The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s largest forest covering more than two million miles of land. It covers nine South American countries where 500 indigenous communities and innumerable species of flora and fauna call it home.
It has an extremely diverse ecosystem and can create its own weather and influence climate over the rest of the world. The forest is extremely essential for the survival of the earth and the human race.
More than 2.5 million species of insects, roughly 1,300 species of birds, 300 species of fish, and approximately 430 species of mammals call the Amazon home. 40,000 plant species have been found in the Amazon, many of which we use in our daily lives.
The presence of these plants also provides an income for the indigenous people who inhabit the area. These plants play an active role in regulating the weather in and around the forest area.
As expected, the forest plays an extremely important role in regulating the carbon and oxygen cycles of the world. It produces approximately 6 percent of the world’s oxygen and has been long declared to be a carbon sink, which means the trees absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
However, the burning of these trees results in an alarming amount of carbon dioxide being released. Recent research shows that the forest might be producing more carbon dioxide than it absorbs. But scientists say that if we are able to conserve large parts of the ecosystem we may be able to restore its status as a carbon sink.
History Of Deforestation In The Amazon
The large-scale deforestation of the Amazon began in the 1960s. Since the early 1970s over 700,000 square kilometers of the forest have been destroyed. In 2001, the approximate size of the Amazon forest was 5,400,000 square kilometers which were almost 87% of its original size.
Cattle ranching and shifting agriculture, which is commonly known as the slash-and-burn method of agriculture, is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon.
In 2015, illegal deforestation was on the rise again due to the high demand for products such as palm oil. As the consumer demand for products such as palm oil and soy increase, more and more areas of the forest are cleared to make space for growing crops. The deforestation of the Amazon further accelerates climate change globally.
2020 also saw the Forest burning, which might have been due to forest fires. However, it was reported that most of the fires were deliberately started to clear forest land for agriculture.
Fires were at the second-highest point since 2010. In the first seven months of 2020, more than 13,000sq km (5,019sq miles) of the Brazilian Amazon was burned.
The Highest Percentage Of Deforestation Since 2006
Between August 2020 and July 2021, the rainforest lost 10,476 square kilometers – an area nearly seven times bigger than greater London and 13 times the size of New York City.
“We’re killing the Amazon. And that’s not something our climate models have taken into account. As bad as the predictions are, they’re actually optimistic,” says Brazilian atmospheric chemist Luciana Gatti. “The Amazon has become a carbon source way sooner than anyone thought. That means we’re going to reach the horror-show scenario way sooner, too.”
Gatti’s research is based on data from 2010 till 2018. Since then the situation has accelerated- especially in Brazil where 60% of the forest resides. Under far-right President Bolsonaro, protected lands and indigenous reservations have been opened to agribusiness and mining.
Deforestation in Brazil rose from October of 2020. The data from the national space research agency INPE showed about 877 square kilometers (339 square miles) of forest were cleared last month, a 5% increase from October 2020. It was the worst October deforestation since the current monitoring system began in 2015.
Brazil is making a vow at the United Nations climate change summit(CO26) that it will stop illegal deforestation by the year 2028, two years earlier than the proposed date.
However, scientists, activists, and diplomats say how these empty promises mean very little as the deforestation levels have flourished under Bolsonaro to levels last seen in the 2000s, as the far-right president calls for more farming lands and mining in the Amazon.
Read More: Brazilian President’s Fury Adds Fuel To Amazon Wildfires, Will This Turn Apocalyptic For All Of Us?
“Government announcements are not changing the reality that Brazil is continuing to lose forests,” said Ane Alencar, science director at Amazon Environmental Research Institute, at COP26 in Glasgow. “The world knows where Brazil stands and this attempt to display a different Brazil is unconvincing because satellite data clearly shows the reality.”
“The numbers are still a challenge for us and we have to be more forceful in relation to these crimes,” Environment Minister Joaquim Pereira Leite said at a news conference. As the summit got closer, Brazil’s government touted monthly data to show that deforestation is under control. However, the final data shows a dire picture.
Scientists have repeatedly warned that if enough of the forest is destroyed, it will cross a tipping point, dry out and turn into a savannah. That would release huge amounts of carbon, virtually ensuring the world cannot hit the targets laid out to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Mauricio Voivodic, head of environmental group WWF in Brazil, said the numbers laid bare “the real Brazil that the Bolsonaro government tries to hide with imaginary discourses and greenwashing efforts abroad.”
“What the reality shows,” he said, “is that the Bolsonaro government has accelerated the course of the Amazon’s destruction.”
The death of the Amazon will result in the death of the millions of plants, insects, reptiles, mammals, and birds who have lived there longer than the current human population has been on this planet.
The death of the Amazon will lead to the death of the thousands of indigenous people who have lived there their entire lives. The death of the Amazon will most definitely lead to the death of the human race as we know it and eventually will plunge our planet into barren, dry land.
The death of the Amazon is synonymous with the death of the biosphere as a whole and it is high time we make stronger demands to bring back Forest’s status as it once was, the Lungs of the World.
Image Sources: Google Images
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