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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 25th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Why the Amazon is important

Page last updated: 14 May 2008

By BBC’s Latin America Analyst James Painter

The Amazon Paradox

080509airpollution187
The rainforests are essential for removing carbon dioxide from the air.

As concerns grow about global warming and the future of the planet, much more international attention is being paid to the Amazon region.

There are three fundamental reasons why the region is important to the rest of the world.

The Amazon and the world’s climate

It is not surprising that the Amazon region is often called the “lungs of the world,” as it plays a critical role in the global carbon cycle that helps to shape the world’s climate.

About 200 billion tonnes of carbon are locked up in tropical vegetation around the world, of which about 70 billion tonnes are estimated to be in Amazon trees.

Rapid rates of deforestation cause more carbon to be converted into carbon dioxide, either when the trees are burnt down or more slowly by the decomposition of unburned wood.

And once the forests are gone, they cannot soak up the carbon from cars, power plants and factories. At the moment the Amazon is thought to absorb about 10 per cent of global fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions.

080509forestfires187

Burning is leading to a vicious circle of carbon release

The build-up of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is one of the key causes of global warming. About 20 per cent of annual global greenhouse emissions is estimated to come from the clearing of tropical forests around the world.

According to the Stern Report on the economics of climate change, the loss of natural forests around the world contributes more to global emissions each year than the transport sector.

Brazil, for example, is ranked in the top five of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, not because of its high emissions from fossil fuels but because of deforestation.

Tipping Point

A study released in February 2008 by a team of international scientists from Oxford University, the Potsdam Institute and others concluded that the Amazon rainforest was the second most vulnerable area in the world after the Arctic.

080509meltingarctic187

The loss of the Amazon is leading to the loss of the Arctic

The essential idea is that the drying of the Amazon and/or increased deforestation could cause what is called “dieback” of the rain forest and a vicious cycle – a large reduction in the area of Amazon rainforest could cause a significant rise in CO2 emissions, which in turn would raise global temperatures – which in turn would cause more drying of the Amazon.

Scientists and climate change modellers disagree how soon a tipping point might happen or how likely it is. But however low the probability, changes to the Amazon are likely to be a “high impact” event on the world’s climate.

Biodiversity

The Amazon is the world’s largest tract of tropical rainforest, containing the Earth’s greatest biological reservoir – around 30 percent of all terrestrial species are found there.

The region is the main reason why Brazil is the most bio-diverse country in the world, with more than 50,000 described species of plants, 1,700 species of birds and between 500 and 700 different types each of amphibians, mammals and reptiles.

All this rich biodiversity is now being threatened by the destructive combination of stress from climate change and deforestation. Even though there are many unknowns about the Amazon’s future and its effect on the world’s climate, scientists agree that because of its biodiversity and the crucial role the region plays in shaping the climate, it is a matter of great urgency to find the right policy mix to conserve enough of the forest.

ws_amazon_banner4

080515mato_grosso187

Brazil is also the biggest exporter of soya beans in the world

Who should decide the fate of the Amazon rainforest? The people who live there? The Brazilian government? The international community? Or individuals all over the world?

A remote tribe in the Brazilian Amazon says illegal loggers have already cleared around 40 per cent of their land, while the government has ignored their pleas for help.

The Tembe indians say that as the authorities failed to act, some of their community also became involved in selling wood illegally, but for now this has stopped.

Now they say the authorities should recognise they too have the right to make some money from the wood that surrounds their reserve by providing a plan for sustainable development.

The BBC’s Gary Duffy has been to the state of Para in northern Brazil to meet one of the leaders of the small Tembe indian community: Listen to Gary Duffy’s report (4 mins 13 secs)

080507amazon_map_303_1

The Amazon rainforest is the largest in the world, covering approximately seven million km² (40% of South America). Much of the global carbon cycle that is crucial to the world’s ecology and climate goes through the Amazon, earning it the label “the lungs of the Earth”.

The Amazon is a rich store of biodiversity, containing around a quarter of all terrestrial species. At 6,400km, the Amazon river is the second longest in the world, and accounts for one fifth of all fresh water drained into the world’s oceans.

The Amazon basin is also home to more than 30 million people of nine nations; Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. Two-thirds of the Amazonian population are Brazilian, and more than half live in urban centres.

The Amazon by country

Explore BBC country briefings, reports, audio, and video using the interactive map.

