Two Lancaster University researchers are among more than 200 renowned scientists from the Amazon and global partners to produce a comprehensive scientific assessment on the state of the Amazon Basin.
The Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA) has released the first Amazon Assessment Report at COP26, warning that the region is approaching a catastrophic potential tipping point due to deforestation, degradation, wildfires, and climate change.
Crossing such a tipping point could result in a permanent loss of rainforest and a rapid shift from rainforest to degraded dry ecosystems with lower tree cover. The SPA Report, launched today (Friday, November 12), is aligned with COP26’s ambition of curtailing deforestation and forest degradation and makes a clarion call to global governments, private and public sector leaders, policymakers, and the general public to act now to prevent further devastation in the region.
The SPA Report identifies sustainable development pathways and gives a thorough analysis as a one of-a-kind scientific assessment of the Amazon Basin.
It underscores the significance of offering science-based, data-driven recommendations, as well as encouraging technological innovation, and nature-based solutions combined with Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ (IPLC) knowledge to guide decision-making and policy-making.
Professor Jos Barlow of Lancaster Environment Centre led three chapters of the report, and said: “This is a hugely important report, and a first comprehensive synthesis of the state of the Amazon basin. But the report in itself is also just a starting point – we need to build on it by ensuring the recommendations are taken up by decision makers and practitioners, and that new information continues to be shared and acted on. And we need to work with Amazonian peoples to co-develop novel solutions to the most pressing social-environmental issues.”
Dr Erika Berenguer of Lancaster Environment Centre and the University of Oxford, and who led on three chapters, said: “This is a very unique scientific report as it has a message of hope. We can protect the Amazon and its peoples and the report has a whole part pointing towards these solutions. In the middle of an environmental and social crisis in the region, it is quite inspiring to see scientists getting together to point to ways forward.”
Inspired by the Leticia Pact for the Amazon, the report is the most in-depth, comprehensive, and holistic report of its kind on the Amazon Basin.
It highlights that approximately 17% of Amazonian forests have been converted to other land uses, and at least an additional 17% have been degraded. Experts estimate 366,300 km2 of forests were degraded between 1995 and 2017, and every year hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests, mostly degraded, burn across the basin as fires escape nearby pastures or recently deforested areas.
The SPA Report urges decision makers to act now and recommends an immediate deforestation moratorium in areas that are already nearing tipping points, and to achieve zero deforestation and forest degradation in the entire Amazon region before 2030.
The SPA makes a case for restoring and remediating forest cover and aquatic ecosystems;
conserving biodiversity, agrobiodiversity, and cultural diversity; as well as monitoring
deforestation, degradation, and establishing early fire warning systems.
Managing Amazonian resilience also requires global action to halt greenhouse gas emissions. While land-use change is the most visible threat to the Amazon’s ecosystems, ultimately climate change is emerging as one the most insidious threats to the region’s future, the report states.
Despite the alarming findings, the SPA Report highlights the significant potential in advancing
sustainable development pathways based on a combination of scientific research and Indigenous peoples’ and local knowledge and emphasizes leveraging strong collaborative partnerships. The SPA advocates a vision of a Living Amazon that advances conservation and restoration initiatives and a transformation to an innovative bioeconomy of healthy forests and rivers, that respects and recognizes natural cycles and human rights, particularly those of IPLCs. Investment in education, science, technology, and innovation is of paramount importance.