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  • PhD student uncovers hope for future of Amazon

    2017 - 07.04

    The University of Bristol have released a report suggesting the Amazon rainforest may be more resilient to the threat of deforestation than previously thought.

    The region, which spans eight countries accounts for about a quarter of carbon absorption from the atmosphere by global forests each year. Consequently, deforestation and the loss of valuable forest cover could have a detrimental effect on climate change.

    Previous data from the University appeared to reveal that a large part of the Amazon forest was susceptible to a 'tipping point'. However, a fourth year PhD student in the Bristol Centre for Complexity Sciences, Bert Wuyts, uncovered a new perspective when he decided to revisit the data for a project.

    “I decided to take a fresh look at the data and a very different picture emerged when I controlled for seasonality and took out all the data points from satellite images that represented locations that had been subjected to human influence.”

    After making this discovery in the first year of his PhD, Wuyts teamed up with Professor Alan Champneys, a theorist in the Department of Engineering Mathematics, and Dr Jo House, an expert on land use change from the School of Geographical Sciences, and for the past two years they have been examining these findings rigorously.

    The positive outcome of their theory is as there is some forest left, deforestation will not lock currently forested areas into a savannah state. This means that recovery of the forest in deforested areas should happen as soon as these areas are released from human pressures.

    The new research casts a hopeful glow over the future of the Amazon rainforest, although there is much more analysis that needs to be done to gain a fuller understanding of this region and the best actions that can be taken to protect it.

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