Context: Recently, a report released by the Amazon Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information in collaboration with MapBiomas shows that the Amazon region has lost 10% of its native vegetation in almost four decades. The forest area lost is mostly tropical rainforest and is roughly the size of Texas.
Key findings of the report:
- Widening Deforested area: From 1985 to 2021, the deforested area surged from 490,000 square kilometers to 1,250,000 square kilometers.
- Brazil accounted for 84% of all forest destruction in this period.
- Methodology: The deforestation numbers are calculated from an annual satellite monitoring.
- The satellite monitoring has been taking place in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana since 1985.
- Brazil leads with highest loss: Brazil, which holds about two-thirds of the Amazon, also leads the destruction.
- In almost four decades, 19% of Brazil’s rainforest has been destroyed.
- Almost half of Brazil’s carbon emissions come from deforestation.
- The forest destruction is mainly due to cattle ranching expansion supported by the opening of roads.
- Impact on Carbon Emissions:
- At least some 75 billion metric tons of carbon are stored across the Amazon.
- If all that carbon ended up immediately in the atmosphere, that would be about seven times global annual emissions.
About the Amazon Rainforests and Amazon basin:
- These are the world’s largest tropical rainforests occupying the drainage basin of the Amazon River and its tributaries in northern South America.
- As of 2021, the Amazon had 74% of its area covered by tropical rainforests and 9% of other natural vegetation types.
- They are home to nearly a fifth of the world’s land species and over 45 million people.
- The rainforest of the Amazon is home to 400–500 indigenous Amerindian tribes.
- It is the source of 20% of the oxygen used by the planet.
- Tropical forests are closed-canopy forests growing within 28 degrees north or south of the equator.
- They are very wet places, receiving more than 200 cm rainfall per year, either seasonally or throughout the year.
- Temperatures are uniformly high – between 20°C and 35°C.
The Amazon Basin
- The basin covers over 6 million square km, nearly twice the size of India.
- It is bounded by the Guiana Highlands to the north, the Andes Mountains to the west, the Brazilian central plateau to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
- It comprises about 40% of Brazil’s total geographical area.
- The basin produces about 20% of the world’s flow of freshwater into the oceans.
Significance of Amazon Rainforests in the basin countries:
- Source of rich biodiversity: The Amazon forests are highly biodiverse and a wide range of flora and fauna species can be found in the Amazon than in any other terrestrial ecosystem in the world.
- It is estimated to contain up to 30 percent of all species.
- Precipitation and climate control: The Amazon rainforest produces between 50 and 75 percent of the world’s precipitation through transpiration.
- Rainfall in the Western United States and Central America is influenced by moisture from the Amazon.
- The hydrological cycles that depend on the forests, the Amazon’s canopy cover plays an important role in regulating temperature and humidity and is intricately linked to regional climate patterns.
- Carbon sink potential and a natural air purifier: Massive amounts of carbon are sequestered by about 350 billion trees that make up the Amazon rainforest.
- Over 85 billion tonnes of carbon are stored in forests which is more than a third of the carbon stored by tropical forests worldwide.
- Local and regional benefits: Millions of people in the Amazon Basin depend on the services provided by the forest and activities such as logging, collection of non-timber forest products.
- Medicinal values and food security: The Amazon provides 70% of the plants that are effective against cancer cells.
- Eighty percent of the different types of food we consume worldwide have their roots in the Amazon rainforest.
Concerns and threats to Amazon forests:
- Increased global temperatures coupled with El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) have led to a significant impact on Latin American climate variability and experts predict that the rainforest will perish in just 100 years.
- Increased instances of forest fires, drought and unsustainable agriculture practices have led to massive loss of forest vegetation.
- Poaching, commercial fishing, bio-Piracy and Smuggling has led to decline in flora and fauna numbers rapidly. Many species have become extinct including Amazon River turtle “Paiche”.
- Developmental activities, industrial and mining activities in large forested areas have been responsible for at least 10% of the total deforested area.
- Clearing forests for Soy oil and Cattle ranching has led to a significant amount of vegetation loss — 1.5 acres are lost every second.
Measures taken by the world at large:
- Germany and Norway: Germany and Norway had ceased the funds to programmes that aim to prevent deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
- Both the countries had accused the Brazilian government of not taking the necessary steps to contain the forest fire.
- G7 Countries: The G7 countries have pledged to donate $20 million to aid the Amazon countries to fight the wildfire.
- These countries have also agreed to launch a long-term global initiative to protect the Amazon rainforest.
- This plan would involve the reduction of the deforestation rate and promotion of afforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
- Both France and Ireland have threatened to block the EU trade deal with Brazil and three other Latin American countries if President Bolsonaro doesn’t change his stance.
- The Brazilian president countered this threat by rejecting the G7 countries’ offer of $20 million assistance.
However, despite these political tensions, many experts believe that funding from G7 is not sufficient to solve the immediate crisis.
- If tropical forests’ potential to operate as carbon sinks is to be preserved, fossil fuel emissions must be controlled, and temperature rises must be restricted.
- Zero deforestation policy by the Brazilian government’s administration is in the spotlight, and it is being urged to implement a zero-deforestation policy to change the situation.
- Brazil was among a number of nations who promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030 during the COP26 climate summit.
- Limit greenhouse gas emission to protect the Amazon forests.
- LEAF (Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance) Coalition was announced at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate, 2021.
- Emphasis on REDD+ initiatives which are climate change mitigation options in developing countries for conservation of forest carbon stock, sustainable management of forests and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
- Create awareness among students and youths of the importance of trees to the Amazon ecosystem.
The Amazon is on the verge of functional destruction; not just the Amazon rainforests, but other Southeast Asian forests have also turned into carbon sources in the last few years as a result of formation of plantations and fires. There is an imminent need to reverse the deforestation trends and save the planet which requires active participation of all stakeholders including governments, civil society, industries and corporations in a mission mode.
Previous Year Questions
Q.1) Consider the following statements:
- The Climate Group is an international non-profit organisation that drives climate action by building large networks and runs them.
- The International Energy Agency in partnership with the Climate Group launched a global initiative “EP100”.
- EP100 brings together leading companies committed to driving innovation in energy efficiency and increasing competitiveness while delivering on emission reduction goals.
- Some Indian companies are members of EP100.
- The International Energy Agency is the Secretariat to the “Under2 Coalition”.
Which of the statements given above are correct? (2022)
- 1,2, 4 and 5
- 1,3 and 4 only
- 2,3 and 5 only
- 1,2, 3, 4 and 5
Q.2) In the context of India’s preparation for Climate-smart Agriculture, consider the following statements:
- The ‘Climate-Smart village’ approach in India is a part of a project led by climate change, Agriculture and food security (CCAFS), an international research programme.
- The project of CCAFS is carried out under Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) headquartered in France.
- The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India is one of the CGIAR’S research centres.
Which of the statements given above are correct? (2021)
- 1 and 2 only
- 2 and 3 only
- 1 and 3 only
- 1,2 and 3