The Amazon rainforest will become a 'savanna' thanks to the effects of global warming, according to a scientist from the University of Florida - who says the area will be beyond the point of recovery by 2064.
In a new paper, published in the journal Environment, Professor Robert Toovey Walker warns that the Amazon stands on the verge of a 'tipping point', and that the change is all down to human-caused disturbances - which we are 'all responsible' for.
The Amazon is the largest tropical forest on Earth, covering around 2.3 million square miles.
It reduces air pollution and helps regulate the world's oxygen and carbon cycles, as well as creating its own precipitation to provide communities with water.
But Walker - who is a professor of Latin American Studies and Geography at the university - believes this is all likely to change, predicting that the Amazon will transition from a 'moist forest' to a 'tropical savanna' over the next few decades.
Walker says locals' dependency on the Amazon as a source of water will also mean 'the magnitude of the catastrophe will be worse than heretofore imagined' in 44 years' time.
Walker explains that a 'collapse' of environmental governance in Amazonian nations such as Brazil has renewed concerns about the rainforest's fate.
He writes in the paper: "These concerns - recently intensified by Amazonian fires in the summer of 2019 - have put the focus on regional climate changes capable of inducing a 'tipping point' beyond which the moist forest transitions to a tropical savanna.
"This could happen in a number of ways but would probably include some combination of changes in average annual precipitation and dry-season intensity."
He adds: "It is doubtful that the Amazonian forest will remain resilient to changes in the regional hydroclimate.
"The biggest concern involves intensification of drought-based tree mortality stemming from the synergies of fire, deforestation, and logging.
"The development of Amazonia now lies on a collision course not only with the interests of conservation but also with the welfare of the very people it is meant to benefit."
According to UPI, Walker's forecast provides the most specific date yet for the general demise of the Brazilian ecosystem.
Speaking to the outlet, Walker said: "The best way to think of the forest ecosystem is that it's a pump.
"The forest recycles moisture, which supports regional rainfall. If you continue to destroy the forest, the rainfall amount drops ... and eventually, you wreck the pump."
He added that he's spent a lot of time speaking to farmers and loggers living in the Amazon region, saying poverty and poor use of government resources has driven much of the deforestation.
"The people there, they don't worry so much about biodiversity, the environment, when they have to worry about eating their next meal," Walker said.Featured Image Credit: PA