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Vol. 3 No. 2 (2024): Ekologos

Crossing Tipping Points in the Amazon Rainforest: The decisive decade

  • Luiz Marques

    State University of Campinas – Unicamp, Brazil; Ilum Escola de Ciência – National Center for Research in Energy and Materials – Brazil
February 16, 2024


This article investigates whether the Amazon rainforest's destruction has reached a tipping point. Over the past 30 years, understanding of Amazon tipping points has improved, but the extent of these areas remains unclear. Scientists generally agree that the entire Amazon biome has not crossed a tipping point, but local-scale forest collapses could cause cascading effects on rainfall, wildfires, and continental forest loss. To gauge the imminence of massive forest loss, the study assessed six key anthropogenic processes: clear-cut deforestation, forest degradation, droughts, wildfires, regional warming, and conversion from a sink to a net carbon source. These processes amplify each other in a positive feedback loop posing significant threats to the environment. The study concluded that deforestation, forest degradation, and wildfires have accelerated in the last decade, pushing degraded areas to a point of no return. Other parts of the Amazon rainforest are already crossing no-return points, with Brazil and Bolivia responsible for 90% of combined deforestation and degradation. Regions damaged by fires, mining, logging, and clear-cut deforestation are showing irreversible loss of biomass and forest resilience. When a red line for other Brazilian Amazon rainforest areas could be crossed remains uncertain, but the possibility of a near-term forest tipping point by 2030 is real. The risk of crossing tipping points in the central and western Amazon increases as destructive processes continue. The authors recommend that Amazon nations and the international community reforest degraded areas and implement the 13 principles established by forest stewards, with indigenous populations playing a central role.