A new study has found that the Amazon rainforest could now be emitting more greenhouse gases than it absorbs.
The research, published in the journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, looked at numerous factors within the Amazon, including deforestation, fires and the weathers, and concluded that greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, are being emitted in the Amazon basin offset and now most likely exceed the area's ability to soak up the emissions.
It is the first study to take a broad look at the effects of both human and natural activities that could contribute to climate change, as well as all greenhouse gasses and not just CO2.
Scientists have previously predicted that these factors could end up reducing the rainforest's capacity to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which helps offset emissions, and now this study suggests this is already happening.
The study's lead author Kristofer Covey, a professor of environmental studies at New York's Skidmore College, told National Geographic: "Cutting the forest is interfering with its carbon uptake; that's a problem.
"But when you start to look at these other factors alongside CO2, it gets really hard to see how the net effect isn't that the Amazon as a whole is really warming global climate."
Other factors the study's authors think contribute include the nitrous oxide emissions from logging; fires, which release black carbon; and farming which increases methane production.
Thankfully, Professor Covey believes there's still time to reverse the damage, if we stop emissions from burning fossil fuels, cut back on the deforestation of the Amazon and increase efforts to plant trees.
The study's co-author Fiona Soper, an assistant professor at McGill University, told National Geographic: "We have this system that we have relied on to counter our mistakes, and we have really exceeded the capacity of that system to provide reliable service."
Professor Covey added: "The message of this is obviously not to cut more, and it's obviously not to stop restoring degraded ecosystems.
"I think the message is that if we're going to lean on them as a key pillar, then we need to invest a lot in understanding them and in as much of the complexity that they offer as we can."
Featured Image Credit: PA