University of Louisiana at Lafayette biology researcher Dr. James Albert is featured in the journal Science for his research about environmental concerns in the Amazon.
Albert is a part of The Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA), a group of 240 scientists with the shared goal of summarizing what scientists conclude about the current state of the Amazon. From this, Albert used data from the report to evaluate human-caused changes in the Amazon.
Data about changes in the Amazon and subsequent policy recommendations regarding these changes were noted in Albert’s findings.
Significant portions of the Amazon have been removed for agricultural purposes and degraded to the point that functions of the ecosystem do not work. Albert said that now, 32% of the Amazon has been deforested or degraded.
The majority of deforestation in the Amazon is driven by commodity exports.
“It’s not Amazonian people using the land for their own economic reasons, it’s outsiders,” Albert said.
Projects funded by foreign countries to derive resources from the Amazon are greatly impacting the region. Albert said exports mainly go to New York, Zürich and Beijing, and drive climate change and deforestation in the region.
“None of the money stays in the Amazon,” Albert said. “It’s just using the Amazon as a piggy bank to make outside people wealthy.”
Albert said that if deforestation and degradation in the Amazon reaches a threshold, the landscape will transition from a forest to a degraded pasture. Effects from climate change would be exacerbated as a result.
With removal of the forest cover in the Amazon, large amounts of carbon emissions would enter the atmosphere as a result. Albert said that the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere would be more than the total amount of carbon that has been released so far.
“If we were to let the Amazon rainforest disappear, we will never be able to change,” Albert said in regards to reversing global climate change.
Policy recommendations in the report recommended transitioning the world economy from oil and investing in alternative energies. The report also suggests pressuring international agencies to not support export commodities from the Amazon.
Albert said that moving the world from fossil-fuel based energy sources is needed in order to halt deforestation in the Amazon and reverse climate change globally.
“The crisis is upon us. We don’t have time to worry about the niceties of anything,” Albert said. “We have to solve this crisis.”
Research like this supports UL Lafayette’s designation as a R1 university. Metrics for research activity, such as publications and grants, determine the university’s research status. Albert said it is a university-wide goal to keep the R1 designation.
“This is definitely in line with the environmental biology mission of the department,” Albert said.
Albert’s findings are found on the cover of the Jan. 27 issue of Science, a scientific journal publishing research findings. He is listed as the first author of the article.