The Amazon River Basin is home to the largest rainforest on Earth called the Amazon Forest. This basin encompasses 7,000,000 km2 (2,700,000 sq mi), of which 5,500,000 km2 (2,100,000 sq mi) are covered by the rain forest. The vast region spans across eight rapidly developing countries – Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, an overseas territory of France.
The Amazon forest is made up of a mosaic of ecosystems and vegetation types including rainforests, seasonal forests, deciduous forests, flooded forests, and savannas. The basin is drained by the Amazon River, the world’s largest river in terms of discharge, and the second longest river in the world after the Nile.
The rain forests, which contain 90-140 billion metric tons of carbon, help stabilize local and global climate. It is a vital carbon store that slows down global warming while providing a large amount of the world’s oxygen. Because it is the world’s largest rain forest, the fate of the Amazon – often called the “lungs of the world” – is widely considered by climate change experts as key to the future of the planet.
Its destruction – deliberate or otherwise – reduces the ability of nature to suck carbon from the atmosphere. Deforestation may release significant amounts of this carbon, which could have catastrophic consequences around the world.
Forest fires are common in the Amazon during the dry season, which runs from July to October. They can be caused by naturally occurring events, such as lightning strikes, but this year most are believed to have been started by farmers and loggers clearing land for crops or grazing. In 2019 Amazon Rain forest Wildfires have seen an unusual surge. More than 72,000 fires had already been detected across Brazil between January and August – the highest number since records began in 2013 and an 83 per cent increase on the same period last year. The figures come as the latest blow in an environmental crisis that has caused panic across the world.
These fires may have global environmental impact. The World Meteorological Organization tweeted about the smoke that has spread across Brazil stating, “Fires release pollutants, including particulate matter & toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and non-methane organic compounds into the atmosphere.” So, in a perverse chain of events, the fires are both generating large amounts of carbon dioxide, while at the same time destroying millions of trees that would be taking in the carbon dioxide and protecting the environment. It’s a double-whammy.
The added carbon dioxide will then also trap heat within our atmosphere due to the greenhouse effect and could change the atmospheric circulation that causes the melting of large ice sheets and many other catastrophic effects of climate change. It gets worse. It’s also been estimated that the Amazon generates about half of its own rainfall. Less rain means dryer plants, which are more susceptible to causing even more fires. A dangerous cycle.
To a degree survival on the Earth as we know it is dependent on the Amazon. The destruction of the Amazon would only speed up and intensify climate change as well as damage oceans and regional fresh water supplies. The Amazon is an important part of the vast and intricate ecosystem we’re all connected to physically and psychologically.
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