But as forests burn and global warming worsens, the impact of Amazon deforestation continues to gradually undo the fragile ecological processes that have been refined over millions of years.
Ironically, as rainforest continues to disappear, scientific work from the last two decades has shed light on the critical ties that link the health of rainforests to the rest of the world.
Filtering and reprocessing the world’s harmful carbon dioxide output
Trees have hidden attributes that play a key role in reducing pollutant levels. Take carbon dioxide
) for example, a gas emitted from both natural and human sources. Over the last 150 years, humans have been pumping massive amounts of CO2
into the air by burning fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas - this is a major driver for global climate change.
Carbon dioxide in, oxygen out
Under natural conditions, plants remove CO2
from the atmosphere and absorb it for photosynthesis
, an energy-creating process that yields:
- Oxygen, which is released back into the air
- Carbon, which allows the plant to grow.
So, without tropical rainforests the greenhouse effect would likely be even more pronounced, and climate change may possibly get even worse in the future.1
Amazon rainforests and carbon dioxide
What forests take from the air, they can also give back. When forests burn, tree carbon matter is released in the form of CO2
, which pollutes the atmosphere, and of which there are already excessive quantities.
Where rainforest and savanna once stood, pastures for cattle-ranching are now appearing. Pastures teem with termites and cattle, whose metabolic activities also release CO2
, although their contribution to atmospheric pollution is under much debate.
With the forests gone, CO2
is no longer transformed through photosynthesis, and the crops that replace forests only absorb a fraction of CO2
compared to rainforests. Along with industrial pollution, rampant deforestation in South America and elsewhere has significantly increased the amount of CO2
in the atmosphere.2
Find out more about the link between 'savannization', carbon dioxide and Amazon rainforests