Why the Amazon Rainforest is so important

The Amazon plays a major role in many of the processes that make our planet habitable Credit: Shutterstock

The Amazon rainforest is burning: Brazil has seen more than 74,000 fires this year — nearly double 2018’s total of about 40,000 fires. About 10,000 new fires started in the last couple of weeks alone, mostly lit by people clearing land for crops and grazing.

The Amazon plays a major role in many of the processes that make our planet habitable: water cycles, weather patterns, and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The rainforest is also home to more than 30 million people.

With an area of 5.5 million km2, the Amazon is the largest tropical forest on the planet. A treasure trove of biodiversity.

The Amazon basin occupies nearly 40% of South America’s landmass and is spread over nine countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and Guyana. About 60% of its surface is in Brazil.

The forest is home to an unparalleled biodiversity (10% of the worlds total). According to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) a quarter of the world’s species are present there including some 30,000 species of plants, 2,500 of fish, 1,500 of birds, 500 of mammals, 550 of reptiles and 2.5 million insects. Since 1999, more than 2,200 species of plants or animals have been discovered there.

The Amazon has earned the title of “Lungs of the planet” It contains one-third of the world’s primary forests and, thanks to the eponymous river and its tributaries, 20% of the unfrozen freshwater.

The Amazon is the most biodiverse ecosystem on land, and climate change and deforestation are putting that richness at risk.

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Written by

Cristina Hodgson

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