By Jake Spring

The Royal Society scientific academy has elected climate scientist Carlos Nobre, a leading researcher studying the Amazon rainforest, as its first Brazilian member since the country’s Emperor Dom Pedro II joined the group in the 1800s.

Nobre has studied the Amazon for decades and was an early proponent of the theory that rapid deforesation is pushing the world’s largest rainforest toward a tipping point after which the biome could dry out into savanna.

“The Royal Society is giving international recognition to the risks that the Amazon faces,” Nobre told Reuters on Friday.

“It’s an enormous risk that we could lose the greatest biodiversity and the biggest tropical forest on the planet.”

Preservation of the Amazon rainforest is vital to curbing climate change because it absorbs a vast amount of carbon dioxide.

Last year, Nobre led a group of roughly 200 researchers that launched a landmark report with the most detailed and complete analysis to date of scientific knowledge about the Amazon rainforest.

Great Britain’s Royal Society began in 1660 and is the oldest national scientific academy.

The Nobel laureate Peter Medawar, a British biologist born in Brazil, was also a member previously, according to the Royal Society. But Medawar, who died in 1987, gave up his Brazilian citizenship as an adolescent.