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.
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.
- 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.
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
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).