“Considered the lungs of the planet, producing 20% of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere, the survival of the Amazon Rainforest is critical to the survival of us all. From the oxygen we breathe to the clean water we drink, we have long held a commitment to keep the destruction of this critically important rainforest at bay.” https://www.ran.org/the-understory/amazon-fires-how-can-you-help/
These vital, biodiverse ecosystems not only support millions of Indigenous and forest people and countless plant and animal species—they are also our most powerful natural defense against climate change.
Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research has reported a recent 84% increase in forest fires from the same period in 2018.
“The fires — and the deforestation behind them — are an immediate concern for global warming. Already, Brazil’s blazes have released 200 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere — about three times as much as all of the wildfires in California last year, according to Europe’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.
Aragao, a scientist at INPE estimates that by the end of the year, greenhouse gas emissions will be similar to those in 2009, when clearing and burning the Brazilian Amazon released about 500 million tons of CO2. That’s equivalent to roughly 1% of the world’s total emissions in a year. (If the fires spread from piles of toppled trees into intact forests, emissions could be higher, he said.) “https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2019-08-25/amazon-rainforest-fires-climate
“A rainforest is typically made up of four key layers: emergent, upper canopy, understory, and forest floor. In the top emergent layer, trees as tall as 200 feet (60 meters) grow far apart and tall, their branches reaching above the canopy. The upper canopy, a deep layer of vegetation roughly 20 feet (6 meters) thick, houses most of the rainforest’s animal species and forms a roof that blocks most light from reaching below.
Below the canopy, the understory is a low-light layer dominated by shorter plants with broad leaves, such as palms and philodendrons. On the dark forest floor, few plants are able to grow and decaying matter from the upper layers is prevalent, feeding the roots of the trees. (nat geo)
Rainforests are often partly self-watering. Plants release water into the atmosphere through a process called transpiration. The moisture helps create the thick cloud cover that hangs over most rainforests. Even when it’s not raining, these clouds keep the rainforest humid and warm.
Two countries accounted for 46 percent of the primary (meaning old-growth, undisturbed) tropical rainforest loss in 2018: Brazil, which is home to more than half the Amazon, and Indonesia, where forests are cut down to make way for producing palm oil, which can be found in everything from shampoo to saltines. In other countries, such as Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Democratic Republic of the Congo, loss rates are rising considerably. In many cases, such as logged areas, the soil damage makes it difficult for rainforests to regenerate, and the biodiversity found in them is irreplaceable.
Tropical rainforests are centers of biodiversity, holding an estimated half of the world’s plants and animals, many of which have yet to be catalogued (some scientists estimate that it’s two-thirds of the world’s plants). Rainforests produce, store, and filter water, protecting against soil erosion, floods, and drought.
Many of the plants found in rainforests are being used to make medicine, including anti-cancer drugs, along with beauty products and foods. One drug under development for treating HIV, Calanolide A, is derived from a tree discovered on Malaysian Borneo. And Brazil nut trees refuse to grow anywhere but in undisturbed sections of the Amazon rainforest. There, the trees are pollinated by bees that also visit orchids, and their seeds are spread by agoutis, small tree mammals. Rainforests are also home to endangered or protected animals such as the Sumatran rhino, orangutans, and jaguars.
Forest trees also absorb carbon, an important function needed as human-caused greenhouse gas emissions stoke climate change. Rainforest loss is a double-whammy for the climate: It contributes emissions while removing a future potential source of carbon storage. Human activity has caused tropical rainforests to emit more carbon dioxide than they absorb at this point, according to one study.” https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/rain-forests/
Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities are the most effective guardians of the world’s forests. They have lived in closest harmony with nature for generations, and growing evidence demonstrates that respect for Indigenous Peoples’ rights to land and natural resources leads to lower deforestation rates than in areas managed by the government. With their rights, forest stewardship roles, and traditional forest management systems recognized and supported, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities can play an informed and active role in managing forests sustainably. https://www.dgmglobal.org/
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Listener Galicia sent this article about the large companies that are driving the international demand for these fires and deforestation.
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