Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is something that has been going on for decades. Let’s look at deforestation in general, and what we can do to stop it.
The Amazon Rainforest, which covers much of Brazil and Peru, contains an estimated 390 billion individual trees, 1,100 species of birds, and 2,500 types of fish.
Unfortunately, deforestation from logging, mining, settlement expansion, and slash-and-burn practices have destroyed approximately 20 percent of the Amazon over the past 50 years.
How much is being destroyed every year?
The Amazon has been losing its valuable forest at an alarming rate. Scientists say that the speed of deforestation is increasing, with about one football field worth of rainforest being destroyed every second. To put this into perspective, scientists estimate that in 40 years there will no longer be any standing forests left in the Brazilian Amazon. This may seem like a long time but for an entire ecosystem to adapt to these changes it will only take decades instead of centuries.
Brazil is home to approximately 54 percent of the world’s remaining tropical rainforests, occupying more than half a billion acres across 5,500 different species of trees. Unfortunately, Brazil’s forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Brazil lost nearly 8,000 square miles of rainforest in 2016 alone!
What is the impact of deforestation?
In addition to losing many plant and animal species as a result of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions from cattle ranching also contribute to global warming by releasing carbon into the atmosphere. As more forestation is lost around the world due to climate change, the climate of a country like Brazil changes and causes problems such as droughts, floods, and wildfires.
Deforestation in the Amazon has been going on for decades. The largest percent of deforestation comes from slash-and-burn practices where farmers burn down the forest to make room for crops or cattle land.
Why do they do this?
They do this because they can use the land for a few years until it becomes infertile from lack of nutrients from the soil. Then they move somewhere else and start all over again. This is not only bad for the trees but also bad for the animals who live in these trees. But there are other ways that people can make a living off of these lands instead of burning them down to plant crops or raise cattle. Scientists are working on ways to restore these lands so that they stay healthy and can be used by people without exploiting them.
About 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has already been destroyed, and this destruction released about 395 billion metric tons (419 billion tons) of carbon dioxide into the air between 2000 and 2010 alone. Scientists estimate that every year nearly 80,000 square miles (207,312 square kilometers) of forest are burned or cut down in Brazil.
This timelapse video shows you the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest:
How can we stop deforestation?
Brazil has introduced a plan called REDD+, which means “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.”
This is an international agreement between Brazil, the United States, India, China, South Africa, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Guyana, Vietnam, and Indonesia that works together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by deforestation. The program uses satellite imagery to monitor forests for any sign of destruction.
The Amazon rainforest is one of the most precious natural resources on Earth. This is not only important for people in Brazil but also globally because it helps keep our planet healthy. If you were asked if you would rather have clean air or dirty air what would you choose?
What does Greta Thunberg have to say about deforestation?
In August of 2018, at the United Nations Climate Summit, Greta Thunberg said:
“I am here to tell you that our house is on fire. I am here to tell you that we have done nothing to prevent this fire from happening.” She went on to say that the one who should be held responsible for this disaster is us. The adults have known what is going on and they’ve done nothing about it”
Environmentalists continue with their efforts in order to help save the Amazon rainforest before it’s too late. They hope to preserve as much of it as possible so future generations can enjoy something so valuable and irreplaceable as a natural ecosystem.
Discover more at the WWF