Sci­en­tist: Ama­zon fires don’t threaten Earth’s oxy­gen

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Stay Connected - — CHICAGO TRIBUNE

As news has cir­cu­lated of the record-set­ting fires rag­ing across the Ama­zon rain­for­est, so has a statis­tic that re­in­forces the sig­nif­i­cance of the world’s largest trop­i­cal rain­for­est: The Ama­zon produces 20% of the world’s oxy­gen sup­ply.

But a North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity re­searcher has pushed back against that claim, say­ing that the re­lease of the green­house ef­fect-caus­ing gas car­bon diox­ide is more con­cern­ing than a nonex­is­tent threat to the world’s oxy­gen levels.

“The fact that they’re throw­ing up this 20% num­ber, to me, im­plies that they’re try­ing to say that our oxy­gen sup­ply is in dan­ger,” said Neal Blair, pro­fes­sor of en­vi­ron­men­tal en­gi­neer­ing and earth and plan­e­tary sciences at North­west­ern.

“And our oxy­gen sup­ply is in no way in any dan­ger.”

Con­tem­po­rary ecosys­tems con­trib­ute very lit­tle to the at­mos­phere’s oxy­gen, Blair said. Oxy­gen from plants has ac­cu­mu­lated in the at­mos­phere over millions of years, mak­ing an­i­mal life pos­si­ble.

“You can burn down the whole Ama­zon for­est, and you would see a tiny, tiny, tiny drop in our oxy­gen levels, but we wouldn’t no­tice it,” Blair said.

Al­though oxy­gen isn’t an is­sue, Blair said car­bon diox­ide be­ing re­leased from the lost trees is a con­cern.

“The con­sump­tion of oxy­gen when we burn forests, for in­stance, is not go­ing to hurt us,” he said.

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