The Amazon rainforest is a big chapter of any book talking about the environment and flora and fauna, and its often the scene of many fictional stories made into popular and action packed movies. But the Amazon rainforest holds a high place in Earth’s geography not just because of its scenic landscape or its intriguing vastness. For centuries, the Amazon rainforest, spanning an area of approximately 6 million square meters and holding 40% of the area of Brazil, has been regarded as the holy grail for biologists and environmentalists, and deservingly so.
But why is the Amazon rainforest so essential to our understanding of the world and the environment around us?
Table of Contents
- The Amazon rainforest is the world’s most biologically diverse area
- The plant life in the Amazon rainforest help stabilize global climate
- The wildlife in the Amazon rainforest has helped us make significant advances in medicine
- The Amazon rainforest is a home to several uncontacted indigenous tribes
- Several edible fruits and vegetables grow in the Amazon rainforest
- So…do you understand how important Amazon is for the life on this planet now?
First of all: do you know where Amazon really is?
I was quite surprised by opening Google Maps and typing in “Amazon Rainforest”. For some reason, I had an idea that it was located south in South America.
But it’s not.
As you can see on my beautiful screenshot below, the rainforest is located in the Northern part of Brazil. In addition to that, parts of it can be found in countries like Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela:
The Amazon rainforest is the world’s most biologically diverse area
A consensus held by all biologists is that the Amazon rainforest is home to the world’s most diverse collection of species of both plants and animals. It is estimated that there are several species still undiscovered by humans living in the Amazon rainforest.
Right now, the Amazon rainforest is home to 10% of all major known species on Earth. It contains over 2.5 million insect species, as well as 205 bird species, and over 40 thousand different species of plants.
“I know the Amazon is huge, but how big is it really?”
In order to answer this question, I made a table containing a list of the biggest rainforests in the world:
|Name||Square kilometer (km2)||Main country|
|Valdivian Temperate Rainforest||248,100||Chile|
|Southeast Asian Rainforest||2500||Indonesia|
As you can see, the Amazon is bigger than all the other on the list – combined.
The plant life in the Amazon rainforest help stabilize global climate
The amount of plant life currently in the Amazon rainforest amounts to approximately 1.4 billion acres of dense forest plants, and is home to over 40 thousand plant species. It is estimated that the forest contains 90 to 140 billions metric tons of carbon, which, due to the process of photosynthesis, significantly contributes to balancing the levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen.
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Deforestation by human settlers is quickly threatening to tip these scales.
Video: How Deforestation in the Amazon Contributes to Climate Change
This video is quite informative (and short). If you want to know exactly how the Amazon helps us from preventing global warming, I would spend 1 minute and 30 seconds on watching this:
The wildlife in the Amazon rainforest has helped us make significant advances in medicine
The greenery in the Amazon rainforest has long been studied by scientists and doctors for their medical benefits. Even after hundreds of years of such studies, it’s estimated that only 1% of this plant life has been studied for its medical benefits.
In other words: there’s a significant chance that plants in the Amazon are the solution to cure diseases that it currently doesn’t exist any medicine against.
The Amazon rainforest holds a huge potential for medical and scientific advancements, and these potentials are also threatened by deforestation.
The AIDS medicine that almost got lost
In 2005, scientists discovered that one specific rainforest plant could be used to prevent HIV from developing into the deadly virus AIDS. This was a major breakthrough in modern medicine. However, the plant had almost been wiped out because of heavy deforestation in the area.
If we had not found that specific drug at that time, making HIV medicine these days would have been so much harder. This is just one of many examples to prove that preservation of rainforest plants is key in order to develop the medicines that we need. If this story made you interested, you can read more by clicking here (external link).
The Amazon rainforest is a home to several uncontacted indigenous tribes
It’s not the habit of human settlers to respect the boundaries of indigenous tribes, however, to this day, it’s estimated that there could be more than 50 uncontacted tribes living within the Amazon rainforest!
These tribes and others that we have already been in contact with are mostly peaceful and thriving without harming the environment around them. They also are mostly unexposed to our diseases, as we are to theirs, so it could be very dangerous for us to come in direct contact with them – and vice versa.
Additionally, there are about 170 languages spoken by the native Amazonians, and these languages can easily be lost with the increasing involvement of outsiders in the forests. These tribes, languages, and cultures represent an important part of human identity and they must be conserved and respected.
How are these tribes threatened by “civilization”?
As you might already know, a lot of crime is happening in and around the Amazon rainforest. After all, forests have always been a great place to hide if you do criminal activity. In 2019, The Guardian published a story on how illegal loggers and drug traffickers are interfering with the lives of the Awà tribe in order to “re-capture their territory“.
It became quite clear that members of the Awà tribe are feeling threatened by other people. According to the article, they even teach their children not to cry in order to keep total silence in dangerous situations.
This is a video that was taken by some of the members of the tribe:
To be fair, the guy in the footage looks quite suspicious…for good reasons. 🙂
Several edible fruits and vegetables grow in the Amazon rainforest
In our efforts to combat climate change, we must encourage the consumption of naturally growing crops that don’t depend on a harsh cycle of industry-scale farming. In the Amazon rainforest, an estimated 3000 different fruits, which are safe to consume, grow annually.
Deforestation is threatening to deplete this valuable supply that is depended on by locals and indigenous people.
“Forget about the fruit, let’s build cattle farms!”
Fruit isn’t the only food that can be found in the Amazon. Over the last years, more and more fast food chains have started to import their meat from South America. The problem with that is quite clear. Local farmers are unable to meet the huge demand from Asia, Europe and North America. In order to increase their production, they need to use more land. The kettle industry is actually one of the most land-intensive industries in the world.
And where can they find untouched land for their kettle farms? In the Amazon.
If you want to know more about how big of an impact the meat industry has on our environment, I would really recommend to read this article.
So…do you understand how important Amazon is for the life on this planet now?
The Amazon rainforest is a large and packed landscape with so many interesting natural occurrences and phenomena, much larger than what can be packed into a few points. But the most important thing to be aware of is the necessity of protecting this precious display of Earth’s environment.
Over the past years, experts have witnessed the dangers surrounding the preservation of the Amazon rainforest. Several droughts have severely affected the greenery in the area, and many species have been displaced by deforestation. Like all areas of the world, the Amazon rainforest is very vulnerable to climate change, and every day the threat is becoming more and more real. However, hope still remains as the governments of surrounding countries as well as the community of scientists, environmentalists, and biologists work hard to make sure rates of deforestation are slowed down and preservation efforts for the forests are taken seriously.