Deforestation and fires represent the main environmental problems faced by the Amazon biome, considered a major atmospheric “cooler” [removing excess carbon dioxide dispersed in the atmosphere, which causes global warming] and as the world’s largest biodiversity shelter.
The importance of the Amazon
According to Handbagpicks, the Amazon is one of the most important rainforest regions in the world. This is because in addition to being a huge area with more than 4 million km 2 of vegetation cover, it is home to one of the largest reserves of fresh water in the world and also an infinity of animal species in a rich biodiversity. Studies show that about 20% of all animal and plant species in the world are located in the Amazon Region.
Due to its wealth of natural resources and its large territorial extension, the Amazon has an influence on the balance of the environment on a global scale. This factor means that its preservation is not just a matter of national interest, but rather an issue for discussion between various international bodies and organizations.
However, all this natural wealth also attracts diverse groups that seek to exploit their resources illegally, either by extracting timber from forest regions or by using parts of their area for agricultural exploitation, both activities prohibited by law in protected areas.
These illegal activities leave the Amazon Forest area susceptible to two activities that are very degrading from the environmental point of view: deforestation and fires, which are often carried out jointly and which contribute greatly to the degradation of these environments.
Deforestation in the Amazon Forest
Much of the deforestation in the Amazon occurred for the irregular and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and for land speculation, since an area deforested [even if illegally] becomes worth more than when it was still a native forest.
In general, deforestation of the forest occurs for illegal logging. To make it difficult to identify and locate the felled areas, the trees are cut in the most inland regions and with a certain spacing, in a technique called “fish bone”.
The Amazon, being a dense forest, has several large trees with commercial value, which attracts logging groups that illegally trade this resource. Despite various policies and legislation that try to prevent deforestation from advancing, the large dimensions of these forest areas make it difficult to inspect them, facilitating the work of criminals.
Deforestation in the biome also has an important relationship with the expansion of extensive beef cattle ranching in the Legal Amazon region, which went from 47 million cattle in 2000 to 85 million currently, thus occupying approximately 80% of the deforested area, in addition to the emission of GHG (greenhouse gases) and soil degradation.
One of the causes of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest is the expansion of cattle and soy farms.
The fires in the Amazon Forest
Another illegal practice that occurs in the Amazon Region and that causes a lot of damage to the forest and the maintenance of its biodiversity concerns the practice of burning . This type of activity is used to clean the field, since the removal of vegetation cover from the forest is facilitated with dry cover. After this process, the area is suitable for agricultural cultivation.
These fires occur mainly in areas of environmental protection, and later agricultural cultivation is practiced by so-called land grabbers, who falsify land ownership documents for agricultural exploitation in the interior regions of the country.
Although this practice is old, the data presented by the monitoring systems of the Amazon Forest indicate that during the last few years there has been an increase in the number of fires in the region, presenting worrying levels in the year 2020. According to Imazon, in August the Amazon recorded the worst deforestation rate in the last 10 years.
Fires are extremely harmful to the Amazon Forest. In addition to decreasing the biodiversity areas of the forest, they cause environmental damage, contributing to the emission of gases into the atmosphere, which on a large scale generates serious climatic problems.
For people who live close to the regions of the fires, there is also a decrease in air quality, an increase in respiratory problems and, also, a decrease in vegetation cover, which causes damage to the environmental balance.
All of these factors underscore the importance of maintaining the Amazon Forest, in addition to the need for policies to raise public awareness of the problem and to comply with the laws for the protection of this important area of global biodiversity.
The consequences of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon
- Fires and climate change operate in a vicious circle: the more fires, the more GHG emissions – greenhouse gases, and the more the planet warms, the greater the frequency of extreme events, such as the great droughts that have become recurrent in the Amazon. In addition to emissions, deforestation directly contributes to changing the pattern of rainfall in the region, which extends the duration of the dry season, further affecting the forest, biodiversity, agriculture and human health, as stated by Greenpeace.
- Burning and deforestation negatively affect the evapotranspiration process in the Amazon Forest and, consequently, the decrease in the occurrence of convective or convective rains in the region and flying rivers, which are responsible for a large part of the rain that precipitates in the Center- Southern Brazil, promoting the expansion of drought periods, which will affect agricultural production and water supply in cities.
- Reduced rainfall in the tropics in regions close to the Amazon, such as Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and Central-South Brazil.
- Degradation of Conservation Units and Indigenous Lands, affecting the permanence or survival of traditional populations [eg, quilombolas, rubber tappers, chestnut trees, riverside dwellers, among others] and indigenous peoples.
- Devastated areas are easier to be affected by the fire as the more open forest favors burning, as occurs in the area known as the “arc” of deforestation.
- Extinction of animal and plant species, causing an imbalance in the ecosystem.
- Erosion of the soil, which becomes unprotected with the cutting of trees and, consequently, expansion of the silting up of rivers and reservoirs.
- Local and regional temperatures tend to rise, contributing to climate change.
- Proliferation of pests and diseases.
- Loss of specific knowledge of indigenous and traditional populations who have lived in the region for decades and who directly contribute to the development of ecological services in the Amazon.