World scientists launch ambitious Amazon project

Wednesday 28th Sep 2011 by theWeather Club

Scientists from 14 European and South-American research institutes have launched an ambitious research programme to investigate potential changes to the Amazon. It aims to predict potential changes resulting from climate change and deforestation. 'AMAZALERT' aims to test how vulnerable the forests of the Amazon may be to some form of die-back due to climate change and deforestation and if they are, to forecast where, when and how this may happen. It will also evaluate the effectiveness of public policies and measures to prevent Amazon degradation.

The team, led by Dr. Bart Kruijt of the Dutch Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR) and Dr. Carlos Nobre of the Brazilian National Space Research Institute (INPE) will design a system to help detect the signs of widespread forest degradation and to enable early warnings if irreversible forest loss appears likely. The team will include stakeholders from institutions and governments to gain their perspectives on modelling and to assist in development of a blueprint for an Early Warning System, for any potentially significant changes. As part of the project the UK Met Office will be using its latest Earth System Models to assess how the climate and the forest in the Amazon Basin may change. Building on a previous collaborative project with INPE, 'Dangerous Climate Change in Brazil', the Met Office will be working to understand and disentangle the interactions between climate, deforestation, and important factors such as fire.

'AMAZALERT' will also look to build upon previous work on regional climate. This includes incorporating sensitivities to change in the Amazon Basin of forest growth and the water cycle, of deforestation, and of the impacts of laws and the use of land by society. Two of the major areas that the project will seek to understand better are environmental feedbacks such as the interactions between the changing land surface and the climate in the Amazon region, also how people, agriculture and governments may respond to changes in the local climate and environment.

Two other leading UK research institutions will join 'AMAZALERT'. Scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Leeds will bring their expertise in measuring and understanding ecosystem processes, which will then be used to improve the modelling of how forests work. This is a crucial step needed to understand how future climate may interact with Amazonian forests, and how society may use the resources provided by the forests of the region.