The Amazon rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world, covering more than 2.5 million square miles. It’s home to 10% of all known species in the world. The Amazon rainforest’s biodiversity is so rich that scientists are still discovering new plant and animal species today.
The Amazon rainforest absorbs huge amounts of carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere, making it a key part of mitigating climate change. The vast rainforest acts as what’s known as a carbon sink. Simply put, a carbon sink is anything that absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases. But as trees in the Amazon disappear, so does the ability of the rainforest to absorb carbon dioxide.
Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest remains a major problem. According to satellite data from the Brazilian government, the number of trees cut down in the Brazilian Amazon in January far exceeded deforestation figures for the same month last year. Approximately 166 square miles of land was deforested in January alone, which is five times greater than what was lost in January, 2021.
Cattle ranching – both for beef and for leather – remains the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Trees in the Amazon are also cut down for their wood, as well as to clear the land in order to grow food crops, such as soy, sugar, and oil palm.
Many companies have pledged to achieve “net zero” deforestation in their supply chains over the years, but most have not lived up to the commitment.
Deforestation is not only a major driver of climate change, but it’s also the leading cause of species extinction. Preserving the Amazon rainforest is vital.
Photo, posted July 14, 2018, courtesy of Alexander Gerst via Flickr.