Forests, air & climate
Forest as the Earth's air purifiers
We all know about photosynthesis - the production of energy in the presence of light by chlorophyll-containing plant parts for the subsistence of the organism. Carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, is a major requirement of photosynthesis.
This suits us just fine as it means forests form an effective sink for the carbon dioxide produced as a result of animal respiration, burning of fossil fuels, volcanoes and other natural and human-induced phenomenon.
Even better, a by-product of photosynthesis is oxygen.
Thus, the Earth's forests act as the Earth's air purifiers, soaking up large amounts of carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere.
However, these vital forests are being depleted at alarming rates. The lungs of the planet are increasingly being likened to those of a heavy smoker.
Many of these forests have existed for millions of years, and over a third of the world's plant and animal species live here. In some areas more than 200 tree species have been known to exist on a single hectare of land!
Conversion of forest for agriculture, logging and forest fires are all having a serious impact on forest cover globally.
The Amazing Amazon
The Amazon’s canopy cover helps regulate temperature and humidity, and is intricately linked to regional climate patterns through hydrological cycles that depend on the forests. Given the enormous amount of carbon stored in the forests of the Amazon, there is tremendous potential to alter global climate if not properly stewarded. The Amazon contains 90-140 billion metric tons of carbon, the release of even a portion of which would accelerate global warming significantly.
Currently, land conversion and deforestation in the Amazon release up to 0.5 billion metric tons of carbon per year, not including emissions from forest fires so the Amazon is a significant factor in regulating global climate.