Monday, September 10, 2007

Amazon Rainforest may go extinct by 2080 if deforestation keeps on

Climate Ark, via Itar-Tass: The Amazon Rainforest may go extinct by 2080 if the deforestation rates do not change, Brazilian environmentalist Philip Martin Fernside said. In his words, Brazil is one of the countries most affected by the global warming, and it must become a leader in the campaign against deforestation.

The country is already taking measures to contain the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest. Environment Minister Marina Silva said in late August that they will reduce the deforestation to 9,600 square kilometers from August 2007 through July 2008 as against 14,000 square kilometers in August 2006 – July 2007.

The problem has not been resolved, mostly through the lack of funds. In the opinion of another expert, Paolo Mautino, the spending of developing countries on conversation of forests should be compensated. The Cabinet of President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva is promoting this idea. In the opinion of the expert, all countries should take an interest in the conversation of the Amazon Rainforest, as the deforestation has a negative effect on the entire climate and enhances the greenhouse effect.

The Amazon Rainforest, also known as Amazonia or the Amazon Basin, encompasses seven million square kilometers (1.2 billion acres), though the forest itself occupies some 5.5 million square kilometers, located within nine nations: Brazil (with 60 percent of the rainforest), Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. States or departments in four nations bear the name Amazonas after it. The Amazon represents over half of the planet's remaining rainforests and comprises the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest in the world.

The main sources of deforestation in the Amazon are human settlement and development of the land. Between 1991 and 2000, the total area of forest lost in the Amazon rose from 415,000 to 587,000 km, an area twice the size of Portugal, with most of the lost forest becoming pasture for cattle.

Prior to the early 1960’s, access to the Amazon was incredibly restricted and aside from partial clearing along rivers the forest remained basically intact. The key point in deforestation of the Amazon was when the colonists established farms within the forest during the 1600s. Their farming system was based on crop cultivation and the slash and burn method. The colonists were unable to successfully manage their fields and the crops due to the loss of soil fertility and weed invasion. The soils in the Amazon are productive for just a short period of time, and the farmers are therefore constantly moving and clearing more and more land. Amazonian colonization was ruled by cattle raising because ranching required little labor, generated decent profits, and awarded social status in the community. However the results of the farming lead to extensive deforestation and caused extensive environmental damage. An estimated 30% of the deforestation is due to small farmers and the intensity within the area that they inhabit is greater than the area occupied by the medium and large ranchers who possess 89% of the Legal Amazon’s private land. This emphasizes the importance of using previously cleared land for agricultural use, rather the typical easiest political path of distributing still-forested areas.

The annual rate of deforestation in the Amazon region has continued to increase from 1990 to 2003 because of factors at local, national, and international levels. In 1996, the Amazon was reported to have shown a 34% increase in deforestation since 1992. The mean annual deforestation rate from 2000 to 2005 (22,392 km per year) was 18% higher than in the previous five years (19,018 km per year). According to INPE (the National Institute of Space Research), the original Amazon rainforest biome in Brazil of 4,100,000 km was reduced to 3,403,000 km by 2005 – representing a loss of 17.1%.

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