The Amazon rainforest used to absorb carbon dioxide, and was an important global carbon sink that slowed the progress of global warming. However research has found that the forest now emits a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, due to fires, hotter temperatures, deforestation and droughts. Most worryingly, part of the Amazon is emitting carbon dioxide even without fires.
The net emissions from the Amazon are huge – equivalent to those of Japan – and will accelerate climate impacts both locally (as rainfall patterns will be affected) and globally. A dangerous feedback loop is becoming established where where deforestation and climate change drive a release of carbon from the remaining forest that reinforces additional warming and more carbon emissions. However fires (clearing for beef and soy farming) currently drive most of this loss, and researchers say that prohibition of fires could still reverse this and return the Amazon to it’s former state as a carbon sink.