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article imageExpert breaks down numbers from Amazon wildfires

By Tim Sandle     Aug 28, 2019 in Environment
As Brazil’s wildfires continue to rage, it has been widely reported that the Amazon rainforest is responsible for producing 20 percent of the world’s oxygen supply. This is incorrect, according to carbon cycle expert Neal Blair.
Wildfires in the Amazon are not uncommon, but the way they are now spreading is a concern and the current first have been started by humans, in the form of state actors, in order to clear sections of the rainforest. This activity has been widely condemned by environmental groups and many governments. Many blame Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for the forest fires, suggesting he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear areas of land.
Handout aerial picture released by Greenpeace showing smoke billowing from forest fires in the munic...
Handout aerial picture released by Greenpeace showing smoke billowing from forest fires in the municipality of Candeias do Jamari, close to Porto Velho in Rondonia State, in the Amazon basin in northwestern Brazil, on August 24, 2019
Victor MORIYAMA, GREENPEACE/AFP
The Amazon is regarded as vital in the fight against global warming due to its ability to absorb carbon from the air, which is correct. However, the Amazon is often called the “lungs of the Earth,” with figures quoted suggesting 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen is produced from the vast natural expansion.
However, according to Northwestern University carbon cycle expert Professor Neal Blair estimates that the Amazon rainforest may be responsible for approximately 6 percent of the current production of oxygen. This the researcher finds the Amazon is only responsible for a small fraction of the 21 percent oxygen currently in the Earth’s atmosphere.
By consulting published, scientific research, Professor Blair arrived at the following numbers:
54 percent: the amount of oxygen produced by land biomass
46 percent: the amount of oxygen produced by the ocean
17 percent: the amount of oxygen produced by tropical rainforests worldwide
6 prevent: the amount of oxygen specifically produced by the Amazon rainforest (assuming that the Amazon is approximately one-third of the Earth’s total rainforest).
Commenting on this in a communication sent to Digital Journal, Professor Blair states: "Contemporary ecosystems contribute very little to our atmospheric oxygen. Most of it comes from the multi-billion-year burial of organic matter. If we burned all life on Earth, oxygen levels would drop from 21 percent to 20.85 percent."
In terms of environmental impact, he notes: "Oxygen isn’t an issue. Carbon dioxide from deforestation is because it’s the primary accelerator of human-made climate change.”
In terms of the significance of this and what is happening to the Amazon, it is estimated that more than 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide are released to the atmosphere due to deforestation, mainly from the cutting and burning of forests, every year. The reason for this impact is because when trees are felled this releases the carbon the trees are storing into the atmosphere, where the released carbon mixes with greenhouse gases from other sources and this contributes to global warming.
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