Deforestation In The Amazon Rainforest Essay Research

Deforestation In The Amazon Rainforest Essay, Research Paper

To: Michael Meacher

Copies: The Deputy Prime Minister

Director of EPS

All Heads of Division


Dear Mr. Meacher,

I have prepared the following report for you to read before you attend the Rio Conference on Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. I feel that the key issues for you to consider are global extent of deforestation and the condition of the Amazon rainforest e.g. effects of deforestation.

I cannot express how urgent my recommendations are and insist you consider them.

I am aware that you may not be familiar with the subject of the Amazon rainforest so I have taken the liberty of providing detailed information under key-headings.

What is Deforestation?

Deforestation is the clearance of forestland. It is a key global environmental issue (see figure 1 and 1.5). One hectare of the rainforest in LEDC countries is cleared every two seconds. The cleared area has increased to the size of Great Britain. The fastest clearances in the world take place in the Amazon rainforest, South America, Brazil. (See figure 2)

Deforestation of forest for timber, fuel, charcoal burning and clearing of agriculture and extractive industries such as mining, without planting new trees to replace those lost (reforestation) or working on a cycle that allows the natural forest to regenerate. Deforestation causes fertile soil to be blown away or washed into rivers, leading to soil erosion, drought, flooding and loss of wildlife. It may also increase the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere and intensifies the greenhouse effect, because there are fewer trees absorbing carbon dioxide from the air for photosynthesis. The greenhouse effect is the gradual warming of the Earth’s atmosphere because carbon dioxide and other gases prevent heat from escaping to space, which makes the Earth’s surface warmer than it otherwise, would be. (See figure 9 for the greenhouse effect)

Deforestation leads to famine and is thought to be partially responsible for flooding in lowland areas because the trees help to slow down water movement. In the tropics deforestation in the tropics is especially serious because such forests do not regenerate easily and because they are such a rich source of bio-diversity.

The rainforest most affected by deforestation is the Amazon in Brazil. In the last 40 years over 25% of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared.

What is the Amazon rainforest like?

The Amazon rainforest is about 5? North of the equator. The climate is very hot and wet throughout the year and temperatures are usually above 20?c and can often reach as high as 30?c (see figure 3) it rains almost every afternoon and the air becomes very humid, making it feel hotter. Yearly rainfalls are a high 1 500 – 3 000mm compared to London, which has a maximum of around 500mm.

The Amazon in Brazil, South America (see figure 4) is one of the wettest region on the Earth. Over 15 000 tributaries feed into the Amazon River. One fifth of the Earth’s river water flows through the mouth of the Amazon, which is as wide as the distance from London to Paris. There are more species of plants and animals in the Amazon than anywhere else in the Earth and over 50% of the plants and animals are found in the rainforest and provide about one quarter of the worlds prescription drugs. For example the rosy periwinkle provides drugs, which help cure leukemia. 10% of plants have been fully studied and new animals are being discovered every year. The biggest feature of the Amazon rainforest is that one third of the world’s trees grow here. The rainforest ecosystem had adapted to its environment, which consists of high temperatures, heavy rainfall and an all year round growing season. The rainforest has a clear structure (see figure 5).

In order for trees to live they must take nutrients from the soil. In the amazon rainforest dead leaves fallen from the trees decompose at a great speed because of the hot and wet climate. This process allows nutrients to be continuously returned to the soil. This process is called the nutrient or humus cycle. (See figure 6) After deforestation have occurred the cycle changes. The biomass store would be immediately reduced if people removed trees from the area for timber and the disruption caused animals to move away. The flow of nutrients to the litter and soil might increase initially as remaining dead vegetation rotted down. However, in the longer term, the stores of nutrients in the litter and soil would decrease as rapid leaching and soil erosion occurred on the exposed ground. As new secondary vegetation grew up the biomass store would rise again although not as much as before.

How is the Amazon rainforest seen as a resource?

The rainforest is in great danger from a rapidly growing population (see figure 4), and because of this the demand on the forests natural resources is enormous. The rainforest ecosystem has many uses including the following:

? Shifting cultivation by Amerindians: primitive tribes in the forested highlands of the Amazon Basin practice Shifting Cultivation. While cultivated using shifting cultivation, tropical/equatorial rainforest nutrient is mainly locked up in the biomass with little nutrient in the soil. Also, the cycling of nutrients is rapid.

? Corporations have setup ranching facilities where once forests grew.

? Mining to extract raw materials such as copper and iron ore.

? Logging to export high quality hardwood timber to make furniture etc…

? Plantation to grow cash crops for export

? Government policy to provide land for dispossessed Brazilians

The different groups of people in the forest have different conflicts. Some of these conflicts are for deforestation and some are against.

Those who are for deforestation are people and companies that will profit from the destruction. The destruction of the rainforest by such activities as ranching and mining is also a necessity to the Brazilian economy. A ranch owner Jose Rodriguez told us the farming method used. “We clear an area of forest and farm it for five years, then we leave it to rest and recover its fertility”. This means that the amount of farming land grows but the amazon rainforest is being destroyed. Although vast amounts of forest are being destroyed every year ranching also provides jobs for many people and they supply meat to MEDC countries, which helps their economy. A chief executive for the Trombetas bauxite mine told us “ we try to protect the environment as much as possible, however, it is inevitable that some forest will be destroyed in the large-scale extraction of raw materials”. Mining provides billions of dollars, which is used to pay the national debt to MEDC countries and provides thousands of jobs. Logging has the same reasons for existing but we cannot overlook the fact threat the forest is being destroyed and it is affecting the whole world.

