WASHINGTON, July 12 (UPI) — A violent storm that swept through Brazil’s Amazon rain forest in 2005 may have killed half a billion trees in just two days, a new study says.
Storms have been understood as one cause of Amazon tree loss, but a new study funded by NASA and Tulane University says the losses are much greater than previously suspected, a release by the American Geophysical Union said Monday.
A peak in tree loss in 2005 had been attributed to a severe drought that year, but the new study says a single 600-mile line of thunderstorms moving through the Amazon from Jan. 16 to Jan. 18 snapped or uprooted millions of trees with 90 mph winds.
“We can’t attribute [the increased] mortality to just drought in certain parts of the basin — we have solid evidence that there was a strong storm that killed a lot of trees over a large part of the Amazon,” said Jeffrey Chambers, a forest ecologist at Tulane University.
“If a tree dies from a drought, it generally dies standing. It looks very different from trees that die snapped by a storm,” Chambers said.
In some of the affected areas, almost 80 percent of the trees had been killed by the storm, the study said.
The study estimates between 441 and 663 million trees were destroyed across the entire Amazon basin, representing a loss of 23 percent of the estimated annual carbon accumulation of the Amazon forest.
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