Global demand for beef is the leading driver of deforestation in the Amazon.

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Amazon: The largest rainforest in the world

rainforests

Figure courtesy of Mongabay showing the largest rainforests: the Amazon, Congo Basin, and New Guinea.

Why the rainforest is important to our lives

  1. Rainforests add humidity to the atmosphere and create rain clouds, often called the river in the sky. When forests become smaller, rainfall decreases, and droughts are more frequent.
3 images showing Forests as both a Carbon Source and Sink

Figure courtesy of the World Resources Institute illustrating how forest can behave as carbon sinks or sources of carbon

  1. Rainforests sequester and store carbon. They act as “carbon sinks”, absorbing a net 7.6 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year according to an international team of researchers. How much is that? It is 1.5 times more carbon than the United States emits each year!

    1. Tropical rainforests store more carbon than any other ecosystem on the planet within their live biomass.

       

    2. The wet and frost-free climate that tropical rainforests have year-round allows trees to grow continuously during the year.
  1. Rainforests absorb more heat than unforested areas. When they are cut down, more heat goes into the atmosphere changing rainfall amounts and weather patterns.

 

  1. Forests filter water and clean it from pollution before it flows into rivers, oceans, and water supplies. You can learn more about this in the World Resources Institute website.
  1. Rainforests stabilize climate. As described by International Union for Conservation of Nature, forestsmaintain the balance between local climates and the Earth’s climate. Destructing them alters this and contributes to climate change.

 

  1. Tropical rainforests cover only 6,5 % of the Earth’s surface, but they hold more than half of the world’s biological diversity. No other ecosystem can match them.

Stopping the rainforest deforestation and degradation is key to be able to fight global warming!

How this affects our generation and generations to come

Helping will help our generation
and generations to come

Why is the Amazon rainforest being destroyed?

Piechart showing the Drivers of Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon 2001-2013

The main reason behind the destruction of the Amazon is to expand beef production as the pie graph courtesy of Mongabay shows. Here deforestation for pasture accounts for about 2/3, and it is followed by small-scale agriculture, other crops, fire, and logging. This trend has been steadily increasing in the Amazon since the 1970s.

In 2019 the Washington Post reported that although about 80% of Brazil’s beef is consumed locally, there has been a major shift in global demand (especially from Asia).

From 2010 to 2017, beef exports climbed 25%, to 1.5 million tons (Brazilian Beef Exporters Association). This increased demand leads cattle ranchers to cut and burn the rainforest to expand cattle production into it.

Figure courtesy of Mongabay

How much deforestation are we facing right now?

Piechart showing Original Total Rainforest Cover

As the graph (above) based on an unprecedented report by from the Rainforest Foundation Norway shows:

  • Just over a third (34%), is completely gone. The last 30% is degraded. This means its ability to store carbon, cool the planet, produce rain, and provide habitats is diminished.

  • In other words, of the remaining tropical rainforests, almost half (45%) is degraded and the rest is still intact (55%).

  • From 2002 to 2019, we lost 571 863 km² of tropical rainforest to deforestation. This is more than the whole of continental France.

Figure courtesy of Mongabay showing monthly deforestation alerts in the Brazilian Amazon. Note the tremendous spike since 2019.

Why is deforestation so devastating to the rainforest and the world?

Natural Forest in the Brazilian Amazon 1985-2018

This graph courtesy of Mongabay shows how much Brazilian Amazon rainforest has been lost in 33 years in millions of hectares up until 2018. Although it shows 45 million hectares have been destroyed, keep in mind it does not show the effect of the increased deforestation the Amazon has suffered since 2019.

As the Pachamama Alliance explains, the loss of trees and other vegetation can cause climate change, desertification, soil erosion, fewer crops, flooding, increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and a host of problems for indigenous people.

For more resources touching on the causes of deforestation, visit Livescience.org and NationalGeographic.com.

What global demand for beef does

  • Drives cattle ranchers deeper into the forest

  • Brazil the #1 exporter of beef: how this drives deforestation

  • World’s top importers of beef

 

Graph courtesy of Statista.

Take action before it's too late

The Amazon rainforest may soon reach a tipping point from which it will not be able to sustain itself anymore. 

As deforestation advances even more, we are close to reaching the point when the amazon will stop being a rainforest, it will stop being the cradle of biodiversity, and it will stop producing all its wonderful effects in the climate of our planet.

Map courtesy of the World Wildlife Fund showing deforestation hot spots or fronts in the Amazon rainforest 

According to a special report by Reuters spanning 30 years of evidence, scientists think we are approaching a tipping point, a point of no return in the Amazon rainforest.  This is a problem because this rainforest influences the carbon cycle, and changes in climate, like no other ecosystem does. They have started noticing irreversible damage in the rainforest in certain areas. Evidence is mounting that in certain areas, localized iterations of may already be happening.

This graph, courtesy of The Dialogue, shows that although deforestation decreased since 2004 it still amounts to thousands of hectares. So, it should be stopped for the remaining rainforest to survive. But it also shows that at the same time beef production was able to increase, indicating that cattle was being raised elsewhere in Brazil. In other words, the rainforest does not need to be destroyed to raise cattle.

Statistics on remaining rainforests

There are other major rainforests.

The Congo Basin rainforest is in Central Africa, spanning 780,000 square miles (2 million square kilometers), which is slightly more than the size of Turkey. It spreads over 6 countries, but the Democratic Republic of Congo has almost 50% of it. About 10, 000 species of tropical plants and many endangered animals like elephants, chimpanzees, and gorillas live there. This forest is also threatened by deforestation for agriculture, expanding urban areas, mining and logging.

The New Guinea rainforest is on the island of New Guinea where Papua New Guinea and part of Indonesia are located. It covers 303,000 square miles (786,000 square kilometers) of this island and approximately 5% of the world’s plant and animal species live there. It is rapidly being deforested for agriculture and logging.

The Sundaland rainforest is in Southeast Asia and nearby islands. It spans 197,000 square miles (510,000 square kilometers) and 5 countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, and Singapore. This is were orangutans and many other unique species of animals and plants live. It is also rapidly being deforested for agriculture and logging.

There are many other tropical and temperate rainforests like the Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia and the Tongass National in Alaska that are also threatened by deforestation for agriculture and logging.

This figure, courtesy of Reuters and based on data from Rainforest Foundation Norway, illustrates the size of the territories that were deforested in 2019. Note that Brazil and the Amazon lost the most rainforest.