There are big wildfires in the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest. Rainforests are the oldest living ecosystems and without a shadow of a doubt, the most vital habitats on Earth (Amazon rainforest has been in existence for at least 55 million years). The Amazon represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests, and comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world, with an estimated 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species.
Currently, there are horrible wildfires in the Amazon, the rainforest is burning for weeks. The wildfires pose a serious threat to Amazon’s delicate balance of ecosystems, putting pressure on already endangered species of animals and plants.
Dan Nepstad, one of the world’s leading Amazon forest experts says: “Fire is a huge problem in the Amazon region. Large-scale fires in standing forests during extremely dry periods are the biggest threat to these forests in a warming world. Once burned, forests become more vulnerable to further burning. And as deforestation and repeated fire reduce forest cover, rainfall is inhibited.”
Amazon is estimated to be home to 30 percent of the Earth’s species. It has more plant and animal species than any other terrestrial ecosystems on Earth.
But, what is more important, it stores a vast amount of carbon – it is account for about 10% of the carbon stores in ecosystems – of the order of 1.1×1011 metric tonnes. So it plays a huge role in pulling greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Without it, global warming would speed up dramatically. So, everyone on Earth benefits from Amazon rainforest.
You may think we’d do everything in our power to protect it.
But we don’t.
And, if we destroy it, the consequences would be disastrous.
What if we lost the Amazon Rainforest?
Unfortunately, the wildfires are just a part of a much bigger problem: mining, farming, and logging are already responsible for massive deforestation. There are about three football fields of deforestation per minute!
Here are some important points:
- If we can’t stop deforestation, the Amazon rainforest will disappear eventually. This means we’ll lose any change we have in the battle against climate change.
- Since 1978, an estimated 750,000 km2 (289,000 square miles) of rainforest has been destroyed by humans.
- In 2018, about 17% of the Amazon rainforest was already destroyed. Research suggests that upon reaching about 20-25% (hence 3-8% more), the tipping point to flip it into a non-forest ecosystem – degraded savannah – will be reached.
- If this deforestation continues, it will be disappeared within 100 years.
- When it’s gone, we’d be loss of a huge amount of Earth’s biodiversity (see: Biodiversity isn’t just pretty: it future-proofs our world). Losing that biodiversity would have huge effects on Earth.
- Hundreds of prescription drugs are coming from plants and animals in the Amazon rainforest – including cancer-fighting drugs.
- Scientists estimate that they have studied less than five percent of the plants in the rainforest for potential medical benefits. So, who knows what other essential treatments we could lose if we destroy the rainforest.
- The most critical problem we’d face if the rainforest completely disappeared would be a much faster face of global warming. All the carbon it stores would be floating in the atmosphere.