our disappearing rainforests are we ready to say good-bye?
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- Our Disappearing Rainforests Are we ready to say Good-bye?
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- Tropical rainforests are rich with beauty and their pristine landscapes are like no other; they are a realm of their own. Most of the rainforests are located near the equator; and their location plays an important role. In an average year, the land and sea receive more direct sunlight than those places further away. As the sun warms the land and sea, the water begins to evaporate into the air. This causes the air to become warm and rise. As the warm air rises, it cools, and condensation takes place producing water droplets; the air change forms clouds and thus rain is produced. Up to thirty percent of the rain that falls in tropical forests is water that the rainforest has recycled into the atmosphere. (Lindsey) In the beginning, scientists estimated that 14% of the earth was covered in forested land. Today, that total has decreased by half. Deforestation of this land is the cause.
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- Where is it occurring? What is the cause?What are the effects?What is being done to prevent it? Deforestation
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- Rio De Janeiro, Brazil Yearly, more than 15 million hectares of tropical rainforests are destroyed. (2.47 acres = 1 Hectare) This equates to 37.5 million acres of land. The economic global markets are invading these forests in search of the abundant resources they offer. Resources such as: fruit, nuts, soy beans, coffee beans, timber, spices, medicines, natural oils and resins can all be found in these rainforests. Additionally, land is being cleared for logging, both legal and illegal; construction of buildings, roads, and agricultural businesses clearing the land for planting crops or grazing cattle. Experts estimate, that if the rate of deforestation continues as it is, rainforests could be gone within 100 years. Photo provided by Wikipedia Commons, Taken by Alex Rio Brazil, May 20, 2009 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DEFORASTATION_RAIN_FOREST_RIO_DE_JANEIRO_BRAZIL.JPG
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- The Amazon, Brazil The Amazon rainforest is the largest in the world and covers nearly 70 percent of Brazil. The rainforest produces about 20 percent of the Earth's oxygen and plays a big role in controlling the climate of the entire planet. The Amazon also is home to more species of plants and animals than any other ecosystem on Earth, 30 percent of the world's total. (Hitchins) Photo provided by Wonderfulinfo.com
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- While deforestation is common to the tropical forests throughout the world, the rate at which it is occurring in the Amazon is shocking. During the past 40 years, close to 20 percent of the Amazon rain forest has been cut downmore than in all the previous 450 years since European colonization began. (Wallace) Environmental Scientists speculate the percentage could actually be higher. These statistics do not account for the illegal and selective logging that is happening as well. In the Amazon, the biggest cause of deforestation is the industrial size cattle ranching and soybean production. Currently, Brazil is one of the biggest beef exporters in the world and the second largest producer behind the United States. As the worlds population continues to increase, so too does the demand for beef. The Brazilian Beef Industry reports that the export rate has increased by as much as 227%; and if not controlled, will further exacerbate the problem of deforestation. Furthermore, The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture has set a goal to double the country's beef export over the next decade. (Science Daily) Meat consumption is projected to increase to 80% by 2050.
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- Causes of Deforestation in the Amazon Cattle ranches 65-70% Small-scale, subsistence agriculture 20-25% Large-scale, commercial agriculture 5-10% Logging, legal and illegal 2-3% Fires, mining, urbanization, road construction, dams 1-2% Selective logging and fires that burn under the forest canopy commonly result in forest degradation, not deforestation. Therefore these factor less in overall deforestation figures. Figures and graph provided by Rhett Butler/Mongabay.com
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- In addition, land being cleared for soybean production has also doubled over the past decade. This prodigious expansion is also driven largely by global demand. The worlds consumption of soybeans and soybean products rose by 52 percent. Reasons for this are; the appealing export prices, agricultural financing both private and public is plentiful, and the massive swaths of fairly inexpensive land have all contributed to the extensive growth in commercial soybean farming across Brazil. Unless the Brazilian government cracks down and restricts the allowable cultivation of land and increases the federally protected areas of the Amazon, further expansion will continue and further deplete the rainforest. Photo provided by Wikipedia Commons. Taken by Marcelo R. Zak, August 15, 2006 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Soy_forest.jpg
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- Deforestation of the tropical forests is having catastrophic effects on the world. Deforestation causes several problems including: Land degradation, climate change and loss of biodiversity, and the lives of the indigenous people are all affected. Land degradation causes the most severe and permanent damage to the soil. After forested land is cleared, farmers and agri-businesses use a method of cultivating known as the Slash-and-Burn. Forest floor cover and remaining roots of plants and trees are burned to further clear the area; making room for future planting of pastures for cattle and soybean crops. Although the soils of tropical regions are thought to be rich and full of nutrients, it is actually the opposite. Soils from these regions are actually nutrient poor. Most of the nutrients are found in the plants themselves. Thus, when the trees are cut down, the nutrient poor soil only allows for 1-3 years of agriculture cropping and then the land is no longer viable. Farmers and businesses move from the area and the land is left dry and barren. This in turn, provides a greater opportunity for soil erosion and wildfires to come in and destroy more of the forests.
