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Why is the Amazon rain forest so important?

By Sophie – on in News, Environment

You’ve heard it, it’s all over the news: the Amazon rain forest is burning. While forest fires are always tragic, fires in the Amazon are even worse. Here’s why.

The Amazon forest

With more than 6 million square kilometres in 6 countries, the Amazon rainforest is the biggest forest in the world.

Tom Fisk | Flickr

Brazil, where there are the most forest fires, has 60% of the Amazon rainforest.

Oxygen

The Amazon rainforest is often referred to as our planet’s lungs because the trees produce 20% of the oxygen we need.

David Evers | Flickr

Sadly, within 20 years, if things don’t change, up to 120 billion tons of CO2 will be released in the atmosphere as a consequence of the Amazonian deforestation. This will increase global temperatures by 1.5 Celsius degree.

Deforestation

In the last ten years, 500,000 square kilometres of forest were destroyed to make room for pasture and soy fields.

Wikimedia

This is truly a tragedy because the current Brazilian government shows no intention of slowing down the deforestation, which is the largest and fastest of the planet.

Deforestation this year

This year, under the new government, there has been more deforestation than in the three previous years combined.

Wikimedia

Efforts need to be made to protect this land from both legal and illegal deforestation. A government that values its economic development over its people’s rights and the environment can only mean one thing: things will get worse before they get better.

Deforestation by 2040

Right now, a fifth of the Amazon rainforest forest (20%) has been destroyed.

Wikimedia Commons

By 2040, if nothing changes, it could be as much as 40% of the forest permanently lost. This is by far a conservative estimate, as there are more alarming percentages out there as well.

Indigenous rights

The deforestation is also a human’s right issue for the indigenous people living in it. There are still people in that forest that haven’t been in contact with modern civilization.

Wikimedia Commons

The new 2019 government of Brazil made it legal for the ministry of Agriculture to regulate territories that belong to native people, which means these people could lose their homes and their ways of living.

Biodiversity

If the argument of oxygen didn’t convince you about the importance of saving the Amazon rainforest, know that it is also the most unique, bio-diverse place on Earth.

Jon Rawlinson | Flickr

Just in terms of plants, we’re talking about at least 40,000 species endemic to the region!

Animals

In terms of animals, there are 2.5 million species of insects living in the forest.

Wikimedia Commons

There are also 3,000 species of fish, 1,294 bird species, 427 mammals, 427 amphibians and 378 reptiles.

2019 forest fires

Right now, there are 9,000 different fires raging in the Amazon rainforest. That’s more than ever before.

Free stock photo

The smoke from these fires covers up to twice the size of France. That’s a lot of smoke!

Comparison with the USA

If all the Brazilian Amazon rainforest fires were in the US, the entire East Coast would be on fire.

Wikimedia

That’s how important this is. 900 square kilometres of Amazon rainforest have gone just in the month of August alone.

International pressure

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, is the one who first shed light on the inaction of the Brazilian government.

Flickr

He brought this environmental crisis to the G7 meeting of August 24, 2019, in order to get some support from other countries to pressure Brazil to act.

A month before acting

It took the Brazilian government very long to respond to these fires. The army was sent a month after the fires started, and international help was finally accepted on the 28th of August.

wikimedia

On the 25th of August, two C-130 Hercules planes were dispatched to fight forest fires. They can each contain up to 12,000 litres of water.

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Sophie

Sophie holds a bachelor's degree in biology. She has always been passionate about literature and writing, which is why she likes to write scientific articles for Get-Science whenever she has the opportunity. Although her favourite subject is biology (of course!), she is also interested in astronomy as well as the environment.