A regional approach to save the Amazon

MARIELOS PEÑA-CLAROS AND CARLOS NOBRE | SCIENCE 21 Sep 2023 Vol 381, Issue 6664 p. 1261 | 2023 | Communication | DOI: 10.1126/science.adk8794


Early in August this year, a high-profile summit was held in Belém, Brazil, where the eight Amazonian countries discussed the future of the Amazon. The nations recognized that the Amazon is very close to reaching a tipping point for turning into a degraded ecosystem. The result of their discussions was the Belém Declaration, an ambitious plan to protect and conserve the Amazon forests and to support Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Concern arose, however, because they failed to agree on attaining zero deforestation by 2030 and on avoiding new explorations in the Amazon for fossil fuel. The Declaration also lacks specific and measurable indicators. The ministers of Foreign Affairs therefore have a very important role in further refining the agenda and deadlines so that the Belém Declaration can be implemented.

For over three decades, science has pointed to the risks of the Amazon reaching a tipping point. Several recent studies now demonstrate how close it is: The dry season over southern Amazon has lengthened by 4 to 5 weeks over the past 40 years, the mortality of wet-loving tree species has increased, and the loss of trees is turning the forests into a carbon source rather than a carbon sink.