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The Amazon rainforest is perhaps the most famous in the world. Perhaps it is a bucket-list destination for you. It is the largest rainforest in the world, after all! Unfortunately, though, there are high rates of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Keep reading this explanation to learn all about the deforestation that is occurring in the Amazon rainforest, from its causes to impacts and more.
The Amazon rainforest, found in the Amazon River basin, spans nine countries in South America, including Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname. It also covers French Guiana, a territory of France. It is the largest tropical rainforest found across the planet, covering 8.4 million square kilometres.1 However, this means it is a popular location for the clearing of trees, also known as deforestation.
Don't forget to check out our explanation of Deforestation to gain a full understanding of what deforestation is!
Deforestation occurs in the Amazon rainforest for several reasons, and this creates a variety of adverse effects. We will take a look at these reasons later on in the explanation.
Although there are many negatives to deforestation in the Amazon, there are some short-term benefits of the Amazon rainforest being cleared. Including, job opportunities, land for important use such as agriculture, an increase in income for the country, and research opportunities using the rainforest.
Although the Amazon rainforest spans eight different South American countries, the largest area it covers is Brazil. This means a high amount of deforestation occurs in Brazil. In fact, Brazil was once the location with the highest amount of deforestation rate worldwide. The main driver of deforestation in Brazil is farming.
Let's look at the rate at which deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is occurring.
The rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is increasing. In fact, the rate of deforestation reached the highest it has been in 15 years in 2021.1
But, what are some of the causes that have led to deforestation taking place in the Amazon rainforest? Let's take a look.
The table below shows the many factors that lead to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
|Causes of deforestation||Explanation of the causes|
|Subsistence and commercial farming|
Farming has major involvement in the reasoning for the clearing of the Amazon rainforest. Poor farmers and Indigenous tribes use subsistence farming in the Amazon rainforest.
Subsistence farming is when a farmer farms for themselves instead of selling or trading their produce.
Although subsistence farming does contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, commercial farming occurs on a much larger scale.
An example of subsistence farming is slash and burn. Slash and burn is where the forest is cut and burned to create an area for crop growth. It causes less damage to rainforests because the forest can regenerate once the subsistence farmer moves on to a new area. This is sometimes called shifting cultivation.
Commercial farming for both crops and livestock causes the clearing of the Amazon rainforest. Crops that are grown in replacement of the trees include soybean, palm oil, bananas sugar cane, and coffee. This is the main cause for the majority of deforestation that takes place in the Amazon rainforest.
Logging is the cutting down of trees to use the resource of wood. For example, timber for furniture or wood to create paper, fuel, or charcoal. This deforestation occurs on a large scale.
Infrastructure development, such as road building, is vital to the developing counties that the Amazon rainforest spans. Roads are necessary for the transportation of equipment and for travelling.
The Trans-Amazonian highway is a road that began construction in 1972. It passes through the Amazon rainforest intending to improve accessibility and connections to cities around the region, as well as better access to the rainforest and for increasing settlement opportunities.
In order to build these roads, deforestation of the Amazon rainforest occurs.
Mining is popular in the Amazon basin due to the abundance of mineral resources.
Gold mining is a large threat to deforestation. It is a very popular mineral that is extracted in the Amazon rainforest. The process involves deforesting areas and using harsh chemicals to extract small pieces of gold. This causes damage to the ecosystem of the Amazon rainforest.
Energy development in the Amazon rainforest involves the use of hydroelectric power, which is generated by dams. In order to produce this power, the rainforest is flooded. This causes deforestation of the rainforest.
|Settlement and population growth|
As the population increases in regions near where the Amazon rainforest is located, there is an increasing need for new settlements. Therefore, the clearing of the forest takes place to create space for the construction of new homes and villages.
So, what about the impacts of these causes? Let's see.
The main impacts of deforestation are:
These impacts can be split into global impacts and local impacts.
Firstly, let's take a look at global impacts. These effects impact not just the countries where the Amazon rainforest can be found, but also worldwide.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which prevents excessive amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. However, due to deforestation, there are fewer trees. This means there is more carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming and climate change, thus feeding into the positive feedback loop of global warming. Additionally, more greenhouse gases can occur during the process of clearing the rainforest. This is because the burning releases further amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, also contributing to global warming.
