Sunday, December 26, 2010

Rain may disappear from Latin America

Mario Osava in IPS: South America still has vast extensions of land available for growing crops to help meet the global demand for food and biofuels. But the areas of greatest potential agricultural production -- central-southern Brazil, northern Argentina, and Paraguay -- could be left without the necessary rains.

Every deforested hectare in the Amazon -- a jungle biome extending across the northern half of South America -- weakens the system that has been protecting the region from the desert fate of the Sahara, a third of Australia, and other lands located approximately 30 degrees latitude north and south, warns scientist Antonio Nobre, of the Brazil's national space research institute, INPE.

Halting deforestation in the Amazon needed to be done "by yesterday" and Brazil's official goal to reduce it 80 percent by 2020 is like "quitting smoking when you have advanced lung cancer; when you're already dying," Nobre told IPS. We should already be rebuilding the destroyed forests in order to restore equilibrium, he said, adding that monoculture of eucalyptus and African palm trees is not the answer.

"We don't know where the point of no return is," when forest degradation will become irreversible, and lands that benefited from the rains generated in the Amazon turn to desert, said the agronomist who lived 22 years in that region as a researcher, before joining INPE, in São José dos Campos, 100 kilometres from São Paulo.

The Amazon forest and the barrier created by the Andes Mountains, which run north-to-south through South America, channel the humid winds, now known as "flying rivers." Those winds ensure rainfall for a region that is the continental leader in meat, grain and fruit exports, and a world leader in sugar, soybeans and orange juice. The flying-river phenomenon, as established by climate researchers, led Nobre and other scientists around the globe to a new theory, the "biotic pump," which explains climate phenomena, equilibrium and disequilibrium in the Earth's natural systems -- and in which forest biomes play an essential role….

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