A group that is trying to stop this devastating destruction is Greenpeace. Their view on deforestation is that there is no argument it is a key global issue, the amazon forest affects belongs to all of us and its destruction will affect everyone. If we want to maintain the planet then we must follow in the footsteps of Greenpeace and preserve this natural resource. Multinational companies, the Brazilian government and millions of local farmers are destroying the rainforest; it will affect all of us, the world’s climate and destroy the richest store of plants and animals on the earth. We cannot allow this to happen it must stop.

The main reason this cannot happen is because the amazon rainforest is hope to many indigenous people. The people of the amazon have the key to its protection. Recent satellite data indicated that the indigenous territories demarcated in Brazil during the last five years are the only areas to have rolled back deforestation. Many indigenous people believe that they were put here to protect mother earth. They need their environment intact to continue the reproduction of their culture. They need to use the forest resources but also to preserve it for future generation. The only problem is to survive they need to work to support their families. As the only work around is in mines and on ranches they are forced to destroy their own environment. Also some people who can no longer survive in the rainforest are forced to leave their home and their culture and move to the cities where jobs are available. The culture and way of living is dying at a rapid rate and if deforestation is not stopped then what these people have will be no more.


! The trees in the Amazon rainforest supply one half of the world’s oxygen. If we cut down the trees, we are also cutting down our oxygen. This means that there will be more carbon dioxide produced. The carbon cycle can be found at (figure 8)

! The indigenous people will loose their culture and home for future generations. Their way of life will disappear along with the rainforest.

! The hundreds of different species of wildlife that exist within the rainforest will be destroyed. This means extinction for many and new species will no longer be discovered.

! The plants and trees in the Amazon rainforest provide one half of the world’s medicines, if the plants are destroyed the potential chance of a cure for major diseases such as aids and cancer is lost.

! If deforestation continues the Amazon basin will eventually become a desert as fewer trees mean that the amount of water vapour entering the atmosphere will reduce.

! 80% of rainfall is stopped from going into the under layers of the rain forest by the overlaying canopy. If the trees are removed then the more rain will reach the forest floor and wash away the soil. Soil fertility will decrease and erosion will increase. This will increase flooding and make farming difficult.

! Some species of hardwood trees will become endangered.

! Global warming will become worse as a result of deforestation in the Amazon. This is the burning of trees, which increases the amount of carbon into the atmosphere

! The large-scale mining in the Amazon basin is destroying and polluting the natural environment.

Solutions to deforestation

Some solutions to deforestation can be seen at (figure 7).

Continuing on from the diagram I would like to highlight the ways in which companies can help to stop deforestation as well as exploit it. Companies have been known to be willing to fight to reduce deforestation. These two companies are Habitat, which have banned the sale of rainforest products and the national trade and timber company are considering whether or not to put tax on imports of tropical hardwood products. This means that a lot less wood would be exported from the tropical rainforest in Brazil.

Fast food chains in America have told their suppliers not to buy meat from Central America last year because of an environmental outcry. This means that the demand for meat would have decreased.

These companies are a good starting point to continue from. If more companies would do this there would be a smaller demand for tropical products. The only reason deforestation is happening is because MEDC countries have a high demand for the Amazon’s natural resources. The rainforest ecosystem is a biosphere reserve (see figure 10), which is an ecosystem that is being protected from exploitation from government strategies. These government strategies are not many at present but with extra support from MEDC countries they may improve. The government in Brazil has made an attempt to stop the burning of the rainforest in the amazon by using helicopters to check on the rainforest. Due to lack of money only six helicopters are available to cover an area the size of Western Europe. The government set up IMBAMA, which was an organisation that tracked down fires with the help of police (unlawful fires) and warn and fine landowners. The government is partly to blame for the vast destruction of the tropical rainforest in Brazil. This is because for the last 20 years the government actively encouraged people to burn land and paid them subsidies to do so. An international outcry was the result and finally the government published the ‘our nature’ program, this stopped all new subsidies. So, using the biosphere reserves is possible means of rainforest protection that the government set up.

So minister now you have seen all the facts of deforestation, the effects it has on the whole world and what we suggest can be done to end this global issue. I put it to you that yes! There is a need to control deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and it should be dealt with as soon as possible.

The main issues involved in deforestation are:

? The world’s climate is being changed

? Amazon’s native people are being forced from their homes and are loosing their culture and way of life.

? Many species are being destroyed

? Medicines from plants and trees in the Amazon rainforest are in danger of disappearing

? The burning of trees is sending carbon into the air and causing greenhouse gases, which in time will damage the Earth and peoples health.

Although deforestation helps with the national debt and supplies jobs, is that really worth destroying the Earth?

Minister the view we recommend that you take at the conference is that deforestation should be stopped and that it are wrong. I feel that the evidence is sufficient to back up your argument, as there are many more arguments against as well as for deforestation. Deforestation is the destruction of the Earth and if the solutions we have suggested are not used quickly then Earth will become an unfriendly, unnatural place to be.

I thank you kindly for viewing my briefing and hope that the conference has positive results.


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