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- Clear cutting of the Amazon. Photo provided by Rhett Butler http://travel.mongabay.com/pix/peru/aerial-rainforest- Flight_1022_1554.html Slash and Burn method of forested land. Photo provided by Google Images/Slash and Burn http://gardenofeaden.blogspot.com/2009/10/what-is-slash-and- burn-farming-and-how.html Land Degradation in Haiti Photo taken by NASA, September 25, 2002 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Haiti_deforestation.jpg
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- Climate change and loss of biodiversity is also affected; and the link between them has long been established. Throughout Earths history, climate change has always occurred; altering slowly over time with our ecosystems and species coming and going. It is the rapid climate change that has detrimental effects on the ecosystems and species ability to adapt and so biodiversity loss increases. As trees are cleared, animals are forced to leave their homes unprotected and even if new habitat is found, sometimes the change alone is enough to kill them. The costs associated with deteriorating or vanishing ecosystems will be high. When trees and plants are destroyed carbon is released into the atmosphere. Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas which gets trapped in the atmosphere, warms up the earth and changes many things in many places. Trees absorb carbon dioxide in the air and then release oxygen back out to keep the atmosphere balanced. Additionally, less trees means less oxygen for humans and animals that rely on oxygen for survival. It has been shown that deforestation is directly linked to the global warming the earth is experiencing. Global warming is causing more frequent extreme weather events, changing patterns of rainfall and drought which will have significant impacts on biodiversity.
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- This diversity of rainforests is not a haphazard event, but is the result of a series of unique circumstances. (Butler) The Amazon Basin is a natural habitat to many types of animals and organisms; it is often referred to as the lungs of the earth. Photo provided by Wikipedia Commons, Taken by Worldwide Happy Media, 2011
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- Photo provided by Alex Webb http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/last-of-amazon/#page=2 Balancing our economic and population growth with preservation of all the rainforests, particularly the Amazon Basin, is a difficult task. The Brazilian government says the situation is improving; however, more work still needs to be done to protect the land. So far, laws and moratoriums have been passed to help try to lessen the amount of forest that is legally allowed to be cleared. Increased protection by federal police; cracking down on illegal activities in the Amazon and abroad. Conservation groups are helping with more public awareness of the issues at hand. On the other hand, critics say there aren't enough agents on the ground and that more land needs to be put under federal protection. (Butler)
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- According to Daniel Nepstad, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center and the study's lead author, "market forces and Brazil's political will are converging in an unprecedented opportunity to end deforestation in the Brazilian. (Science Daily) Today, we stand at a crossing point; although the damage to the Amazon is huge, there is still time for us to take action. Saving the rainforest will require a joint effort from all parties. Cooperation, dedication, and community involvement is a must from government and business industries, both global and local, along with efforts to lessen the poverty of the local indigenous people. Their poverty helps fuel the drive for the destruction. The secret is finding a solution that will turn rainforests into economically valuable national resource for countries that actually maintain and preserve them rather than destroy them. Perhaps financial incentives could be given to countries like Brazil to keep their rainforests intact, alive and healthy. Advocate green consumerism by buying recycled products, or boycotting companies that support or operate businesses that come from the rainforests.
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- Postman butterfly, Heliconius erato or melpomene (blue form) Lettered Araari (Pteroglossus inscriptus) Jaguar emerging from the Pantanal. Solitary Golden Black Howler Monkey (female) Photos provided by Rhett A. Butler at Mongobay http://mongobay.com/brazil/images.html
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- All photos were provided by various sources at Google Images/Indigenous people of the rainforest
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- Inspiring such solutions is perhaps the most important first step toward ending the destruction of Earths forests and increasing public awareness is crucial. Until more people know about the threats to our tropical forests, and the consequences of such destruction, the trees will continue to fall.
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