The deforestation of the Amazon region harms its rivers and vice versa, then goes on to affect “the entire biosphere”.
This is the message from an international colloquium on monitoring the Amazon being held this week in Toulouse, France.
Where the fires that have been raging for weeks in the Amazon are concerned, “the consequences are not yet measurable,” but in the longer term, “what we see is a gradual destabilisation of the water cycle,” Jean-Michel Martinez, director of the Hybam National Observation Service, explained to the French news agency, AFP.
“The Amazon’s main role at the global level is maintaining the water cycle” and its waters, fed by evaporation, account for 20% of all waters that empty into the oceans, added Martinez, whose institution, Hybam, is an international cooperation structure for the scientific monitoring of the Amazon.
“If you gradually cut down the forest, you take away the engine of evaporation” that feeds the river and “you’ll completely destabilise the ecosystem,” he warned, pinpointing the “strong acceleration” of deforestation in recent months, after years of stabilisation of the phenomenon.
In turn, the modification of the water cycle “creates the risk of losing the tropical forest” and intensifies the “extreme events” that affect the river, such as floods and drought.
Of the six main floods in the Amazon in the past 115 years, four occurred in the past decade, Martinez noted.
Measurements collected over the past 15 years by Hybam (Hydrology of the Amazon Basin) also show signs of pollution, mainly chlorine, of the river, “which did not exist before, due to oil and gas mining in its basin as well as gold and diamond mining.”
According to Hybam experts, some 150 of whom have been meeting for a week in Toulouse, this pollution and the changes in the quality of the Amazon’s waters brought on by deforestation “could be partly responsible for the warming of the Atlantic Ocean and influence the emergence of tropical cyclones,” Martinez argued.
However, “the focus should not only be on Brazil,” whose climate-sceptic president Jair Bolsonaro is under strong international pressure for the way he has managed the fires, because all the countries of the Amazon Basin are concerned by the increased deforestation, the environmentalist added.
Six South American countries are scheduled to hold an emergency summit on Friday in Colombia to launch an appeal to the international community to help conserve and protect the primordial ecosystem.
The Hybam colloquium, which ends on Friday, is the first to be held in France since the body was created.