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Deforestation of the Amazon: causes and consequences

Of all the forests that we can find on the planet, without a doubt, the Amazon is the most important of all. This is due to its large size and the great diversity of plant and animal species it houses. Despite this, it is one of the ecosystems most threatened today due to the rapid deforestation process to which it has been subjected in recent decades. To give us an idea, between 1970 and 2016, almost 20% of the surface of the Amazon rainforest has disappeared, which implies irreparable ecological damage. If you want to know a little more about the deforestation of the Amazon, its most important causes and consequences , keep reading AgroCorrn because we will explain below.

You may also be interested in: Causes of deforestation

What is the Amazon and what is its importance

The Amazon rainforest is the largest rainforest on the planet , and it stretches around the Amazon River basin in South America , covering a region that reaches from the Andes to the shores of the Atlantic. It is by far the richest terrestrial ecosystem that we can find on the planet, with a total area of ​​more than 7 million kilometers that extends beyond borders, reaching surfaces in nine different countries.

Thus, the Amazon rainforest is home to a large number of plant species, as well as animals ranging from reptiles and amphibians to mammals, birds and insects. In fact, it is an ecosystem where, still today, biologists discover new and unknown species from time to time, which is a good example of the great immensity of biodiversity it harbors.

Likewise, the Amazon rainforest has been called ” the lung of the Earth “, a nickname that has been earned precisely due to the huge amount of CO2 it absorbs per year due to the exuberant flora that forms it. Therefore, beyond being home to thousands of different species, it also contributes to counteracting the CO2 emissions that humans produce in excess

Causes of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest

However, all this has not served to protect it from the economic interests that are causing this geographic area of ​​the planet to be deforested. Although there are some protected areas, many others are not, and it is these areas that suffer the most damage from human activities. The main causes of deforestation in the Amazon are the following:

Commercial logging

Despite the fact that it is a primary forest, the Amazon rainforest is being cut down in some areas in order to offer raw material to the timber industry around the planet. These felled areas are not recovered once the logging is completed, since they are reused for other industrial sectors that have nothing to do with the timber sector.

Raising cattle

A large part of the areas that are felled are subsequently used for extensive cattle ranching when the timber industry has finished with them. In these areas, livestock are raised in order to meet the demands of the food industry worldwide, especially in countries where the demand for meat products is higher.

Agricultural cultivation

However, despite the fact that part of the land that is cleared is used for raising livestock, most of it will be used for agriculture. This is due to several factors. On the one hand, these are countries whose economy is centered on the primary sector and the production of raw materials. In this way, agriculture constitutes an easy way out for workers in the area. On the other hand, it must be taken into account that the cattle that are raised require very high amounts of food, so the livestock industry also entails the creation of extensive agricultural fields in order to feed the cattle.

Finally, the high demand for cheap food products consumed worldwide makes it necessary to have more pastures to support the demand for these products. The two most important are soybeans and palm oil, which are the main crops planted in areas that are deforested.

Road construction

On the other hand, beyond the primary sector, although also motivated by the existence of this industry that requires transport routes, the construction of roads implies that certain areas of the Amazon jungle are being deforested in order to create communication routes between places of production and places of consumption.

Developable areas

Also with the aim of obtaining new areas in which to build housing infrastructure, usually for urbanizations and commercial areas, logging is done and fires break out in the Amazon Rainforest. This occurs both legally and illegally and, in fact, it is something that happens all over the world and not only in the Amazon area.

Forest fires in the Amazon region

As we have noted, deforestation in the Amazon and elsewhere takes place mainly by cutting down trees or by burning large areas of the jungle. Although forest fires can occur due to natural causes, such as a lightning strike on a tree, in many parts of the world fires are practiced to eliminate areas of vegetation and free up space for commercial use (urbanization, roads, livestock, etc. ). This is sometimes done legally and depending on what areas, but in most situations it is done illegally, something that in some countries is more persecuted and penalized than in others.

We recommend you read these articles about What are forest fires and how they occur and the consequences of a forest fire .

Laxity and corruption in the application of the laws

Likewise, another element that cannot be ignored when thinking about the causes that are leading the Amazon to deforestation is found in the corruption of various political institutions and the lack of commitment when applying the laws that should protect these areas of great environmental wealth. Although it is true that not all countries are the same, some of them are permissive when the forest is cut down and the land is used for economic activities in the primary sector. Thus, there is no practical authority to prevent deforestation from continuing.

Consequences of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest

What if the Amazon disappears or if it continues to decline so much? What are the consequences that are already being suffered? The truth is that the consequences of deforestation in the Amazon have many negative aspects for the planet and those of us who inhabit it.

  • The destruction of one of the most important natural heritages that we have on the entire planet. It cannot be ignored that, although the geographical area of ​​the Amazon is limited to the surface of nine countries, the reality is that it is a heritage that should be conserved by all for the good of future generations, of all humanity and the planet itself.
  • On the other hand, in addition to leading to the destruction of one of the fundamental heritages of the Earth, it also involves the destruction of the biodiversity that makes up this heritage. Due to the deforestation of the Amazon, more and more species (animals and plants) are facing the danger of extinction, which entails a significant reduction in the biodiversity of the biosphere as a whole. Here we talk more about the Loss of biodiversity: causes and consequences .
  • In addition, deforestation in the Amazon also implies the deterioration of the ” lung of the planet “, which increasingly has a lower capacity to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere due to the fact that the volume of plant matter is considerably reduced year after year.
  • Finally, the deforestation of the Amazon entails the destruction of the natural habitat of human communities that have lived in harmony in the jungle for thousands of years. The indigenous tribes of the Amazon are increasingly seeing their area of ​​influence reduced and, in many cases, they are forced to live in reserves controlled and administered by local governments that, although they allow these indigenous tribes to survive, entail the mobilization of human groups from their original lands to others that do not correspond to their culture and traditions. Here you can learn about how the Amazon tribes live .

If all the trees in the Amazon rainforest were cut down, a natural region so large and important that it would affect the entire planet would disappear, the climate everywhere would change much more, much land that could be used as an ecosystem would be lost, many animal species would be displaced and also many people who inhabited the area, indigenous peoples and a large number of species from all kingdoms of nature would disappear and even the world economy would be affected.

Fortunately, in August 2020, the Minister of the Environment of Colombia, Ricardo Lozano, indicated in an interview with EFeverde that “South America seeks a new relationship with the Amazon in which the conservation and sustainable development of that region prevail.” [1]

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