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How Important is the Amazon Rainforest?

Forest brush on fire
(Image: Getty Images)

Natural disasters can be incredibly dangerous to nearby populations, but some could even impact the entire planet. Some of Earth’s natural resources are so massive that they not only serve vital functions but have a global impact as well as the Amazon rainforest in South America. How important is the Amazon rainforest? 

In the past few weeks, the Amazon has been experiencing some  pretty intense bouts of fire. While fire is a natural part of any forest system, this year's extent of wildfires has scientists and conservationists concerned. Over 74,000 Amazon fires have been observed from space this year already with more expected before the year ends. 

As governments in these regions continue to deregulate environmental services that ultimately encourage deforestation, these areas further continue to become more fire-friendly with farmers using fire to clear the land along with cutting down wood becoming more fuel for spreading fires. One estimate puts 80% of the Amazon's deforestation on facilitating more cattle ranches to feed the growing planet’s worth of beef eaters. 

How much deforestation is happening in the Amazon though? In 2018 it’s estimated that about three football fields worth of trees were cut down every single minute. While deforestation used to be even worse, this is still cause for concern. 

This recent spreading of fires has gotten global attention and rightly so since the Amazon rainforest is of global importance. For starters, The Amazon is home to millions of species - about 10% of the world's biodiversity. As the world's largest tropical rainforest, it also  traps a lot of carbon from our atmosphere and many other globally important ecosystem functions. 

These fires will continue until it is naturally extinguished or controlled by human intervention. Regardless, this will take centuries of work to attempt to recover from. Once the fires have stopped, then scientists can begin to see how this potentially impacted the millions of species of plants and animals that live there, many of which have threatened or endangered status. 

Environmentalists around the world agree that extreme events like these further reinforce the values of long term planning and protection of global environmental resources. While these fires are thousands of miles away, they serve as a great reminder of why we must protect the Earth as one giant system. After all, it’s all  connected

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