Overview - Causes
Case Study: Amazon Rainforest
Tropical forests are being destroyed at an ever-increasing rate. Estimates
of the extent and rate of loss vary, but it appears that nearly half of the world's
tropical forests already have been lost, and the remainder will all but disappear in the
next two to three decades. The loss is incalculable. These forests provide habitat for an
estimated half of the world's plant and animal species, provide water and fuel for much of
the world's population, and influence regional and global climate. Commercial logging,
clearance for agriculture, ranching, and fuel gathering are all responsible for the
destruction. Solutions include the development of alternative fuelwood supplies through
fuelwood plantations, the regulation of logging, and a consensus as to the value of forest
conservation over commercial development.
rainforest of the Amazon Basin is the largest area of tropical rainforest in the world. If
you look at the map to your right, you will realise that it is owned by many countries.
Different countries exploit the forest for different uses and we shall go into these
One of the major
purposes for the clearing of the forest is for housing. These happens in countries where
the population is growing rapidly, e.g. Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. In addition, more
houses are built in deforested areas to resettle people from crowded and heavily urbanised
and densely populated cities in Brazil such as Rio De Janerio and Sao Paulo. The picture
on your right is Manaus in Brazil and it shows forest land being cleared for housing.
Extensive areas of
the tropical rainforest have been cleared to grow pasture for cattle rearing and to
cultivate crops for subsistence and commercial agriculture.
Cattle ranching is
an important source of farming activity in many Amazonian countries like Brazil, Colombia
and Peru just to name a few. The export to beef to developed countries such as USA, Canada
and Japan is extremely profitable and brings in valuable revenue to poor South American
countries. As a result, the Amazonian governments encourage cattle ranching by offering
financial aid and tax rebates to cattle ranchers. This has resulted in extensive areas of
the tropical rainforest being burnt and cut down so that grass and pasture can be grown
Bolivia, Surinam and French Guiana, shifting cultivators clear the the rainforest to grow
crops like maize and potatoes to feed their families.
In Brazil, peasants
are given plots of land to clear for subsistence farming. The government hopes that they
will grow food and become self sufficient.
rainforest has also been cleared in Ecuador, Peru and Brazil for plantation agriculture.
Crops such as sugar cane, bananas and coffee are grown for sale.
The building of
roads and the 3300 km east - west Transamazonia Highway have resulted in the extensive
deforestation of the Brazilian part of the Amazon rainforest. The building of the highway
has also made much of the interior of the tropical rainforest of the Amazon Basin more
accessible to people. As a result, more areas of the rainforest have been cleared and
developed for other land uses.
The tropical rainforest of
the Amazon Basin offers many valuable natural resources such as timber, mineral ores and
oil. Extensive deforestation has resulted when these natural resources are extracted.
The rising demand in Japan,
Germany, France, Italy and the USA and Canada for hardwoods has contributed to the
extensive damage. In addition, the use of modern, efficient equipment such as chain-saws,
bulldozers, trucks and tractors means that large areas of rainforest can be cleared
rapidly in a fairly short time.
There are large deposits of
gold, bauxite,, iron ore, tin ore and diamonds in the Amazon Basin. In order to extract
these minerals, large areas of the forest have been cleared. For instance, about one-sixth of Brazil's
tropical rainforest (900,000 km▓) has been leared to mine the high quality iron ore found
Oil is being
extracted from the Ecuador's tropical rainforest. More then 10,000 km▓ of the tropical
rainforest have been cleared for this purpose as well as to build roads and refiniries for
processing the crude oil.
South America and the Amazon
Basin and rainforest
Manaus is Brazil being
deforested to build houses.
Coffee Beans being dried and
collected in Brazil
Cattle Ranching in the Lower
The Transamazonian Highway
Mineral Ore being extracted
from the Amazon