The world’s woods are being razed. And they are being knocked down at a rapid pace.

The Amazon Rainforest is a vast tropical rainforest in northern South America that covers an area of 2,300,000 square miles and is drained by the bountiful Amazon river catchment. 

The Guiana Highlands to the north, the Brazilian central plateau to the south, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and Andes Mountains to the west define this territory, shrouding around 40% of Brazil’s comprehensive surface area.

The Amazon rainforest embraces nine nations, with Brazil accounting for roughly 60% of its area. The Amazon contains half of the planet’s surviving rain rainforests, as per World Wildlife Fund. 

Fun fact- the Amazon rainforest could have been the planet’s seventh-largest country by surface area if it were a nation.

Amazonia is the globe’s central river basin, with a rainforest that runs from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Andes’ forest canopy in the west. 

From a 200-mile front along the Atlantic to a 1,200-mile dense grid where the plains intersect the Andean mountains, the forest spreads out magnificently. 

The rainforest’s vast size and persistence reflect the substantial precipitation, high relative humidity, and consistently extreme heat existing in the vicinity. 

The Amazon rainforest is the planet’s most affluent and diverse natural storehouse, with millions of creatures, vegetation, birds, and other animals, many of which are still unknown to humankind.

In the twentieth century, Brazil’s fast booming population inhabited vast portions of the Amazon Rainforest. 

As a result of people clearing terrain to extract timber and build grazing meadows and farmland, the Amazon jungle declined rapidly. 

In 1970, Brazil occupied over 60% of the Amazon basin within its territory, with forests covering 1,583,000 square miles (4,100,000 square kilometers).

According to the most recent data, Brazil’s Amazon jungle experienced its greatest yearly rate of deforestation in over 15 years, following a 22 percent increase compared to the previous year. 

According to statistics released by the country’s space research agency, the territory lost nearly 5,100 square miles of rainforest over August 2020 and July 2021, roughly the size of the state of Connecticut in the United States. 

This scale is an enormous annual loss since the Brazilian Amazon lost almost 8,800 square kilometers in 2006.

The region of Rondônia in western Brazil, which formerly had 208,000 square kilometers of woodland (approximately 51.4 million acres), is now one of the Amazon’s most destroyed locations, with an area slightly smaller than Kansas. 

The nation’s rainforests have been rapidly cut and degraded over the last three decades, with 4,200 square kilometers cleared by 1978, 30,000 by 1988, and 53,300 by 1998. 

By 2003, an estimated 67,764 square kilometers of amazon had been cleared—an area greater than West Virginia. 

According to WWF, by 2030, roughly 27 percent of the Amazon will be deforested, based on current deforestation rates.

Why is Earth’s largest rainforest being destroyed?

Amazon suffering from deforestation
Amazon suffering from deforestation | Image Credit – Matthis Volquardsen

Brazil drafted and approved its first Forest Code in 1965, requiring Amazon residents to keep 35 to 80 percent of their acreage under forest cover. 

So, while all farming communities can acquire land in the Amazon, they can only cultivate 20% of the total area. 

Laws such as the Forest Code are not applicable in most countries across the world. The Forest Code is, at its core, a strict rule designed to conserve the world’s largest rainforest.

Substantial increment in the deforestation rates in the Amazon was primarily the result of subsistence farmers chopping down forests to grow food for local consumption for most of humanity’s civilization. 

However, this started changing in the latter half of the twentieth century, with increasing deforestation caused by industrial activity and humongous agribusiness. 

By the 2000s, the Amazon had been cleared of more than three-quarters of its rainforest for livestock grazing.

As a result of this transition, Amazonian jungles were removed quicker than ever before from the late 1970s to the mid-2000s. 

Amazon dwellers cut down large swaths of forest for livestock grazing and soybean crops, built reservoirs, mined resources and villages and immigration projects intensified rapidly.

Simultaneously, the expansion of highways allowed smallholder families, illegal loggers, and property owners to colonize formerly inaccessible woodlands.

Brazil enticed thousands of its citizens to settle the Amazon five decades ago. Their timber operations, cow pens, and soy plantations lay on the outskirts of a rapidly dwindling woodland.

A brutal and unscrupulous border is now moving into tribal communities, nature reserves, and one of the most conserved regions of the Amazon, fueled by shady sources of finance and surging demand for cattle.

In Brazil, however, the trajectory began to overturn in 2004. Yearly deforestation in the nation that comprises approximately two-thirds of the Amazon’s forested land decreased by about 80% between then and the early 2010s. 

Steadily increasing law enforcement, satellite surveillance, environmental activist pressure, commercial and public sector endeavors, additional conservation areas, and macroeconomic changes contributed to the reduction. 

