Being the largest rainforest globally, the Amazon rainforest accounts for over half of Earth's rainforests. It is primarily located in Brazil but spans nine countries, including Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. It is home to the largest and most biodiverse tracts in a tropical rainforest. However, it also comprises a cattle ranching and agricultural sector that has been responsible for its large scale deforestation. Amazon Deforestation has now reached record highs and is having a detrimental impact on global warming, the ecology, the indigenous people residing in the forest.
The Amazon is known as the "lungs of the world," and Amazon rainforest deforestation has become a cause for global concern. This has become the subject of various international environmental agreements, including COP26 in 2021. Read more to know about the rates and causes of deforestation in the Amazon.
The first signs of excessive Amazon rainforest deforestation were noticed in the years 1991-2004 due to large scale cattle ranching. It has been gradually decreasing since, but 2021 saw the worst deforestation levels in 15 years!
In January 2022 as well, Reuters reported that deforestation hit a record high in Brazil. Here is a table indicating deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon in the last 5 years:
|Year||Estimated Forest Cover Remaining in the Brazilian Amazon (sq. km)||Annual Forest Loss (sq. km) |
Major Causes of Deforestation in the Amazon
Amazon deforestation has escalated since colonisation and subsequent industrialisation. The causes that contribute to significant deforestation of the Amazon are:
- Cattle Ranching - Cattle ranching accounts for 63% of direct deforestation in the Amazon. It results from the growing demands of the beef and leather industries. Due to this, major rainforest areas are converted into artificial grasslands to graze cattle, often illegally. In 2009, Brazil's largest beef producers (Bertin, JBS, Marfrig, Minerva) entered into the G4 Cattle Agreement to restrict cattle reared from illegal deforestation from entering the supply chain.
- Small-Scale Agriculture - Subsistence and Commerical agriculture are one of the main causes of deforestation in the Amazon. The "slash and burn" farming technique where forest land is cleared to grow crops is severely detrimental.
- Forest Fires - Rainforests are typically safe from forest fires due to the high moisture levels. However, large-scale deforestation has paved the way for drier land that is susceptible to fires. In 2019, 76,000 fires were burning at once in the Amazon!
- Large-Scale Agriculture - Industrial agricultural operations are the result of global meat-heavy diets. Soy is grown in the Amazon to feed animals in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) or factory farms and is a big reason for deforestation.
- Logging - Timber from Amazon is in high demand in other countries. However, logging is not the biggest threat to the forest as it is controlled with strict licensing and regulations.
Amazon Deforestation is the tragic result of industrialisation and development. While it had peaked during the 1990s and early 2000s, it is once again on the rise.
Amazon Rainforest Deforestation poses a threat to the millions of species of flora and fauna in its ecosystem, the indigenous people of the Amazon, the local water level, and the global climate. Cattle ranching and other major causes of deforestation in the Amazon need to be strictly regulated to prevent this environmental catastrophe.
FAQs on Amazon Deforestation
Q.1) What are the major causes of deforestation in the Amazon?
Ans. The major causes of deforestation in the Amazon include cattle ranching, small and large scale agriculture, forest fires, and logging.
Q.2) What is the COP26 Climate Summit?
Ans. The COP26 Climate Summit is an agreement entered into by 100 countries, including Brazil, to end deforestation by 2030.
Q.3) How much Amazon rainforest deforestation took place in Brazil in 2021?
Ans. The total amount of Amazon rainforest deforestation in 2021 was 10,476 sq. km in Brazil.
Q.4) Which country is the Amazon rainforest located in?
Ans. The Amazon rainforest spans 9 countries Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.