Get this: from 2000 to 2010, an area of the Amazon almost as big as the entire United Kingdom was destroyed, as a result of deforestation. That’s nearly 93,000 square miles (or 240,000 square kilometers) of rainforest. Brazil contains 63% of the rainforest’s 2.4 million square miles (6.1 million square kilometers), and it was also the victim of 80.4% of the deforestation during this 10-year period. Nearly 20% of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has been obliterated.
Deforestation of the Amazon has been the result of illegal logging, highway construction, mining, farming and ranching, the building of hydroelectric dams and oil and gas search and drilling.
If this continues, the rainforest will inevitably die. Deforestation will not only decrease the forest’s biodiversity, but it will also increase global warming. The Amazon generates much of its own rainfall through the moisture it discharges into the atmosphere; clearing of the forest will result in less rain, which will cause the remaining trees to dry out and die. Higher temperatures also contribute to less rain in the Amazon and more dried out, dead trees. Such dehydration results in drought, which makes the rainforest highly susceptible to fire. Scientists predict that if deforestation and drought continue at this pace, the forest will become savanna or desert, leaving a devastating impact on the world’s climate.
The Amazon is vital to the rest of the world as it takes in massive amounts of carbon dioxide, rendering the forest an incredibly important barrier to global warming. Lots of dead trees mean that colossal amounts of carbon dioxide are being emitted into the atmosphere. Already, Brazil is the one of largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, simply because of the Amazon deforestation.
The Amazon is also integral to its many inhabitants, whose lives are in jeopardy due to deforestation. The forest is home to about half of all species on Earth. Many of these species can only reside in certain parts of the forest, making them especially susceptible to extinction. Deforestation has also threatened the lives of the many indigenous tribes that live in the forest, and land wars are a frequent result.
A promising future
Fortunately, there is some good news here: deforestation in Brazil has been dropping and is continuing to drop. As of December 2012, deforestation was at its lowest level since 1988. And starting in 2008, the government has increased surveillance through the use of satellite images that trail the deforestation; when necessary, environmental police are then sent to those areas. Let’s hope that this continues, so we don’t end up seeing an entire rainforest that looks like this: