Amazon rainforest: Near a tipping point of savannization

There used to be about 6 trillion trees on Earth. Today, only about 3 trillion trees remain, and despite significant efforts, we continue to lose about 15 billion trees every year.

The Amazon is the largest rainforest on Earth. It’s nearly twice the size of India and considered to be the half of the planet’s remaining tropical forest. The Amazon contains 10% of the world’s biodiversity, more than any other land ecosystem. Yet deforestation and degradation threaten this priceless ecosystem.

The Amazon is very near a tipping point of savannization. If we continue with deforestation and unable to control global climate change, 50-70% of the Amazon will become a degraded savannah. It will release over 200 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere making it almost impossible to reach the Paris Accord targets.

Deforestation in the Amazon increased in 2020. Research shows that a warmer and drier environment for the region could convert from 30% up to 60% of the Amazon rainforest into a type of dry savanna. This means less shelter for biodiversity and increased carbon emission.

There is a dire need to get deforestation and forest degradation to zero very soon (in a few years) as well as to find ways to restore huge areas. The potential of forest products sitting there is tremendously large. For example, acai berry, cacao, brazil nuts, etc. have much higher economic value today than the traditional cattle ranching and crops.

So, there is huge potential to find a new way of bio economy (a standing-forest bio economy) making economic use of hundreds of forest products and making them reach markets all over the planet.

The Amazon bio economy challenge is desperately calling for ecopreneurial solutions to preserve and restore the forest’s biodiversity and ecosystem functions, with innovative business models like agroforestry and ecotourism.

These solutions are both feasible and sustainable because they are inclusive, locally anchored, and share social and economic benefits with indigenous communities by building a bioeconomy that restores and conserves the Amazon.

Many indigenous leaders in the Amazon today want to get access to modern technologies. They are open and see the possibilities of merging their knowledge with modern technologies.

To save the Amazon you have to preserve the forests, which is possible if you are able to enhance the economic value of the standing forest.

Innovative entrepreneurs and investors are essential to make this path possible. However, a lot more needs to be done to scale up the efforts in a sustainable way.