March. 30, 2011
The reduction in the greenness of Amazon forest increased over an area more than three times the size of the state of Texas, scientists said.
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration funded a study using satellite data to examine vegetation in the Amazon rainforest.
Liang Xu, a researcher from Boston University, said pervasive drought last year had a dramatic impact on the health of the rainforest.
"The greenness levels of Amazonian vegetation -- a measure of its health -- decreased dramatically over an area more than 3 1/2 times the size of Texas," he said in a statement. "It did not recover to normal levels, even after the drought ended in late October 2010."
Scientists using historic satellite data determined changing climate and altered rainfall patterns could result in rainforests transitioning to grasslands or woody savannas. This, researchers found, could limit the amount of carbon stored in the rainforest.
Researchers said a drought in 2010 reduced the greenness of roughly 965,000 square miles of vegetation in the Amazon. Water levels reached record lows in October and have yet to recover.
Last year was one of the driest in more than 100 years for the Amazonian region.