The Amazon Rainforest is a large, tropical region that extends across eight countries. These countries are Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and overseas French territory of Guiana. According to Alina Bradford, in her online article about deforestation, the rainforest is over 1.4 billion acres of dense forest, which is half of the remaining tropical forests on the planet. There are also over four thousand miles of river in the Amazon. Deforestation can be defined as the permanent destruction of forests in order to make the land available for other uses (Bradford). In his National Geographic article, Scott Wallace stated that within the past forty years, nearly twenty percent of the Amazon Rainforest has been cut down. Unfortunately, it is estimated that within the next twenty years, another twenty percent will be lost. This will start to destroy the ecology in the rainforest, causing more trees, plants, and animals to die (Wallace). The main issue arises with the fact that ten percent of Earth’s plant and animal species reside in the Amazon. Deforestation effects the lives of all of these species. Although deforestation has some positive effects, especially on the economy with lumber and medical purposes, the negatives outweigh the benefits. Many species of animals become endangered or go extinct every year, and deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest is the leading reason for this.
There are many motives for deforestation. The first reason is illegal logging. This mostly occurs in the Brazilian section of the Amazon, and farmers tend to remove the most valuable timber from areas that they have occupied illegally. It is estimated that sixty to eighty percent of all logging in the Brazilian region of the Amazon Rainforest is illegal. This is a discouraging statistic because it shows that there is poor enforcement of laws in these areas. This illegal logging could be decreased significantly if there was increased law enforcement in these areas. According to Greenpeace.org, “The United States is the largest importer of Brazilian timber, and U.S. companies have a huge responsibility in squashing illegal logging” (“Amazon Rainforest”). The United States has the opportunity to drastically reduce illegal deforestation by finding different providers for timber. The second main reason why deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest occurs is to clear space for cattle. With Brazil being the world’s largest beef exporter, clearing rainforest for cattle farming mostly occurs in this country. This industry is responsible for approximately eighty percent of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon (“Amazon Rainforest”).
Although rare, deforestation can also occur naturally, through fires. Fires can potentially be beneficial to forests, because they restore nutrients to the soil and allow for new life to grow, but they can be problematic when they occur in the wrong places and at the wrong severity. People use fires to clear land for agriculture, but they can open up the forests to invasive species, threaten biological diversity and wildlife, and alter water cycles (“Deforestation”). It is extremely difficult to keep fires contained to a certain area, and often times they spread further than expected, killing many animals and plants in the process.
A final cause of deforestation is for mining. Miners clear out large plots of land in order to collect minerals. Many products made today come from the minerals collected from the Amazon. Many miners claim to “reforest” areas in which they have previously mined, but this is difficult to do because mining tends to contaminate the soil and water. In addition, when miners dump their chemicals, they usually end up in rivers, leading to water contamination and the death of the fish. Not only is this harmful to the fish, but it also eliminates the food supply of the native people who live in the Amazon (“Threats Facing the Amazon Rainforest”). These are the main causes and reasons for deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest, and they all have detrimental effects on the wildlife.
Deforestation is harmful to the lives of wildlife in the rainforest for many reasons. The first is because deforestation destroys the habitats of these animals. In some cases, deforestation causes the habitats to be fragmented. This makes it harder for species to survive, because they are now in much smaller groups. On the other hand, the habitats are totally wiped out, leaving the animals with nowhere to live. Not only does this immediately kill off some of the population in that area, but it also messes up the food chain in the area. Plants are always at the bottom of the food chain, and when the trees and shrubbery are removed, the animals that would usually eat that vegetation are left with nothing to eat. This sends a huge ripple effect throughout the whole food chain, and eventually all of the animals die off due to a lack of food. When this is done on a massive scale, it is not hard to believe that over twenty-six species have gone extinct in the Amazon Rainforest, solely due to deforestation. The next trigger to why animals are effected by deforestation is through shelter and temperature. The trees provide shelter from the various elements, and they keep the temperature towards the ground cooler and more stable by blocking sunlight. When these trees are removed, the temperature rises, and the animals are more exposed to the harsh weather. This makes the environment unsuitable for the animals, eventually causing their deaths. The third main reason for why deforestation effects animal populations in the Amazon is because of greenhouse gases. The main function of trees is to absorb carbon dioxide from the air, and convert it into oxygen. When the trees are removed, air quality suffers drastically (“Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest: Impact on Animals”). The majority of species in the Amazon Rainforest are unable to adapt quickly to different living conditions, which is why many of them become endangered. With over 2600 endangered animal species in the Amazon Rainforest alone, deforestation is clearly a major issue that needs to be fixed.
Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest has caused 644 species to become extremely endangered. Three endangered species, randomly chosen, are the Black Spider Monkey, the Poison Dart Frog, and the Golden Lion Tamarin Monkey. The Black Spider Monkey is one of the seven species of spider monkeys found in South America, and one of the largest primate species in this area as well. This species has an estimated lifespan of thirty-three years. Black Spider Monkeys are extremely important to the Amazon Rainforest because they play a huge role in seed dispersal. Their seed dispersal allows the forest to continue to grow and thrive. This species prefers to live in older, full grown forests, which makes them vulnerable to and affected by forest fragmentation. They are unable to adapt quickly to new habitats which leads them to die off quickly if their habitat is destroyed (“Deforestation”). The main source of food for these monkeys are the fruits that grow on the trees. So, when the trees are removed, these monkeys not only lose their habitat, but they also lose their food source. It is difficult and takes a long time for the population of spider monkeys to be rebuilt because each mother usually only gives birth to one monkey every four years. This is why deforestation is extremely detrimental to the Black Spider Monkey.
The Poison Dart Frog is characterized by its brightly colored skin. The color is meant to warn predators that the frog is dangerous to eat. The skin of the dart frog secretes a strong poison that can paralyze and sometimes kill predators. Most frog species do not have such bright coloring, so they are able to camouflage easily. Unfortunately, the poison dart frog doesn’t have that ability, so having a lot of vegetation to hide in is necessary for the dart frog. The main threats to the Poison Dart Frog are climate change and loss of habitat. The removal of trees in the rainforest causes temperature to rise and causes the ground to become dryer. The frogs cannot handle higher temperatures, and they need a moist habitat to survive. This causes the dart frog to die. There are over 175 species of Poison Dart Frogs, but the most endangered species is the Golden Poison Dart Frog. There are only around a thousand of these golden frogs left in the wild (“Deforestation”). This is a disheartening number, and more work has to be done to prevent extinction and to build the population back up.
Lastly, the Golden Lion Tamarin Monkey is critically endangered, with a population of only one thousand left in the wild. This species of monkey gets its name from its hair, which looks like the mane of a lion. These monkeys live in the trees, and feed on insects, fruit, lizards, and birds. At night, they sleep in hollows in the trees (“Golden Lion Tamarins, Golden Lion Tamarin Pictures, Golden Lion Tamarin Facts – National Geographic”). It is obvious how deforestation leads to the depletion of this species. These monkeys immediately lose their homes when the trees are knocked down. In addition, their food source disappears, because the food they eat lives in or comes from trees as well. Clearly deforestation is affecting the lives and populations of many different species, which is why it has to be addressed and controlled.
There are many possible ways to prevent deforestation and the death of animals. Reforestation is the first thing people can do to replenish forests and rebuild habitats for the animals. Reforestation is basically just a massive replanting effort to add more trees and vegetation to the rainforests. The benefits of reforestation include restoring water cycles and carbon storage, reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and rebuilding habitats (Bradford: “Deforestation: Facts, Causes & Effects). Unfortunately, reforestation alone doesn’t counteract the negative effects of deforestation. There are many other ways that people can help deal with and prevent this issue. The biggest and most obvious way to prevent deforestation is to stop illegal logging. According to Greenpeace, an organization focused on animal and wildlife conservation, “Governments need to create and enforce laws that force companies to examine their supply chains and reduce the demand for illegally sourced products. In the U.S., the Lacey Amendment gives the government authority to prosecute importers of illegally sourced wood” (“Amazon Rainforest”). This amendment was passed in 1900, and was the first law at the federal level that was meant to protect wildlife. The next way to help prevent deforestation is to fund forest conservation. Donating to forest conservation provides countries the money to protect their rainforest. They’ll use this money to enforce laws and hire manpower to stop illegal loggers. Another possibility for preventing deforestation is promoting sustainable bioenergy. The World Wildlife Fund stated,
Humans have used forests for fuel for thousands of years, and 2.6 billion people today still use biomass – mainly wood and charcoal – for cooking. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) works to promote bioenergy from scrap wood, oil and fats, sugar and starch crops, residues and wastes, and even algae to reduce reliance on forests and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. (“Deforestation”)
This quote proves that there are alternative sources for cooking, so biomass is not necessary. There are so many ways to address and fix the issue of deforestation, it’s just a matter of when people will realize that they need to start preserving the Amazon Rainforest.
The Amazon Rainforest is a major life force for the entire planet, and it is home to over ten million different species of plants, animals, and insects. New species are discovered constantly, approximately three every day. Deforestation leads to the endangerment or extinction of many of these species, and this needs to be addressed. The Amazon Rainforest is deemed “the lungs of the planet” due to the large amount of oxygen the rainforest produces. This is the largest issue, because the rainforest keeps greenhouse emissions low and keeps the carbon levels in the atmosphere to a minimum. If the forest is destroyed, air quality suffers tremendously for the earth as a whole. These are the reasons why deforestation needs to be addressed and stopped.