The Amazon rainforest is now emitting more carbon dioxide than it is able to absorb, scientists have confirmed for the first time.
In a study published in the journal Nature, scientists who conducted this research over a period of nine years in the eastern Amazon forests have said that a significant amount of deforestation in eastern and southeastern Brazil has turned the forest into a source of CO2 that has the ability to warm the planet.
Not only the Amazon rainforests, some forests in Southeast Asia have also turned into carbon sources in the last few years as a result of formation of plantations and fires.
The emissions amount to a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, according to the study. The giant forest had previously been a carbon sink, absorbing the emissions driving the climate crisis, but is now causing its acceleration, as per researchers.
Most of the emissions are caused by fires, many deliberately set to clear land for beef and soy production. But even without fires, hotter temperatures and drought mean the south-eastern Amazon has become a source of CO2, rather than a sink.
Areas of our planet that absorb more carbon from the atmosphere - for example, in the form of the greenhouse gas CO2 - than they store are known as sinks.
The role played by the lands and forests of the Earth in soaking up carbon has been a critical factor in preventing faster rates of climate change.
Since the 1960s, these sinks have taken in around 25% of carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels.
Earlier this year, a study showed that the rainforest in Brazil released about 20% more CO2 into the atmosphere than it took in over the period from 2010-2019.
This new paper underlines that change and finds that some regions of the rainforest were "a steadily increasing source" of carbon between 2010 and 2018.
The research used smal planes to measure CO2 levels up to 4,500m above the forest over the last decade, showing how the whole Amazon is changing. The scientists said the discovery that part of the Amazon was emitting carbon even without fires was particularly worrying. They said it was most likely the result of each year's deforestation and fires making forests more susceptible to climate change.
"In the eastern part of the Amazon, which is around 30% deforested, this region emitted 10 times more carbon then in the west, which is around 11% deforested," said lead author Luciana Gatti, with Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
"This is a huge impact, you know directly because we are emitting CO2 to the atmosphere, which is accelerating climate change but also because it is promoting changes in the dry season conditions and stress to trees that will produce even more emissions."
"This is terrible negative feedback that increases the emissions much more than we knew",Gatti further added.
The researchers are worried that the changing climate is also interfering with rainfall, which they argue, has immediate consequences for Brazil.
"This is very bad news for everybody but mainly for Brazil," said Dr Gatti.
The government of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro, has been harshly criticized globally for encouraging more deforestation, which has surged to a 12-year high, while fires hit their highest level in june since 2007.