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Daily-current-affairs / 04 Dec 2022

Depleting Amazon forests: From Carbon sink to CO2 source : Daily Current Affairs


Date: 05/12/2022

Relevance: GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Key Phrases: Deforestation in Amazon forests, Amazon tropical forests, Carbon Sink, Amazon Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information, Amazon Basin.


  • Recently, a report released by the Amazon Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information in collaboration with MapBiomas shows that the Amazon region has lost 10% of its native vegetation in almost four decades.
  • The forest area lost is mostly tropical rainforest and is roughly the size of Texas.

Amazon Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG)

  • About
    • RAISG is a consortium of civil society organizations from the Six Amazon countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.
    • It is supported by international partners, concerned with the socio-environmental sustainability of Amazonia.
  • Objectives and functions
    • RAISG produces and disseminates knowledge, statistical data and geospatial socio-environmental information on Amazonia developed through protocols common to all the countries of the region.
    • RAISG enables a view of Amazonia as a whole, including the threats and pressures the region faces.
    • RAISG produces the most comprehensive socio-environmental intelligence reports on Amazonia so that the region can be better understood, appreciated and looked after.

What are the key observations of the report?

  • Widening Deforested area
    • From 1985 to 2021, the deforested area surged from 490,000 square kilometers to 1,250,000 square kilometers.
    • Brazil accounted for 84% of all forest destruction in this period.
  • Methodology
    • The deforestation numbers are calculated from an annual satellite monitoring.
    • The satellite monitoring has been taking place in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana since 1985.
  • Impact on ecosystem
    • The losses have been enormous, virtually irreversible and with no expectation of a turnaround.
    • The destruction is so vast that the eastern Amazon has ceased to be a carbon sink for the Earth and has become a carbon source (Study in journal Nature, 2021).
    • The data signals a yellow light and gives a sense of urgency to the need for a coordinated, decisive and compelling international action.
  • Brazil leads the pack
    • Brazil, which holds about two-thirds of the Amazon, also leads the destruction.
    • In almost four decades, 19% of Brazil’s rainforest has been destroyed.
    • Almost half of Brazil's carbon emissions come from deforestation.
    • The forest destruction is mainly due to cattle ranching expansion supported by the opening of roads.
  • Impact on Carbon Emissions
    • At least some 75 billion metric tons of carbon are stored across the Amazon.
    • If all that carbon ended up immediately in the atmosphere, that would be about seven times global annual emissions.

The Amazon basin and Amazon Rainforests

  • The Amazon Basin
    • The basin covers over 6 million square km, nearly twice the size of India.
    • It is bounded by the Guiana Highlands to the north, the Andes Mountains to the west, the Brazilian central plateau to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
    • It comprises about 40% of Brazil’s total geographical area.
    • The basin produces about 20% of the world’s flow of freshwater into the oceans.

  • Amazon Rainforests
    • These are the world's largest tropical rainforests occupying the drainage basin of the Amazon River and its tributaries in northern South America.
    • As of 2021, the Amazon had 74% of its area covered by tropical rainforests and 9% of other natural vegetation types.
    • They are home to nearly a fifth of the world’s land species and over 45 million people.
    • The rainforest of the Amazon is home to 400–500 indigenous Amerindian tribes.
    • It is the source of 20% of the oxygen used by the planet.
    • Tropical forests are closed-canopy forests growing within 28 degrees north or south of the equator.
    • They are very wet places, receiving more than 200 cm rainfall per year, either seasonally or throughout the year.
    • Temperatures are uniformly high - between 20°C and 35°C.

Significance of Amazon Rainforests

  • Source of rich biodiversity
    • The Amazon forests are highly biodiverse and a wide range of flora and fauna species can be found in the Amazon than in any other terrestrial ecosystem in the world.
    • It is estimated to contain up to 30 percent of all species.
  • Precipitation and climate control
    • The Amazon rainforest produces between 50 and 75 percent of the world’s precipitation through transpiration.
    • Rainfall in the Western United States and Central America is influenced by moisture from the Amazon.
    • The hydrological cycles that depend on the forests, the Amazon’s canopy cover plays an important role in regulating temperature and humidity and is intricately linked to regional climate patterns.
  • Carbon sink potential and a natural air purifier
    • Massive amounts of carbon are sequestered by about 350 billion trees that make up the Amazon rainforest.
    • Over 85 billion tonnes of carbon are stored in forests which is more than a third of the carbon stored by tropical forests worldwide.
  • Local and regional benefits
    • Millions of people in the Amazon Basin depend on the services provided by the forest and activities such as logging, collection of non-timber forest products.
  • Medicinal values and food security
    • The Amazon provides 70% of the plants that are effective against cancer cells.
    • Eighty percent of the different types of food we consume worldwide have their roots in the Amazon rainforest.

Concerns and threats to Amazon forests

  • Increased global temperatures coupled with El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) have led to a significant impact on Latin American climate variability and experts predict that the rainforest will perish in just 100 years.
  • Increased instances of forest fires, drought and unsustainable agriculture practices have led to massive loss of forest vegetation.
  • Poaching, commercial fishing, bio-Piracy and Smuggling has led to decline in flora and fauna numbers rapidly. Many species have become extinct including Amazon River turtle “Paiche”.
  • Developmental activities, industrial and mining activities in large forested areas have been responsible for at least 10% of the total deforested area.
  • Clearing forests for Soy oil and Cattle ranching has led to a significant amount of vegetation loss — 1.5 acres are lost every second.

Reversing deforestation and conserving the existing forests is the way forward

  • If tropical forests’ potential to operate as carbon sinks is to be preserved, fossil fuel emissions must be controlled, and temperature rises must be restricted.
  • Zero deforestation policy by the Brazilian government’s current administration is in the spotlight, and it is being urged to implement a zero-deforestation policy to change the situation.
    • Brazil was among a number of nations who promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030 during the COP26 climate summit.
  • Limit greenhouse gas emission to protect the Amazon forests.
    • LEAF (Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance) Coalition was announced at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate, 2021.
    • Emphasis on REDD+ initiatives which are climate change mitigation options in developing countries for conservation of forest carbon stock, sustainable management of forests and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
  • Create awareness among students and youths of the importance of trees to the Amazon ecosystem.


  • The Amazon is on the verge of functional destruction; not just the Amazon rainforests, but other Southeast Asian forests have also turned into carbon sources in the last few years as a result of formation of plantations and fires.
  • There is an imminent need to reverse the deforestation trends and save the planet which requires active participation of all stakeholders including governments, civil society, industries and corporations in a mission mode.

Source: The Hindu

Mains Question:

Q. The increased anthropogenic activities in the name of development have led to a devastating impact on Amazon rainforests, the lung of the planet and has become a source of Carbon Source instead of a Carbon Sink, Critically evaluate. (250 words).