As The Amazon Fires Unfold, So Did This Unfounded Statistic – Forbes

BRAZIL-FIRE-AMAZON

Carbon storage is a more important function of the rain forest, not oxygen production. (Photo by Carl DE SOUZA)

AFP/Getty Images

Topline: As news of the fires in the Amazon rain forest spread, sparking international outrage and condemnation, so too did a uncited statistic: The Amazon produces 20% of the world’s oxygen. French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted it. Actor Leonardo Dicaprio posted it on Instagram. CNN included it in its coverage.

The only problem? No one knows where the number came from, and it doesn’t appear to be true.

  • Mathematically, it’s impossible for the Amazon to produce that much oxygen, said Jonathan Foley, the former executive director of the California Academy of Sciences and founder of Project Drawdown, a research group focusing on climate change. 
  • Foley thinks the number could have originated from the fact that all tropical forests (including those in Africa and Indonesia) produce 20% of the oxygen from land-based sources.
  • Combining land and ocean, which also produces oxygen, tropical forests only account for 10% of the world’s oxygen. Narrowing that down, Foley estimates it’s only possible for the Amazon itself to produce 6%.

Still, even without worrying about oxygen, the Amazon is important for the environment, Foley said. It stores carbon that, once released into the atmosphere through the act of burning, produces dangerous carbon dioxide emissions that warm the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. In fact, the Amazon stores 25% of the world’s carbon, according to a 2015 paper published in Nature

“The more carbon that can be taken out of the atmosphere and put into forms that are more stable is a good thing, and forest vegetation is one of those good ways to store carbon,” said Robin Chazdon, a professor at the University of Connecticut. 

The Amazon is also a hotspot for biodiversity, or the thousands of species—including insects, wildlife and plants—that live in the rain forest. As the Amazon continues to burn, those species are in danger, Chazdon added.

Ultimately, oxygen from the Amazon doesn’t matter all that much, scientists say. There’s plenty of oxygen in the atmosphere that has been built up over thousands of years. Even if the Amazon was completely destroyed, the supply of oxygen in the atmosphere wouldn’t be in jeopardy, Foley said. Oxygen levels are primarily regulated by long-term geological forces, such as plate tectonics, not oxygen from photosynthesis, he added.

“The Amazon is so precious and deforestation is a huge problem, for climate change, biodiversity and indigenous people living there,” Foley said. “But we can scratch one thing off the doomsday list here, we don’t have to worry about the world’s oxygen levels.”

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BRAZIL-FIRE-AMAZON

Carbon storage is a extra significant perform of the rain forest, not oxygen creation. (Image by Carl DE SOUZA)

AFP/Getty Pictures

Topline: As news of the fires in the Amazon rain forest distribute, sparking intercontinental outrage and condemnation, so far too did a uncited statistic: The Amazon produces 20% of the world’s oxygen. French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted it. Actor Leonardo Dicaprio posted it on Instagram. CNN bundled it in its coverage.

The only difficulty? No one particular understands the place the amount arrived from, and it doesn’t seem to be true.

  • Mathematically, it is impossible for the Amazon to make that significantly oxygen, reported Jonathan Foley, the former government director of the California Academy of Sciences and founder of Project Drawdown, a investigation group concentrating on local climate modify. 
  • Foley thinks the amount could have originated from the actuality that all tropical forests (together with those in Africa and Indonesia) deliver 20% of the oxygen from land-centered resources.
  • Combining land and ocean, which also creates oxygen, tropical forests only account for 10% of the world’s oxygen. Narrowing that down, Foley estimates it is only feasible for the Amazon by itself to deliver 6%.

Still, even with no worrying about oxygen, the Amazon is crucial for the ecosystem, Foley claimed. It retailers carbon that, after introduced into the ambiance by means of the act of burning, creates unsafe carbon dioxide emissions that heat the atmosphere and lead to climate modify. In actuality, the Amazon merchants 25% of the world’s carbon, in accordance to a 2015 paper released in Mother nature

“The a lot more carbon that can be taken out of the environment and put into kinds that are a lot more stable is a great point, and forest vegetation is a person of all those very good approaches to retail outlet carbon,” said Robin Chazdon, a professor at the College of Connecticut. 

The Amazon is also a hotspot for biodiversity, or the countless numbers of species—including insects, wildlife and plants—that stay in the rain forest. As the Amazon continues to burn, people species are in risk, Chazdon extra.

Finally, oxygen from the Amazon doesn’t make any difference all that a lot, experts say. There’s loads of oxygen in the atmosphere that has been designed up around countless numbers of yrs. Even if the Amazon was absolutely destroyed, the offer of oxygen in the environment would not be in jeopardy, Foley explained. Oxygen degrees are generally regulated by very long-term geological forces, these kinds of as plate tectonics, not oxygen from photosynthesis, he additional.

“The Amazon is so valuable and deforestation is a big issue, for climate change, biodiversity and indigenous people dwelling there,” Foley stated. “But we can scratch one particular point off the doomsday checklist in this article, we never have to be concerned about the world’s oxygen stages.”

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