The Amazon Rainforest’s Dual Threat

Dr. Simon Lewis

Dr. Simon Lewis

The Ecologist has recently published an interesting interview with Dr. Simon Lewis, a tropical forest expert from the University of Leeds, where he explains what is happening to the Amazon Rainforest due to deforestation and human-caused climate change.

These are some of the points mentioned by Dr. Lewis:

  • Currently, carbon dioxide is being removed from the atmosphere and incorporated into the trees at the rate is about 1.5 billion metric tonnes of per year.
  • If the climate changes in the Amazon to a regime with more severe and frequent droughts then the dead trees may be numerous enough to cancel out all the usual carbon uptake and perhaps even add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
  • It is difficult to define single causes of deforestation, and care must be taken to note not only the proximate drivers (e.g. forest removal for soya bean production) but also the ultimate drivers of such decisions, for example, economic drivers like the price of agricultural commodities and policy choices such as government infrastructure projects that open areas to become within reach of national and international markets. The key proximate driver of deforestation in the Amazon is agricultural expansion – for cattle and soya – itself allied to road-building.
  • There is no good evidence so far that the Amazon is drying out. The recent Amazon droughts were due to a change in the distribution of rain across the year, not the total amount.
  • In answer to the question “is the media getting the reporting of climate change right?” – no they are not getting coverage right. Unfortunately the media are mostly ignoring the science, or selecting stories to fit their editorial prejudices on climate change.  (In June 2010, we posted a blog, Sunday Times Publishes Climate Change Apology, about Dr. Lewis filing a complaint with the relevant press oversight body.)

David M. Davison


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