Amazon Tipping Point

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Science Advances  21 Feb 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 2, eaat2340
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat2340

Thomas E. Lovejoy

Carlos Nobre

In the 1970s, Brazilian scientist Eneas Salati shattered the long held dogma that vegetation is simply the consequence of climate and has no influence on climate whatsoever (1). Using isotopic ratios of oxygen in rainwater samples collected from the Atlantic to the Peruvian border, he was able to demonstrate unequivocally that the Amazon generates approximately half of its own rainfall by recycling moisture 5 to 6 times as airmasses move from the Atlantic across the basin to the west.

From the start, the demonstration of the hydrological cycle of the Amazon raised the question of how much deforestation would be required to cause the cycle to degrade to the point of being unable to support rain forest ecosystems.

High levels of evaporation and transpiration that forests produce throughout the year contribute to a wetter atmospheric boundary layer than would be the case with …

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