The Brazil part of the Amazonas is a follows:

2143726_amazon_brazil

Brazilian Amazon surface area: 4,776,980 km²
Estimated deforestation: 700,000 km² since 1970
Brazil Population: 191.8 million (UN, 2007)
Forest cover: 56%

Brazil is South America’s most influential country, an economic giant and one of the world’s biggest democracies.

Brazil also contains 65% of the Amazon, yet it is estimated that 700,000km² has been lost through deforestation since 1970. This is an area larger than Afghanistan, and accounts for 80% of recent deforestation in the whole of the Amazon basin.

Despite the destruction, the Brazilian Amazon remains the largest continuous area of tropical forest in the world.

Cattle ranching accounts for around 70% of all forest loss. Soya production and illegal logging are the other main culprits. The construction of new hydroelectric dams and the building of roads across the region are also blamed for deforestation as they open access to low-cost land and attract new migrants.

Brazil is now the world’s largest exporter of soya and beef, much of it driven by growing demand from the rapidly-expanding Asian economies, particularly China.

=========================================================================================

Then please the following to the bottom of the piece

——————

One Planet: best of the Amazon Paradox

February saw 200 troops go into Para to crack down on logging

The Amazon Paradox

BBC World Service’s One Planet programme presents a special edition bringing you the very best of the Amazon Paradox.

Listen
Listen (27 mins 04 secs)

Download (mp3)
The programme includes:
An in-depth report from the heart of Para, following Operation Arc Of Fire – the major police effort to stop deforestation across three major Amazon states.
A look at how the government of Amazonas State is trying to save its forests by building up other economic institutions, including a free trade zone, industrial capacity, and thriving cultural institutions – with everything from Roger Waters to operettas about chocolate cake.
The factors putting a sustainable Amazon under sustained pressure – the people who say they do not want to log, but cannot survive if they do not; the lobbying of the agriculture ministry and land reform agency; and the sceptics calling for “broader discussion” and more food production.
An exclusive interview with the British Prince Of Wales, calling for a better integrated rural development programme which “makes forests more valuable alive than dead.”
And a look at one beef farmer successfully avoiding impacting on the forest – while at the same time still making a profit.

——————

BBC correspondents’ Amazon reports  The Amazon Paradox

080509airpollution187
The rainforests are essential for removing carbon dioxide from the air.

As concerns grow about global warming and the future of the planet, much more international attention is being paid to the Amazon region.

There are three fundamental reasons why the region is important to the rest of the world.

The Amazon and the world’s climate

It is not surprising that the Amazon region is often called the “lungs of the world,” as it plays a critical role in the global carbon cycle that helps to shape the world’s climate.

About 200 billion tonnes of carbon are locked up in tropical vegetation around the world, of which about 70 billion tonnes are estimated to be in Amazon trees.

Rapid rates of deforestation cause more carbon to be converted into carbon dioxide, either when the trees are burnt down or more slowly by the decomposition of unburned wood.

And once the forests are gone, they cannot soak up the carbon from cars, power plants and factories. At the moment the Amazon is thought to absorb about 10 per cent of global fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions.

080509forestfires187

Burning is leading to a vicious circle of carbon release

The build-up of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is one of the key causes of global warming. About 20 per cent of annual global greenhouse emissions is estimated to come from the clearing of tropical forests around the world.

According to the Stern Report on the economics of climate change, the loss of natural forests around the world contributes more to global emissions each year than the transport sector.

Brazil, for example, is ranked in the top five of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, not because of its high emissions from fossil fuels but because of deforestation.

Tipping Point

A study released in February 2008 by a team of international scientists from Oxford University, the Potsdam Institute and others concluded that the Amazon rainforest was the second most vulnerable area in the world after the Arctic.

080509meltingarctic187

The loss of the Amazon is leading to the loss of the Arctic

The essential idea is that the drying of the Amazon and/or increased deforestation could cause what is called “dieback” of the rain forest and a vicious cycle – a large reduction in the area of Amazon rainforest could cause a significant rise in CO2 emissions, which in turn would raise global temperatures – which in turn would cause more drying of the Amazon.

Scientists and climate change modellers disagree how soon a tipping point might happen or how likely it is. But however low the probability, changes to the Amazon are likely to be a “high impact” event on the world’s climate.

Biodiversity

The Amazon is the world’s largest tract of tropical rainforest, containing the Earth’s greatest biological reservoir – around 30 percent of all terrestrial species are found there.

