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The Amazon Rainforest: What You Need to Know
It is well known that the Amazon rainforest is threatened by climate change. But what exactly is it? How important is it? Well, that’s what I came to study in Brazil. I was in the Atlantic Rainforest with my classmates from Columbia University. Hosted by the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecological (IPE), we study forest ecology and field research methods. Our goal is to identify the best and most sustainable ways to solve some of the biggest problems facing Brazil and the planet.
Walking through the forest here, people can’t help but sigh, they are breathing the air with the most concentrated life. It is heartbreaking to think of these beautiful creatures losing their homes for our mere few minutes of pleasure! They are too stunning and precious, too great a loss.
Spoiler alert: The effects of deforestation in the Amazon will affect everyone, and within our lifetimes. But read on, because you can make a difference.
Yes, that’s you!
Little knowledge about the Amazon Rainforest:
At 1.4 billion acres, the Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in the world.It accounts for more than half of the entire natural rainforest on Earth
It is about 55 million years old
The Amazon rainforest consists of four layers. Each has a unique ecosystem where plants and animals have adapted:
The highest is the emergent layer. Its trees reach heights of 200 feet.
The second layer is the canopy. The smooth leaves with pointed tips help the water flow smoothly and prevent the growth of moss and fungus.
The layers below only get 5% of the sunlight. The plants here are particularly suitable for survival.
The lowest level is the forest floor.Only 2% of sunlight reaches here
1/5 of the world’s fresh water is in the Amazon Basin alone.This makes it a biodiversity hotspot
1/10 of all known species on Earth are found in the Amazon.In addition, there are millions of undescribed
The Amazon rainforest is the richest and most diverse biobank in the world. It contains millions of species of insects, plants, birds and other life forms:
5,600 species of fish
1,300 bird species
More than 430 mammals
There are an estimated 2.5 million species of insects.
The Amazon is home to jaguars, harpy eagles, pink dolphins, manatees, tapirs, red deer, capybaras, sloths, several species of monkeys, and other rodents.However, approximately 137 plant, animal and insect species disappear every day – or 50,000 per year – due to rainforest destruction
About 45% dark, 30% clay, 25% water
Topsoil about 2.5 – 5 cm deep
More than 100 million years of natural environment acidifies soil and robs it of nutrients
Plants thrive despite poor soil quality because they recycle nutrients from dead plants and animals (instead of getting them from the soil)
Terra preta is a dark, fertile anthropogenic (artificial) soil found in the Amazon Basin. Indigenous peoples created this “Amazonian Black Soil” or “Indian Black Soil” between 450 BC and 950 BC. They would mix the poor Amazonian soil with bones, dung and charcoal. The charcoal that gives soil its color is so stable that it remains in the soil for thousands of years, helping it retain minerals and nutrients. Black soil belts are usually surrounded by normal soil. Deforested soils are only productive for 1-2 years. After this, farmers move to new areas and clear more land.However, black soil is less prone to nutrient loss due to flooding due to its high concentration of charcoal, microbes and organic matter
16,000 tree species and 390 billion individual trees live in the Amazon Rainforest
The lush vegetation includes a variety of tree species.These include myrtle, laurel, palm, acacia, rosewood, brazil nut, rubber tree, mahogany and Amazon cedar
Foods found in the Amazon rainforest include breadfruit, nuts, bananas, cocoa, guava, mangoes, berries, kola nuts and plantains
The Amazon has a “tropical rainforest climate” or “equatorial climate”. The weather is warm and humid. The average daytime temperature is about 79 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature difference between day and night is greater than that between seasons.
The vast extent and continuity of this tropical rainforest is a result of the high rainfall, high humidity and high temperatures that prevail in the area
Mechanisms of interference (that is, what are the natural threats it faces?):
Like most tropical and subtropical broadleaf forests, the Amazon is particularly vulnerable to plowing, overgrazing and overburning due to fragile soils and climatic conditions. Man-made (man-made) fires threaten habitat loss and air and water quality. Considering various natural disturbances, anthropogenic turnover resulted in a significant increase in biomass and created a greater carbon imbalance. Warmer temperatures and less rainfall have contributed to a historic drought. Prolonged drought increases the likelihood of forest fires.These events also have profound effects on other aspects of the ecosystem
Main human use:
For most of human history, deforestation in the Amazon occurred primarily when subsistence farmers produced crops for their families and local consumption. But in the 20th century, industrial activity and large-scale agriculture dramatically increased the rate of deforestation.Large-scale mining operations both destroy natural ecosystems and require large quantities of wood from red-eyed Amazon rainforest trees
The Amazon Basin holds nickel, copper, tin, manganese, iron ore, gold and other valuable minerals. Besides deforestation, secondary impacts of mining include the spread of mercury (used to extract gold) into the local environment. Mercury has poisoned indigenous communities as well as water supplies and plant and animal life.
Oil drilling in the Amazon leads to deforestation.In addition, it has resulted in widespread soil and air pollution, indigenous conflict, loss of biodiversity, and displacement of local populations
1-2 acres of rainforest are cut down every second.This is mainly used in industrial
70% of deforestation in the Amazon is to make room for pastures
Companies in the meat industry are systematically clearing vast tracts of native forest and replacing them with soybean crops to feed livestock. They use the land until it is completely degraded. At this point, they repeat the process elsewhere.
- 91% of Amazon deforestation is caused by livestock farming
The construction of hydroelectric dams disrupts the ecosystem.This could submerge a large portion of the rainforest underwater, study predicts
Timber companies also remove valuable timber from remaining forests
136 million acres cleared for livestock
26 million acres of rainforest have been cleared for palm oil. Palm oil, however, receives far more media and consumer attention. Honestly, it’s easier to be passionate about a cause that doesn’t have to change your lifestyle. No one wants to hear that the real problem is the beef on their plate!
30 million people live in the region. Increased industrial activity affected many indigenous tribes. They are displaced and diseased. For example, death rates are rising among many tribes that have had little contact with the industrial world and have not developed some immunity.
Amazon forest loss accounts for 5-8% of global greenhouse gas emissions
- Over the past 20 years, 1,100 militants have been killed in Brazil. 150 since 2012. Most recently, a rancher shot and killed 73-year-old American nun and activist Dorothy Stang. For 30 years, she has worked to save the Amazon and its indigenous farmers from wealthy landowner interests. The verdict initially found the shooter “not guilty”, but recently ordered his arrest and retrial. Fewer than 100 of these individuals have ever been to court. Some 80 convicted suspects were hired as gunmen for powerful ranchers and loggers. The legal system found only about 15 of the killers guilty.None of them are currently serving prison time
Thank you for being with me!
Also, thank you for being a conscious, caring and engaged citizen. I hope this piqued your interest. If you want to learn more about the connection between environmental issues and food, I recommend watching “Cowspiracy” on Netflix. Also, you can check out this fact page which outlines how our diet affects the environment. I’ll also be publishing more of my own work over the summer while I’m doing research.
On the other hand, I’m not sure which format is the most interesting for everyone. If you have time, please let me know in the comments below if you prefer academic research papers, gist briefs like the one above, or more personal posts. Ultimately, I do have a passion for the subject. Subscribe to get the latest news and share this article with your friends.
This is happening at breakneck speed. Therefore, every individual and every effort counts!
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