The Amazon Is Vanishing Fast – How Much Time Is Left?

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The Amazon rainforest is disappearing at a staggering rate—with almost a fifth already deforested, how much longer can we expect this beautiful natural wonder to last? Find out the cause of the problem and whether it’s too late to save the world’s largest rainforest.

Just How Big is it?

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The Amazon rainforest covers most of the Amazon basin in South America and is around 2.1 million square miles. It spans Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela.

A Home to Many

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This massive ecosystem currently accounts for about 50% of the planet’s rainforest and is home to an estimated 390 billion trees across 16,000 different species. 

Not Just Trees

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / MarcusVDT

There are thought to be 2.5 million species of insect, plus mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Deforestation

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Rich Carey

About 10,000 acres of the Amazon are lost daily, primarily in Brazil, which contains 60% of the rainforest. 

Why is This Happening?

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Savo Ilic

Humans cutting down trees to create land for development for other uses, such as cattle farming, is one of the main reasons.

Profit Before Nature

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / lovelyday12

The Brazilian government was encouraging its citizens to use the land for farming purposes. The high cost of beef makes it far more profitable than leaving nature to its own devices. 

Other Uses

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Soy farming and oil drilling are also increasing in areas that were previously rainforests.

The Tipping Point

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The nature of rainforest is such that the trees absorb water from the ground which then becomes the forest’s own rain – known as a moisture cycle. Cutting down trees creates an imbalance in the cycle. Scientists predict the cycle will no longer sustain itself when we reach 20-25% of the Amazon’s original size, effectively killing this massive ecosystem.

Close to the Edge

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Rich Carey

So, how close are we to reaching the worrisome 20-25% tipping point? Figures vary slightly, but the consensus is that around 17% of the forest has already been lost or destroyed. The critical point of no return looms large.

The Final Countdown

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theworldcounts.com predicts that, if current rates continue, the planet will be entirely without rainforests by the year 2100.

What Happens Next?

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Piyaset

If the tipping point becomes a reality, what does it actually mean for the rainforest? We can expect to see a dry savanna in its place. Billions of trees will die, and the animals that call the forest home will be displaced—likely with many species becoming extinct.

How Can It Be Stopped?

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Gustavo Frazao

One key answer to saving the forest is Brazil. 23% of the Brazilian Amazon is currently protected against deforestation thanks to being indigenous land. However, that still means 46% of the whole Amazon is in Brazil and vulnerable to development, which was actively encouraged by the government until this year. 

Save the Forest

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / William Edge

One key suggestion to save the forest while compromising with farming needs is called silvopasture. This is the practice of integrating trees with pasture, allowing farmers to use the land for cattle without wiping out 100% of the trees.

Incentives

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Microgen

Countries, including the United States, are looking to introduce sanctions to crack down on “environmental criminals” to protect the Amazon, according to reuters.com. Climatechangenews.com reported last year that Brazil was offering protection of the Amazon in return for trade advantages with the EU.

A New Leader

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Marcelo Chello

Given Brazil’s critical role in saving the Amazon, it is good news to many that President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in office since January 1, 2024, has pledged to reduce deforestation by 82%. This comes as a dramatic change from far-right former President Jarir Bolsonaro.

Forest Fires

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / M. Federico

During Bolsonaro’s presidency, his stance of being very much pro-exploitation of the forest saw a significant increase in forest fires. During his time in office, an area of forest larger than Belgium was lost. The fires aren’t naturally occurring but are set after deforestation.

A Carbon Footprint

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / AustralianCamera

These forest fires mean that the Amazon actually produces more carbon than it absorbs. Historically, the Amazon has always been a crucial carbon absorber, helping fight climate change.

Indigenous Peoples

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Hans Denis Schneider

Thankfully, indigenous territories are protected, and around 3,300 are formally acknowledged in the Amazon. However, indigenous people make up only 9% of the 30 million people living in the Amazon.

A Bleak Future

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Gorodenkoff

Without dramatic, urgent changes, scientists and environmentalists fear for the Amazon’s future.  The time for change really is now.

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The post The Amazon Is Vanishing Fast – How Much Time Is Left? republished on Passing Thru with permission from The Green Voyage.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / PARALAXIS.

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