The region is the main reason why Brazil is the most bio-diverse country in the world, with more than 50,000 described species of plants, 1,700 species of birds and between 500 and 700 different types each of amphibians, mammals and reptiles.

All this rich biodiversity is now being threatened by the destructive combination of stress from climate change and deforestation. Even though there are many unknowns about the Amazon’s future and its effect on the world’s climate, scientists agree that because of its biodiversity and the crucial role the region plays in shaping the climate, it is a matter of great urgency to find the right policy mix to conserve enough of the forest.

ws_amazon_banner4

080515mato_grosso187

Brazil is also the biggest exporter of soya beans in the world

Who should decide the fate of the Amazon rainforest? The people who live there? The Brazilian government? The international community? Or individuals all over the world?

A remote tribe in the Brazilian Amazon says illegal loggers have already cleared around 40 per cent of their land, while the government has ignored their pleas for help.

The Tembe indians say that as the authorities failed to act, some of their community also became involved in selling wood illegally, but for now this has stopped.

Now they say the authorities should recognise they too have the right to make some money from the wood that surrounds their reserve by providing a plan for sustainable development.

The BBC’s Gary Duffy has been to the state of Para in northern Brazil to meet one of the leaders of the small Tembe indian community: Listen to Gary Duffy’s report (4 mins 13 secs)

080507amazon_map_303_1

The Amazon rainforest is the largest in the world, covering approximately seven million km² (40% of South America). Much of the global carbon cycle that is crucial to the world’s ecology and climate goes through the Amazon, earning it the label “the lungs of the Earth”.

The Amazon is a rich store of biodiversity, containing around a quarter of all terrestrial species. At 6,400km, the Amazon river is the second longest in the world, and accounts for one fifth of all fresh water drained into the world’s oceans.

The Amazon basin is also home to more than 30 million people of nine nations; Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. Two-thirds of the Amazonian population are Brazilian, and more than half live in urban centres.

The Amazon by country

Explore BBC country briefings, reports, audio, and video using the interactive map.

The Brazil part of the Amazonas is a follows:

2143726_amazon_brazil

Brazilian Amazon surface area: 4,776,980 km²
Estimated deforestation: 700,000 km² since 1970
Brazil Population: 191.8 million (UN, 2007)
Forest cover: 56%

Brazil is South America’s most influential country, an economic giant and one of the world’s biggest democracies.

Brazil also contains 65% of the Amazon, yet it is estimated that 700,000km² has been lost through deforestation since 1970. This is an area larger than Afghanistan, and accounts for 80% of recent deforestation in the whole of the Amazon basin.

Despite the destruction, the Brazilian Amazon remains the largest continuous area of tropical forest in the world.

Cattle ranching accounts for around 70% of all forest loss. Soya production and illegal logging are the other main culprits. The construction of new hydroelectric dams and the building of roads across the region are also blamed for deforestation as they open access to low-cost land and attract new migrants.

Brazil is now the world’s largest exporter of soya and beef, much of it driven by growing demand from the rapidly-expanding Asian economies, particularly China.

=========================================================================================

Then please the following to the bottom of the piece

——————

One Planet: best of the Amazon Paradox

February saw 200 troops go into Para to crack down on logging

The Amazon Paradox

BBC World Service’s One Planet programme presents a special edition bringing you the very best of the Amazon Paradox.

Listen
Listen (27 mins 04 secs)

Download (mp3)
The programme includes:
An in-depth report from the heart of Para, following Operation Arc Of Fire – the major police effort to stop deforestation across three major Amazon states.
A look at how the government of Amazonas State is trying to save its forests by building up other economic institutions, including a free trade zone, industrial capacity, and thriving cultural institutions – with everything from Roger Waters to operettas about chocolate cake.
The factors putting a sustainable Amazon under sustained pressure – the people who say they do not want to log, but cannot survive if they do not; the lobbying of the agriculture ministry and land reform agency; and the sceptics calling for “broader discussion” and more food production.
An exclusive interview with the British Prince Of Wales, calling for a better integrated rural development programme which “makes forests more valuable alive than dead.”
And a look at one beef farmer successfully avoiding impacting on the forest – while at the same time still making a profit.

——————

BBC correspondents’ Amazon reports  www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/news/2…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 3rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Now, this is about forests and their inhabitans, bioresources and climate change.

amazon005.jpg

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