The climate of the Amazon rainforest can be altered due to deforestation. Trees are vital in the water cycle; they contribute to evapotranspiration, keeping the climate wetter and cooler.
Evapotranspiration is when water is transported from the land to the atmosphere through transpiration and evaporation.
However, with a reduced number of trees after deforestation, less evapotranspiration occurs, which creates a drier, warmer climate. This alters the climate and, therefore, impacts the locals and the species that inhabit the Amazon rainforest.
Loss of biodiversity also occurs as a consequence of deforestation. The Amazon rainforest is a vital habitat for many tropical species. Therefore, deforestation is leading to a reduction in the species' habitats and causing a loss of biodiversity. Many tropical species are gradually becoming endangered or extinct, reducing the number of species we have globally on Earth.
On the other hand, there are also local impacts of deforestation that directly impact the local region of the Amazon rainforest.
As deforestation of the Amazon rainforest occurs, the soil quality is lowered. This is because of soil erosion. As the ground becomes exposed, heavy rainfall removes the top layer of the soil and soil erosion occurs. This reduces the quality and fertility of the soil, which means the chances of new plants growing in this soil are lowered.
As the Amazon rainforest is located on a river basin, river pollution occurs when deforestation for mineral extraction or commercial farming takes place. The chemicals used in mineral extraction and commercial farming can leech into the rivers, which causes them to become polluted.
Another impact of deforestation is the decline of Indigenous tribes. This is because Indigenous tribes that live in the rainforest rely on the Amazon rainforest and its resources. Therefore, when deforestation takes place, this can negatively impact indigenous tribes as they are forced to leave the area they live in, becoming displaced because of mining and resource extraction, logging, road building, and commercial farming.
Additionally, conflicts can occur between groups with opposing opinions regarding deforestation. For example, commercial farmers and conservationist groups. Commercial farmers require deforestation to create space for livestock or growing crops. Whereas, conservationist groups aim to prevent deforestation from occurring due to the environmental impacts of deforestation, such as global warming.
Let’s take a look at some facts about deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
Don’t forget, the Amazon rainforest is a great case study and example to use in your exam!
The Amazon rainforest is the largest in the world.
High amounts of deforestation have occurred in the Amazon rainforest.
Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest occurs due to Subsistence and commercial farming, logging, road building, mineral extraction, energy development, and settlement and population growth.
The impacts of deforestation range from global to local impacts. The global impacts are the loss of biodiversity and global warming. The local impacts are climate change, soil erosion and fertility, the decline of Indigenous tribes, river pollution, and conflicts.
Across the whole of the Amazon rainforest, most deforestation takes place in Brazil.
The main cause of deforestation in the Amazon is commercial farming.
The social impacts of deforestation are poverty because people are less able to benefit from the rainforests as it decreases.
It is estimated that around 20% of the Amazon rainforest has already been destroyed from deforestation.
The Amazon rainforest is still being deforested.
Deforestation affects the local climate, as it makes the climate drier and warmer due to less evapotranspiration. It also affects climate change, as deforestation contributes to global warming.
Which countries can the Amazon rainforest be found in?
Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana.
What factors are causing deforestation of the Amazon rainforest?
Subsistence and commercial farming, logging, road building, mineral extraction, energy development, and settlement and population growth.
What is subsistence farming?
When the farmer uses their crops and livestock for their needs.
Fill in the blanks. ____ and ___ is a method of shifting cultivation.
Why might roads be built through the Amazon rainforest?
To increase accessibility and connections to the rainforest.
Where is the majority of the Amazon rainforest located?
True or False? Gold is an abundant mineral that is found in the Amazon rainforest, therefore deforestation of the Amazon rainforest occurs because of gold mining.
True or False? Dams are built in the Amazon rainforest to generate energy through hydroelectric power.
How can population growth lead to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest?
To create more spaces for houses and settlements.
Name the global impacts of deforestation of the Amazon rainforests.
Global warming and loss of biodiversity.
List the local impacts of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
Soil erosion and fertility, river pollution, the decline of Indigenous tribes, and conflicts.
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