Nonetheless, the trend in Brazil is not shared by other Amazon territories, where deforestation has increased tremendously since 2000.

Amazon Forest Deforestation Leading to Climate Change

Construction work destroying the forests
Construction Works | Image Credit – Tom Fisk

Rainforest mortalities are an excellent illustration of a climatic tipping point, a slight disruption in the climate system that has far-reaching long-term implications for the entire world.

Thanks to frequent rain, the Amazon jungle has been alive and well for 55 million years. However, deforestation is rapidly increasing, posing a threat to the water systems that foster the forest, well, to be more specific, a rainforest.

Professor Laurance claims that the Amazon rainforest is vast enough to span three-quarters of the Australian mainland. Its sheer magnitude permits it to have a significant impact on global weather.

The dark amazon forest captures solar energy and transforms into a massive “heat and water engine.” Warm and humid air advances into the atmosphere and travels to higher latitudes until it reaches the middle latitudes. 

The Amazon is the source of much of the rain that falls in southern Brazil and South America, especially Brazil’s most populated city, São Paulo. 

If current trends persist, the Amazon will approach a critical threshold where it will no longer create enough precipitation to keep itself viable and convert into a savannah.

In 2019, a group of climate experts listed nine significant climate system tipping points, including Amazon dieback, ice sheet meltdown in Greenland and Antarctica, and the disintegration of the Gulf Stream. 

Hitting any of these boundaries would undoubtedly hasten and irrevocably aggravate the climate problem, as well as create other tipping points, resulting in a snowball effect.

Regrettably, scientists predict the Amazon is only 15 to 20 years away from hitting a critical juncture, at which point it will begin to dry out irreversibly. 

Land clearing is already approaching 40% in certain parts of the Amazon, and the climate crisis is making the rainforest warmer and harsher, ushering many trees to perish.

According to Gatti, the eastern Amazon, which is 27 percent destroyed on average, releases ten times more carbon than the western Amazon, which is 11 percent destroyed. 

We are hastening climate change by destroying the natural Amazon because we are releasing more carbon dioxide into the environment, diminishing precipitation, and rising temperatures.

Amazon is already a ticking bomb!

Amazon is A ticking bomb
Amazon is already a ticking bomb! | Image Credit – Vlad Bagacian

Anthropogenic global warming, ecosystem destruction, and wildfires are very likely to cause the world’s most remarkable rainforest to dry up. 

The question is not when, but how can we prevent the catastrophe? Distressingly, Amazon is already releasing more carbon dioxide than it is absorbing. 

The bulk of these emissions is caused by forest fires, many of which were started intentionally by people to clear land for agricultural and livestock ranching. 

Deforestation has increased dramatically in Brazil, which controls 60% of the Amazon, under President Jair Bolsonaro, who has undermined environmental regulations and fostered industrialization since accepting the position in 2019.

To Wrap Up

In the verge of losing Amazon to human-induced destruction
In the verge of losing Amazon to human-induced destruction | Image Credit – Mandy Choi

As global citizens attempt to limit climate change, protect wildlife, and provide food for billions of people, trees will undoubtedly play a key role in answering the problem. 

Despite this, the mass destruction of trees continues, and we are still abandoning the long-term advantages of forest vegetation for the sake of short-term gain.

As human influence in the Amazon increases, the destiny of this resourceful region has never been more uncertain. 

Experts warn that years of anthropogenic activities combined with a changing climate have pushed the jungle to the brink of collapse. 

The rain forest gets its name from the fact that it is a very moist region, with trees sucking in water from the ground, which then condenses in the atmosphere to form rain. 

However, biodiversity loss, wildfires, and rising global temperatures have thrown this equilibrium off the edges. 

Experts worry that the water cycle could soon be irrevocably interrupted, cementing a decades-long trend of diminishing rainfall and extended dry spells throughout the planet. At least half of the forest will be quickly replaced by grassland permanently.

Even if climate change is contained, scientists estimate that the stopping criterion would be reached at 20% to 25% deforestation, with as much as 17% of the rainforest already destroyed. If global temperatures continue to rise by 4°C as expected, much of the Amazon’s core, eastern, and southern regions would convert to desolate grassland.

We are on the verge of losing Amazon to human-induced destruction. And we might be too late to stop this domino effect leading to human extinction. 

Shradha Bhatta holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Social Work along with a Post-graduate degree in Project Management from Georgian College in Canada. Shradha enjoys writing on a variety of topics and takes pleasure in discovering new ideas. She likes traveling and spending time with nature. She is a very people-person who loves talking about climate change and alerting people to go green!