MAR 12, 2020 6:19 PM PDT

Major Ecosystems, like the Amazon, Can Disappear Within a Lifetime

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

A study published earlier this week in Nature Communications has revealed how quickly ecosystems will disappear once they reach their point of no return. Researchers from Bangor University, Southampton University, and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London believe that once an ecosystem reaches its tipping point, it will transform into an alternative ecosystem. The study concluded that shifts in ecosystem happen over “human” timescales and may only take a few decades to collapse “once triggered.”

According to the study, the Amazon rainforest could transform into a savannah ecosystem within 50 years. The study reports that the tipping point for the Amazon rainforest could be reached as soon as 2021, due to further deforestation and degradation. For comparison, the study estimates that an ecosystem the size of the Caribbean coral reefs could collapse within 15 years once triggered.

In an article from Bangor University regarding the study, lead author Dr. Simon Willcock stated, “Unfortunately what our paper reveals is that humanity needs to prepare for changes far sooner than expected.” He continues by saying that the rapid transformations to the world’s “largest and most iconic ecosystems” would affect everything that they provide us with, from oxygen to food and medicines.

With rampant wildfires and other climate catastrophes threatening ecosystems, scientists fear that many of these places may already be nearing their tipping point. The scientists also warn that continued loss of keystone species—those with the most substantial impacts on their ecosystem—could contribute to “rapid and dramatic change in the landscape within our lifetime.” Elephants are one such example of a keystone species, as they disperse seeds and alter the landscape by pushing over trees and trampling other plants. According to Dr. Gregory Cooper from the University of London, “this is yet another strong argument to avoid degrading our planet’s ecosystems; we need to do more to conserve biodiversity.”

The study recommends preparing for ecosystem shifts to occur within the human timescale of years and decades, rather than centuries and millennia. It states that “humanity now needs to prepare for changes in ecosystems that are faster than we previously envisaged through our traditional linear view of the world, including across Earth’s largest and most iconic systems, and the socio-ecological systems that they support.”

Sources: Nature Communications, Bangor University

About the Author
BS Biology
Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
OCT 11, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Potential For 24/7 Solar Power from Solar Harvesting
OCT 11, 2022
Potential For 24/7 Solar Power from Solar Harvesting
In a recent study published in Physical Review Applied, a team of researchers from the University of Houston reports on ...
OCT 28, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Researchers Examine Coral Chemical Compounds on Reef Health Effects
OCT 28, 2022
Researchers Examine Coral Chemical Compounds on Reef Health Effects
In a recent study published in ISME Communications, a team of researchers led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutio ...
NOV 05, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Rare Earth Elements Created in Neutron Star Mergers
NOV 05, 2022
Rare Earth Elements Created in Neutron Star Mergers
In a recent paper published in The Astrophysical Journal, astronomers present the first ever detection of rare Earth ele ...
NOV 14, 2022
Plants & Animals
Half of all palm tree species at risk of extinction
NOV 14, 2022
Half of all palm tree species at risk of extinction
Palm trees are a fixture of tropical locales. We often think of them when we think of warm vacation locations, including ...
NOV 16, 2022
Earth & The Environment
The rediscovery of ichthyosaur casts and a case for highlighting museum collections
NOV 16, 2022
The rediscovery of ichthyosaur casts and a case for highlighting museum collections
An important ichthyosaur fossil was destroyed in WWII, but researchers have recently found 2 casts of the missing fossil ...
NOV 26, 2022
Health & Medicine
Data Suggests Sperm Count Decline is Accelerating Worldwide
NOV 26, 2022
Data Suggests Sperm Count Decline is Accelerating Worldwide
Over the years, a number of studies have found evidence that reproductive health in men has been declining. Research has ...
Loading Comments...