Global warming puts Amazon at risk, says WWF

Climate change plus deforestation could wipe out or severely damage nearly 60% of the Amazon forest by 2030 — making it impossible to keep global temperatures from reaching catastrophic levels, a new WWF report says.

"The importance of the Amazon forest for the globe’s climate cannot be underplayed," said Daniel Nepstad, author of the environmental organisation’s study, released on Thursday at the UN climate change conference in Bali. "It’s not only essential for cooling the world’s temperature, but also such a large source of fresh water that it may
be enough to influence some of the great ocean currents, and on top of that, it’s a massive store of carbon."

Several recent studies have suggested similar findings, but scientists say the size and complexity of the Amazon leaves many questions about the rain forest’s future open to debate.

Largely unexplored, the Amazon region contains one-fifth of the world’s fresh water and about 30% of the world’s plant and animal species — many still undiscovered. Large swaths of forest like the Amazon are also valuable "carbon sinks," or absorbers of carbon dioxide. Deforestation pours carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and at
the same time kills off carbon-absorbing vegetation.

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