severe storms. It is fairly certain that if human encroachment and climate change continue, sooner or later we will no longer see abundant greens in the world's largest tropical rainforest covering most of northwestern Brazil, Colombia, Peru and several other South American countries.
As the future becomes drier, the fate of the Amazon becomes bleaker, but it won't disappear entirely.
Climate change can alter everything we knew about the Amazon, albeit gradually, kind of like a boiling pot.
Previous studies have suggested that the entire Amazon could be gone by the end of the century, but a new study suggests otherwise.
While it is true that the Amazonia will change, scientists from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) said in a new study published Monday last week that the reaction of the Amazon forest will vary in degrees due to its immensity, according to the Latin American Post.
Previous climate change models were unable to understand and capture the complexity of the ecosystem of the Amazonia and saw it as just one vast forest. The new study changes that notion.
The new study from PNAS was developed by Harvard University ecologist Paul Moorcroft and his colleagues. According to Moorcroft, they used the new Ecosystem Demography Biosphere model in monitoring the response of each tree in the Amazon, and thus came up with a more detailed prediction of the Amazon's future.
The researchers reportedly used a combination of remote sensing estimates as well as field observations in the study. They found out that neither will the Amazon forest collapse nor become unresponsive with a drier future. Rather, the Amazonia will show varying responses with climate change. Most importantly, the scientists discovered that the changes will be gradual.
For example, one prediction from the model says that as dry seasons grow longer, forests are to lose their biomass, becoming low-biomass dry forests and grassland like, akin to the savannahs in Northern Australia.
Amazon forests with four-month dry seasons will eventually lose 20 percent biomass, and forests with six-month long dry seasons will lose 29 percent biomass.
However, the study's authors claim that "Fire, logging and other anthropogenic disturbances may, however, exacerbate these climate change-induced ecosystem transitions."
The type of soil, which regulates the amount of rainfall they can hold, will also reportedly determine the rate at which the Amazonian rainforests change.
"As we have shown here, models that incorporate plant-level dynamics are able to characterize observed extant patterns of variation in the structure, composition and dynamics of Amazonian ecosystems more accurately," according to the study's authors.
"...and accounting for these patterns has important implications for the sensitivity and ecological resilience of Amazon forests to different levels of climatological perturbation," they added.
Want to know more about the Amazon Rainforest? Check out the video documentaries below.