Brazil Debates Easing Curbs on Developing Amazon Forest

NYT reports that the Brazilian Congress is considering legislation to exempt small farms from current requirements to maintain forest on property within the Amazon, which would allow significantly more deforestation than current law. Along with the traditional concerns about deforestation, the effort to relax deforestation restrictions comes at a time when large sections of the Amazon appear to be approaching a tipping point. Recent droughts and predicted climate changes suggest that at least parts of the Amazon are on the edge of flipping to another ecosystem type from forest dieback. Such an event would likely have major biodiversity and climate implications — reducing or eliminating large swaths of habitat and releasing vast quantities of carbon dioxide. (A 2005 Amazon dieback caused by drought, for example, is a suspected cause of a notable spike in global GHG concentrations that year). With the ecosystem already teetering, now is not the time to relax forest protection law.

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