The Amazon rainforest spans an area of 1.4 billion acres in the Amazon basin of South America; that is almost half the total area under tropical rainforests in the world today. Undoubtedly the most flourishing biodiversity hotspot on the planet, the Amazon forest is home to approximately 90 percent of the plants and animals in the world. It is spread across 9 nations of South America, with Brazil constituting a major share at 60 percent.
Other than being the largest, the Amazon rainforest also boasts of being the most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest. These and other facts may make you believe that everything is well and good in this region, but deforestation statistics have a totally different picture to portray.
Amazon Rainforest Deforestation
Deforestation is common to forests throughout the world, but the rate at which it is occurring in the Amazon basin is definitely a matter of concern. In Brazil alone, 450,237 miles of forest has been cleared to make way for various human activities, including farming and settlement. Environmentalists fear that at this rate, half the rainforest will disappear within the next two decades. This, in turn, will have drastic effects on the biodiversity of this region. Other than the loss of numerous plants, deforestation will also result in loss of habitat for numerous animal species endemic to this region, and eventually, drive them to extinction.
Causes of Deforestation
Human settlement and land development are the two main reasons for deforestation in this rainforest. The fact that nobody was allowed to venture into the deep forest of the Amazon basin before the 1960s ensured that the rich tracts of this rainforest remained intact all this while. After colonization, however, things changed drastically. As human settlements began to flourish, the region was subjected to large-scale agricultural activities. The fact that the soil in Amazon basin doesn't retain fertility for long periods made the farmers practice slash and burn method of agriculture. This was a big blow to the ecology, as human encroachment upon the forest land increased in a bid to use more land and increase agricultural production.
The government incentive programs to promote agriculture also added to the woes of the Amazon rainforest. Similarly, logging in the denser regions of the forests resulted in construction of new roads, which gave people direct access to the otherwise untouched areas of the rainforest. All these factors did help in strengthening the agricultural economy of the South American nations, but led to severe depletion of forest cover in this region. In Brazil, which constitutes a total of 60 percent of the rainforest, the sudden boost in soybean production tempted farmers to go for the same at the cost of this rainforest. As agriculture developed, this tropical forest biome was also cleared to make way for human settlement.
The need of this hour is to find solutions to the problem and also, ensure that it is strictly implemented. In order to curb deforestation in the region, the administration has to come up with concrete wildlife conservation measures, like demarcating protected areas and taking strict action against those indulging in illegal clearance of the forest. With one-fifth of the forest cover already lost in the last five decades, it won't take much time to clear off the entire region. If we don't put in efforts soon, we will lose the Amazon rainforest and various animals and plants endemic to it within the next century.