Why is the Amazon rainforest important?

 The Amazon forest today

Sawmills that process illegally logged trees from the Amazon rainforest are seen near Rio Pardo, in the district of Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil, September 3, 2015. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
A tractor works on a wheat plantation on land that used to be virgin Amazon rainforest near the city of Santarem, Para State, April 20, 2013. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
The Amazon rain forest (R), bordered by deforested land prepared for the planting of soybeans, is pictured in this aerial photo taken over Mato Grosso state in western Brazil, October 4, 2015. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
An overview of the houses being built for employees of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, planned to be the world’s third largest, in Pimental, near Altamira in Para state, November 23, 2013. REUTERS/Paulo Santos

The Amazon rainforest has long been recognised as a repository of ecological services not only for local tribes and communities but also for the rest of the world. It is also the only rainforest that we have left in terms of size and diversity.

But as forests burn and global warming worsens, the impact of Amazon deforestation continues to gradually undo the fragile ecological processes that have been refined over millions of years.
Ironically, as rainforest continues to disappear, scientific work from the last two decades has shed light on the critical ties that link the health of rainforests to the rest of the world.
Benxi steel mills blowing smoke over residential buildings. Benxi was for long considered one of the most polluted cities in China.
Air pollution hangs heavily over US cities due to the exhaust from fossil-fuel burning vehicles.
The Greenhouse Effect in simple terms.

Filtering and reprocessing the world’s harmful carbon dioxide output

Trees have hidden attributes that play a key role in reducing pollutant levels. Take carbon dioxide (CO2) for example, a gas emitted from both natural and human sources. Over the last 150 years, humans have been pumping massive amounts of CO2 into the air by burning fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas – this is a major driver for global climate change.

Deforestation in the Amazon for farmland
Logging causes great deforestation in the Amazon

Carbon dioxide in, oxygen out

Under natural conditions, plants remove CO2 from the atmosphere and absorb it for photosynthesis, an energy-creating process that yields:

  • Oxygen, which is released back into the air
  • Carbon, which allows the plant to grow.

So, without tropical rainforests, the greenhouse effect would likely be even more pronounced, and climate change may possibly get even worse in the future.

To find out more about the Greenhouse Effect, go here:  https://theserangoonview.wordpress.com/2017/03/09/living-in-a-greenhouse-a-blanket-around-the-earth/

Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest at the Kuikuro territory in the Xingu National Park, Mato Grosso, Brazil, October 4, 2015. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

Amazon rainforests and carbon dioxide

What forests take from the air, they can also give back. When forests burn, tree carbon matter is released in the form of CO2, which pollutes the atmosphere, and of which there are already excessive quantities.
Where rainforest and savanna once stood, pastures for cattle ranching are now appearing. Pastures teem with termites and cattle, whose metabolic activities also release CO2, although their contribution to atmospheric pollution is under much debate.
With the forests gone, CO2 is no longer transformed through photosynthesis, and the crops that replace forests only absorb a fraction of CO2 compared to rainforests. Along with industrial pollution, rampant deforestation in South America and elsewhere has significantly increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Amazon, Brazil, near the Venezuelan frontier. Tropical rainforest, deforestation. Land which has been systematically deforested and logged then given over to cattle ranching.

The importance of the Amazon rainforest for local and global climate

Tropical forests and woodlands (e.g. savannas) exchange vast amounts of water and energy with the atmosphere and are thought to be important in controlling local and regional climates.

Water released by plants into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration (evaporation and plant transpiration) and to the ocean by the rivers, influences world climate and the circulation of ocean currents. This works as a feedback mechanism, as the process also sustains the regional climate on which it depends.

Transpiration from the Amazon is vital for the water cycle to take place

Find out about the impacts of climate change on the Amazon  

The Amazon rainforest could cure you

What is the connection between the blue-green pills in your bathroom cupboard and the Amazon wildlife? The natural roots of medicine. For millennia, humans have used insects, plants and other organisms in the region for a variety of uses; and that includes agriculture, clothing and, of course, cures for diseases.

The Wasai tree’s Red Roots. Great for kidney health, the root of the Wasai tree is often ground up and prescribed as a diuretic.

Indigenous people such as the Yanomamo and other groups of mixed ancestry (e.g. the mestizos of Peru or the Caboclos of Brazil) have perfected the use of chemical compounds found in plants and animals. Knowledge of using these plants is usually held by a medicine man (shaman), who passes on this tradition to an apprentice, a process which has been ongoing for centuries and that forms an integral part of people’s identity.

With rainforests going fast, the continuity of this knowledge for the benefit of future generations is under threat.

Yanomamo girl, 1997, Brazil

Untapped potential of the Amazon’s plants

Scientists believe that less than half of 1% of flowering plant species have been studied in detail for their medicinal potential. As the Amazon rainforest biome slowly shrinks in size, so does the richness of wildlife found in its forests, along with the potential use of plants and animals that remain undiscovered.

Brazil nuts: new superfood?

Read the full article here: 

http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/where_we_work/amazon/about_the_amazon/why_amazon_important/

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