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Study: Sections of the Amazon Rainforest emit more CO2 than they absorb

Segments of the Amazon rainforest now emit more carbon dioxide than they can absorb because of human-caused disturbances, according to a study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The Amazon region hosts the world's largest tropical rainforests and stores vast quantities of CO2, the primary long-lived greenhouse gas. Accelerating rates of deforestation and climate shifts due to human-caused global warming have damaged the forest's effectiveness as a climate change buffer.


The big picture: The researchers performed approximately 600 flyovers above the Amazon region between 2010 and 2018 to measure concentrations of CO2 and carbon monoxide at four sites.

  • The aerial measurements revealed that total carbon emissions in eastern portions of Amazonia, which have been subjected to more deforestation and warming, were greater than those in the west.
  • Specific regions in southeastern Amazonia experienced the strongest trends and switched from being carbon sinks to emitting more carbon than they could absorb during the study period.
  • This marks a tipping point that scientists have foreshadowed in recent years.

How it works: Forests act as carbon sinks by capturing the gas through photosynthesis and storing it in biomass — plants and animals — dead, organic matter and soils.

  • When the storage sources are destroyed in fires, most of which are intentionally set to clear land for agricultural purposes as well as through dry conditions, the forest's overall ability to sequester greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere is damaged.
  • The region's water cycle also changes, potentially leading the rainforest to transition to a savannah.

What they're saying: Scott Denning, a professor at Colorado State University,wrote in an accompanying but unaffiliated article in Nature that the researchers "have documented the accelerating transition of forests from carbon sinks to sources."

  • "The overall pattern of deforestation, warmer and drier dry seasons, drought stress, fire and carbon release in eastern Amazonia seriously threatens the Amazon carbon sink," Denning added.
  • "Indeed, the results cast doubt on the ability of tropical forests to sequester large amounts of fossil-fuel-derived CO2 in the future."

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Andrew Freedman: As deforestation in the Amazon has increased in recent years and climate change has altered rainfall and temperature patterns, there's been increasing concern in the scientific and environmental communities that the Amazon could go from a net absorber of carbon dioxide to a source.

  • This would make it even harder for the world to limit climate change to the goals set out in the Paris climate agreement.
  • This study shows that for at least a portion of the Amazon, that tipping point from sink to source has been crossed.

Go deeper: Earth's carbon dioxide levels hit 4.5 million-year high

Simone Biles will compete in her final Olympic event

Simone Biles will compete in the Olympic individual balance beam final, her last event of the Tokyo Games, USA Gymnastics announced Monday.

What's happening: "We are so excited to confirm that you will see two U.S. athletes in the balance beam final tomorrow — Suni Lee AND Simone Biles!! Can’t wait to watch you both!" USA Gymnastics tweeted.

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In photos: Tokyo Olympics day 10 highlights

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The big picture: There was better news for Team USA in the basketball, where the women's national team beat France 93-82 — meaning the Americans are entering the medal round undefeated as they go for yet another gold, Axios' Ina Fried reports from Tokyo. France still advanced to the quarterfinals as well.

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Belarus sprinter who sought refuge in Tokyo "safe" with Japanese authorities, IOC says

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Driving the news: The sprinter said she wouldn't obey orders and board a flight home after being taken to Tokyo's s Haneda airport by team officials Sunday following her criticism of Belarusian coaches, per Reuters. She spent the night in an airport hotel.

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Olympic sprint champ Jacobs says reconnecting with U.S. father "gave me the desire to win"

Italy's surprise 100-meters Olympic gold medalist Lamont Marcell Jacobs opened up Sunday about how reconnecting with his American father over the past year has helped spur him on.

What he's saying: The Texas-born sprinter told reporters after setting a European record of 9.80 seconds to win gold in Sunday's event that getting back in touch with his father "gave me the desire, the speed, that something more that helped me being here and win the Olympics."

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Bipartisan Senate group releases $1 trillion infrastructure bill

A bipartisan group of senators released full legislative text for their $1 trillion "hard" infrastructure bill late Sunday night, setting it up for debate on the floor this week.

Why it matters: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer kept senators in town for a rare legislative weekend in order to formally begin debate on the 2,702-page bill. Now the Senate can begin a potentially days-long amendment process before a final vote this week.

Read the bill.

This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.

American Raven Saunders protests oppression with "X" sign on Olympic podium

U.S. shot-putter Raven Saunders told AP Sunday she placed her hands above her head in an "X" formation while on the Olympic podium after winning a silver medal to stand up for "oppressed" people.

Why it matters: The International Olympic Committee has banned protests during the Tokyo Games, but Saunders, who is black and openly gay, said she wanted to take a stand.

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High-ranking Democratic lawmaker in New Mexico House resigns amid allegations of fraud

A high-ranking New Mexico Democratic state lawmaker has resigned amid a federal investigation into possible fraud, racketeering, illegal kickbacks and money laundering,

Driving the news: Sheryl Williams Stapleton stepped down Friday as New Mexico's House majority leader, and from her seat, after state and federal authorities served subpoenas on an Albuquerque school district where Stapleton is employed.

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House poses obstacle to passage of infrastructure bill

A 2,700-page bipartisan infrastructure bill was headed to Senate desks Sunday with promises it will pass the chamber by the end of the week. A final version was promised after additional edits.

Why it matters: While that's progress for the president’s most prominent 2021 legislative goal, the House is shaping up as a potential obstacle before money starts flowing to build new roads, bridges and expand broadband access.

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