In order to analyse the effects that the rising global CO2 levels have on the Amazon region, caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels, the Brazilian government created a project named “Amazon Face” in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Foundation for Research Support of the State of Amazonas (Fapeam).
“The problems are not only restricted to the Amazon region, but there are also regional and global consequences” – Carlos Alberto Quesada
The project will increase the concentration of CO2 by 50%, meaning it will reach 600 parts per million (ppm), in plots of forests 30 metres in diameter. The goal is to see to what extent fertilisation with an extra supply of CO2, which is used in the photosynthesis process of plants, increases the resilience of the forest; that is, its ability to compensate for adverse factors such as warming temperatures and changes in rainfall. “The problems are not only restricted to the Amazon region, but there are also regional and global consequences” – Carlos Alberto Quesada
The experiment will be implemented in a forest area located about 60 kilometres to the north of Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian Amazonas State, and run by the National Institute for Amazonian Research (INPA). The first phase of the project, budgeted at $11 million, is due to start in 2017. The second phase, which will last for ten years, is budgeted at $78 million.
“Is it an expensive project? Yes, but how much is knowing more about the future of the Amazon worth? Whether it will be a scenario of sustainability or catastrophe?”, questioned the forestry engineer and researcher at INPA, Carlos Alberto Quesada, who is one of the scientific coordinators of the experiment. He also mentioned the increase in frequency of fires, damage to agriculture and difficulties in infrastructure projects planned for the region. “The problems are not only restricted to the Amazon region, but there are also regional and global consequences,” he warned.
“Talking about Amazon Face is, in a sense, speaking of the importance of the Amazon to Brazil and to the world,” said Lapola. “It contains perhaps the planet’s greatest biodiversity and plays an important role in the carbon cycle – stocking 90 billion tons of carbon – and in the hydrological cycles, as it has a basin that contributes with a significant amount of fresh water to the oceans.”
The researcher pointed out that climate change puts both of these natural processes and the lives of around 25 million people who inhabit the region at risk. CO2 is considered to be the main driver of this phenomenon and since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has been increasing. According to projections released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this trend will not be reversed until the end of the century.
The Environmentalist David Lapola, from the Paulista State Univeristy (UNESP) in Brazil, observed that by only considering the indirect effects of climate change (increase in temperature and disturbance of the rainfall cycle), the current projection models for the Amazon predict an increase in areas of savanna and dry forest. “But this is largely speculative. We have no empirical knowledge about this effect,” he pointed out.