As my husband John and I have watched the horror unfolding in the Brazilian Amazon forests, we shudder to think what is happening not only to all the special tropical plants, but also to the wildlife — all the birds, the insects, reptiles, animals, fish, etc. They say this ecosystem is being destroyed all for ranching and farming with little regard for the environmental impact. I believe it is also true, however, drought caused by climate change is also playing a role, so ranchers and farmers are using this opportunity to their advantage.
I’ve always been aware of the tropical forest called the Amazon which is in Latin America. Less so, however, the tropical forests in Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia, and Australia. All these tropical forests, also called rainforests, lie between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Together they cover 10% of the land above sea level, while the Amazon makes up approximately one-third of all the tropical forests. The Amazon rainforest is also considered the greatest freshwater reserve on Earth, maintaining approximately one-fifth of all the freshwater. (School Energy & Environment)
Lungs of the World
Although all plants use photosynthesis to fix carbon dioxide and create oxygen, the tropical forests do so in a much larger scale. That’s why they are so important to the survival of all life on Earth. That’s why they are often referred to as the “lungs of the World.”
Because they are such vast expanses of forests, they play a role in the Earth’s air circulation of water through evapotranspiration. Transpiration is the movement of water from the ground to the pores (stomata) in leaves to the air where it becomes vapor and evaporates into the air. In a dense canopied forest like the tropical forests, more than 80% of the water leaves the ground through transpiration. (School Energy & Environment)
They also play a huge role in reducing the greenhouse effect which is created by excessive carbon dioxide in the air. Their dense growth of vegetation and their old growth trees sequester more carbon dioxide gas than anywhere else in the world, including the northern boreal forests. According to NASA, “tropical forests absorb 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion.”
My economics-major self tells me Brazil has as much right to develop their land as any other country, but my environmentally-focused self reminds me the Amazon provides much of the carbon sequestration the rest of the world is unable or unwilling to do. This is certainly a conundrum between developed and a not-so-developed countries.
To give you some hope, read The Amazon is on fire: 5 things you need to know.
Here is a link to a really good scientific explanation of why the fires are being set Why the Amazon is burning: 4 Reasons.
Download the School Energy & Environment’s pdf on Rain Forest Biome.