Scientists warn that more than 20% of the planet’s ecosystems are at risk of catastrophic destruction in the near future, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Sustainability. British researchers discovered that ecological collapse could occur sooner than expected by studying patterns of how tipping points in nature reinforce and accelerate each other.
The study reveals that the Amazon rainforest and other ecosystems are under threat, suggesting that we could be witnessing an imminent natural disaster. Professor Simon Willcock, of Rothamsted Research Experimental Station and co-author of the study, warns that we could be the last generation to witness the Amazon. Ecological collapse accelerates when multiple threats, such as climate change, deforestation, water stress, and river pollution from mining, combine.
Most previous research has focused on a single driver of destruction, but this study shows that collapses occur when multiple hazards are added together. Scientists used computer models with 70,000 variable settings to examine two lake ecosystems and two forests. They found that up to 15% of collapses occurred due to new hazards or extreme events, even when the main stress had not worsened.
However, the researchers point out that we can still avoid collapse if we consider all the indicators and risks. According to Willcock, if positive pressure is applied and appropriate measures are taken, ecosystem recovery can be rapid. Although the situation is alarming, this study highlights the importance of taking urgent action to protect and preserve endangered ecosystems before it is too late.