We are all familiar with the Amazon Rainforest.
- It produces 6% of the world’s oxygen (not 20%)
- It spans 9 different South American countries at a massive 5.5 million square kilometres
- It’s an incredible biodiversity hotspot, with over 40,000 plant species and over 2.5 million insect species alone!
- It’s also home to an estimated 21 million people including some tribes who have never made contact with the modern world
- 80% of our foods (including coffee!) and 25% of medicines originated in the Amazon and we’ve only investigated around 1% of the species so far, so we’ve got heaps more to investigate
- But we’d better hurry, it’s estimated that we’re losing 137 rainforest species per day to extinction
- And the Amazon River contains more water than any other in the world
So it’s a really amazing place, with diverse life ranging from those surviving in the 1% light at the forest floor through to the many species at different levels of the canopy.
And it’s on fire.
To clarify, the Amazon regularly has fires, both from natural causes and from deforestation. However this year, and particularly the last few weeks, there have been significantly more fires and those fires have been more intense than most in previous years.
Climate scientists are suggesting that the increase in wildfires is partially due to local drought and dry conditions, but more likely to be a result of land mismanagement on the part of the Brazilian people and government as part of deforestation to create grazing land.
Long-term, if this level of burning continues to significantly damage the forest, then we damage global biodiversity and risk losing an important carbon sink (area that takes in carbon via photosynthesis) and produce extra carbon through the fires themselves.
The rest of the world has tried to reduce the risk to the Amazon by threatening Brazil with trade sanctions dependant on the rainforest’s health. Brazil itself has already acted to reduce deforestation since 2004, so they have resources and a framework for combating this latest issue, should they choose to use them.