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CO2 Acts as Fertilizer to Amazon Forests, Climate Warming Not Dangerous


An overview of the Carajas National Forest in the Amazon Basin where Brazil's Companhia Vale do Rio Doce mines iron oreA study conducted by Professor Peter Cox from University of Exeter, England, published in the latest issue of Nature, reveals that the Amazon forest is not likely to disappear due to rising temperatures, because carbon dioxide in the atmosphere acts as a fertilizer.

Although the high concentrations of the gas emitted through burning of fossil fuels will have devastating effects on weather and climate, the professor is convinced that they will not affect the forest.

Interestingly, Cox is also a lead author of a study published in 2000, in which he predicted that the Amazon forest is likely to disappear by 2050 because of global warming. Since then, studies have predicted that the forest could turn into savannah because of fires.

Within a lifespan, plants use up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to grow, and when they die, the gas is released back through rooting or burning.

If the predictions of retreat of the forest come true, then the vast amounts of carbon dioxide could accelerate the warming effect causing severe floods and storms. However, Cox claims that the fertilization effect of the gas is much stronger than climate change, and the forest will keep accumulating carbon throughout the whole 21st century.

Commenting on the study, many researchers agreed with the method and considered it a major step forward in the field of global warming. The models predicted that about 53 billion tones of stored carbon could be released for every degree Celsius of temperature rise. But the benefits of the fertilization exceeded the losses in most scenarios.

The effect of climate change on the Amazon forest will be much stronger if concentrations of other gases, such as ozone and methane, become higher, according to the study.

However, the damaging effects from deforestation were not taken into account. Brazil has reduced forest losses in the past couple of years, but using the past predictions for a forest die-back, people considered saving the trees as a pointless cause.

Cox emphasises on the importance of trees to soak up carbon dioxide, and he believes that the study will encourage nations to preserve the forests.

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