Real time speed of deforestation of the Amazon Rain forest shown over a football pitch
The deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is a pressing environmental crisis that carries significant global consequences. Spanning over 5.5 million square kilometers (2.1 million square miles) across nine South American countries, with Brazil hosting the majority of its expanse, the Amazon rainforest is the world's largest tropical rainforest.
In the past forty years, the region has experienced radical changes in the land cover and use, fostered, mainly, by the replacement of native vegetation for cattle ranching and family agriculture and, lately, large-scale agriculture, such as soybean cultivation. Except for logging and agricultural expansion, the region experienced infrastructure development (such as roads and dams) and mining. As vast tracts of forest are cleared for these purposes, the consequences are far-reaching.
One of the most significant environmental impacts of Amazon deforestation is its contribution to climate change. The rainforest plays a critical role in sequestering carbon dioxide (CO2) and releasing oxygen, earning it the moniker "the lungs of the Earth." When trees are felled and the forest is cleared, the stored carbon is released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. This has implications for weather patterns, rainfall, and overall climate stability.
Loss of biodiversity is another major concern. The Amazon is home to an estimated 10% of the world's known species, many of which are unique and irreplaceable. As their habitats are destroyed, countless species are threatened with extinction.
Indigenous communities have inhabited the Amazon for centuries, relying on its resources for their livelihoods. Deforestation disrupts their traditional way of life and poses a threat to their cultural heritage.
The consequences of Amazon deforestation extend beyond Brazil's borders. It affects weather patterns and rainfall across South America and even impacts regions as distant as North America and Europe. The release of CO2 into the atmosphere exacerbates global climate change, making it a critical issue on a global scale.
Destruction of Amazonian forests is responsible for the equivalent of 7 percent of the total CO2 emissions provoked by fossil fuel emissions. Brazil contributes to the lion's portion of carbon emissions from deforestation with 300 million tons of carbon per year.
Deforestation rates have gone up and down over the years with major economic cycles. A peak of 27,772 km2/year was reached in 2004, followed by a major decline to 4571 km2/year in 2012, after which the rate trended upward, reaching 7989 km2/year in 2016 (equivalent to about 1.5 hectares per minute). Most (70%) of the decline occurred by 2007, and the slowing in this period is almost completely explained by decreasing prices of export soy and beef (Malhi et al., 2008).
The visualization below created by Reddit user neilrkaye shows real time speed of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest shows over a football pitch.
Numerous efforts have been made by national and international organizations, as well as governments, to combat deforestation in the Amazon. These efforts include establishing protected areas, implementing stricter environmental regulations, and supporting sustainable development initiatives. However, challenges remain, including economic pressures, political interests, and the enforcement of regulations in remote and vast regions.
The battle against Amazon deforestation is ongoing, with environmentalists, indigenous communities, governments, and concerned individuals working to address this complex and critical issue. It is a subject of global importance, requiring international cooperation and sustainable land-use practices to preserve one of the world's most vital ecosystems.
To learn more about Amazonia consider the following books and movies: