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Parts of the Amazon rainforest are emitting more carbon dioxide than they absorb, according to a study published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature.
The research says the Amazon rainforest’s role as a carbon sink — something that absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases — appears to be in decline, which could devastate the ecosystem and be a troubling sign for the world’s fight against the climate crisis.
The changes in the Amazon are being driven by factors including deforestation, wildfires, and climate change, the research said.
The study was conducted by making more than 600 flights over four areas of the Amazon, with researchers led by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research collecting data on how much carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere.
Researchers found the four areas were emitting 410 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. The emissions largely came from fires, often set intentionally by humans, according to the study.
While the same regions absorbed roughly 120 million metric tons of carbon, that still means the sections of the Amazon were giving off 290 million metric tons in net emissions.
The change “may have lasting, negative consequences for both the carbon balance of the region and the fragility of its ecosystems,” Nature said in a press release seen by CNN.