More than a third of the Amazonian forests have been degraded by human activity, much more than previously thought, warns an international team of 35 scientists in an article published this week in the journal Science.
Scientists argue that the amount of polluting emissions derived from this degradation is equal to or even greater than that produced by the deforestation of the Amazon forests. Specifically, they found that 38% of forest area has been affected, temporarily or permanently, by human activity, an area ten times the size of the UK.
Degradation differs from deforestation in that the use of the affected land does not change -that is, it remains forest-, despite the disappearance of most trees and vegetation. The main causes of degradation identified by the scientists are forest fires, illegal logging, changes in vegetation that occur close to deforested areas and extreme drought.
“Despite uncertainty about the total effect of these disturbances, it is clear that their cumulative effect can be as important as deforestation in terms of carbon emissions and biodiversity loss.explained one of the authors, Jos Barlow, in a statement.
Scientists estimate that these four factors will continue to produce large amounts of polluting emissions even if deforestation in the Amazon is completely eliminated. Therefore, they propose the creation of specific monitoring systems that consider these threats to the environment, in addition to suppressing deforestation.