The largest green patch of the world- the Amazon Rainforest, known as the lungs of our planet producing more than 20% of the world’s oxygen is at greater risk of deforestation than ever before.

Scientists found that since 2001, the Amazon Rainforest has lost more than 190,000 sq. kilometers of its lush green to wildfires, illegal logging, clearing of the forest for agriculture and urbanization. The area of the lush rainforest lost is roughly the size of Washington state.

Amazon Rainforest has more than 16,000 species of trees, most are found nowhere else. More than a tenth of the world’s total diverse plants and animal species can be found here.

According to the recent report published in Nature, the fires have destroyed the natural habitats of thousands of animal and plant species, mostly of 85% of threatened species of the region in the last two decades.

The researchers mainly blame uncontrolled exploitation of the forest by humans and the weak regulations to protect the rainforest by the government of Brazil.

Amazon DeforestationImage credit: João Laet/AFP /Getty Images

The catastrophic effects of burning the Amazon forest will have a long-term impact on biodiversity and the climate.

Many kinds of trees that are found nowhere else except in the Amazon rainforest may not survive the extending drought conditions.

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“If the fire-impacted area continues to rise not only does the Amazon lose forest cover, but also some of its capacity to cope with the changing climate,” said Arie Staal, an ecologist at Utrecht University, Netherlands.

If the fires keep advancing like the last 20 years, more and more plant and animals species might face the risk of population declines like the Australian bushfires and extinction. And many species of trees haven’t evolved with the ability to survive the worsening droughts.

A team of scientists from Brazil, the Netherlands, China, and the United States analyzed the most comprehensive database of the range maps of 11,514 plant species and 3,079 vertebrate species of the Amazon.

This data was compared with the satellite images of the Amazon rainforest cover from 2001 to 2019 to show the degradation of the rainforest by the fires and logging.

The threatened species include 55 mammals, 264 kinds of plants, and 107 amphibians.

The researchers also stated that the Amazon rainforest was an essential carbon compressor that played a vital role in slowing down the pace of global warming, but now the forest is releasing carbon that was locked in the ground and trees for 1000s of years.

Immediate action to curb these devastating effects is needed in action by the government before reaching the tipping point.

Indigenous leaders are also pushing to curb Amazon deforestation.


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