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Data show Amazon still ‘Lungs of the World’

The Amazon deserves to be called the “lungs of the world,” as new projections show it is a net producer of oxygen despite widespread burning of the jungle, scientists said recently.

The projections show that the trees in the world’s largest tropical forest are cleaning the air by absorbing carbon dioxide. The data collected indicates that the Amazon absorbs slightly more carbon dioxide than the burning spews out.

“The indication is that it is a small net supplier of oxygen,” said Paulo Artaxo, a researcher at the University of Sao Paulo.

That conclusion is based on the latest projections made possible by the Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia, the world’s leading study of jungle deforestation.

Experts are meeting this week in Brasilia to discuss the findings of the series of experiments, which started in 1998 and are conducted by Brazilian and foreign organizations, including the U.S. space agency NASA (news – web sites).

The results are based on data collected by 14 observation towers in the jungles, which scientists use to monitor carbon dioxide, wind, temperature levels and weather conditions. The full findings are not yet ready but projections are.

The Amazon, home to up to 30 percent of the world’s animal and plant species, covers an area of continuous forest larger than the continental United States.

An area of 5.9 million acres, bigger than the U.S. state of New Jersey, was destroyed as loggers and farmers hacked and burned the forest in 2003. Scientists warned at the conference that rising temperatures and declining rainfall are accelerating its disappearance.