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Transformation Of A Rainforest Into Grassland: Welcome To The New Age Amazon

Fires, Deforestation, and Drought, the splendour of the Amazon rainforest is under a vicious threat. New research has warned that a significant part of the Amazon rainforest could be on the edge of turning from a closed-canopy rainforest to open grassland.

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“Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.” – E. O. WILSON 

With the increasing consumption of plant resources because of human greed, people are not realizing its negative impact caused on the biodiversity of Earth.
The Scientific Journal Nature Communications published a study about the transition of 40% of the Amazon Rainforest – which is considered as the hotspot of biodiversity in the world – into Savannah in the upcoming years.

What do you think the causes can be? Natural or artificial? If they are natural, then we do not have to worry as such because nature finds a way to heal itself. But if the causes are man-made then man will need to bear nature’s fury and that would be devastating.

The reason can be associated with the climate crisis, thereby turning it into a woodland or grassland by the end of the century. Continued deforestation is destroying the soil capacity and the ability of the forests to self-adjust.

Amazon Rainforest is a major ecosystem and a biosphere as a whole. It is an entire package of flora and fauna species accompanied by the abiotic factors including a large amount of sunlight and rain as well. The water vapor released by the plants and trees as part of transpiration increases the humidity and thus, eventually leads to high rates of rainfall required by it. In this way it self-regulates itself.

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Large amounts of trees hold the soil firmly by their roots thus preventing soil erosion. But if the trees decrease in number, their well-maintained ecosystem would be endangered leading to more droughts and fires. The grasslands replace the rainforest when cutting off the trees cross a limit, thereby altering the entire characteristics of the region, with lesser rain and a rise in temperature.

Amazon rainforest
Imge Credit: Pinterest

The transformation of the rainforests into grasslands would leave a ‘no way back’ to its majestic Splendour. Thus, its conservation and protection have been brought to light by a number of scientists. From a closed canopy dense forest to an open Savannah with fewer trees, the warning is real.

Welcome To The AMAZON

Amazon rainforest
Image Credit: Climate Depot

A huge expanse of this rainforest is bisected by the largest river in the world spanning 6.7 million square kilometers (which is twice the size of India).

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The Amazon rainforest is virtually unrivalled in scale, complexity and opportunity and truly is a region distinguished by superlatives – WWF 

The mighty forest is shared by 9 South American countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname.

Around 70% of South America’s GDP comes from the Amazon rainforests.

The densest and moist tropical rainforest in the world, it comprises of small influence of vegetation such as forest grassland, swamped bamboo, and palm forest. As more and more knowledge is being acquired of the Amazon, so does our understanding of the main ecological benefits these forests give to the local and the global community.

Amazon rainforest
Image Credit: ArcGIS Story maps

A patch of this rainforest :

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  • is biologically diverse.
  • provides essential chemical compounds, and
  • is a big carbon sink

In the Amazons one can find :

  • one in 10 known species on earth.
  • the world’s largest remaining tropical forest.
  • the largest river basin on the planet.
  • about 34 million people including approximately 350 tribal groups that depend Directly on the rich natural gifts.

“The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life activity; it affords protection to all beings, offering shade even to the axe-man who destroys it”- Gautama Buddha

What’s happening to ‘THE LUNGS OF THE EARTH?’  

The last 50 years have witnessed the decline in the Amazon rainforest cover area by approximately 17%. Producing around 20% of the atmospheric oxygen, thus, often referred to as ‘the lungs of the earth.’ The area which is inherited by millions of species of flora and fauna absorbs tons of carbon dioxide and quickly regulates the climate of the area, thus, acting as a carbon sink.

Amazon rainforest
Image Credit: BBC.com

According to a claim, about 99% of Amazon forest fires start sue to human actions/activities. A number of international organizations have mentioned that fires are set up to clear some land for cattle rearing, farming, ranching, etc. and this number is on an increase every year.

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  • The species and the entire food chain is being disturbed.
  • Not just the land dwellers, species underwater are affected as well due to a change in the chemistry of water.
  • Not just the animals or the plant species a number of tribal groups that live inside this forest are greatly affected too.
  • Lack of available food and a disturbing atmosphere drastically affects the ecosystem.

“In around 40% of the Amazon, the rainforest is now at a level, where the forest could exist in either two-state: Rainforest or Savannah” Arie Staal, lead author of a study published in Nature Communications said. He further explained that deforestation affects the downpour. We know that forests create their own rain.
As forests shrink we get less rainfall and it causes drops leading to more fires and loss of flora and fauna, a vicious cycle indeed.

 “The Amazon Forest can quickly convert to something very different than it is, and it’s not only a projection out to 2100 about how the forest are going to change this is something that can happen right now.”
– Jennifer Balch, Director of Earth Lab at CU Boulder and longtime monitor of the Amazon. 

Addressing The Challenges And Implementing Solutions

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has for many years (an experience of more than 40 years) has deeply focused on measures to conserve the Amazon rainforest.
The key challenges include the enhancement of biodiversity conservation methods and to reduce human intervention.
An unhealthy Amazon that maintains its environmental and cultural contributions to the locals and the countries of the region and the world at large, seeks social equity and global responsibility towards its conservation.

  • Conservation of Amazon land and freshwater ecosystem ensuring species survival so that they continue providing services to the people.
  • Maintenance of water quality and quality of rivers ensuring that the aquatic ecosystem thrives.
  • Protection of forest cover ensuring adequate rainfall and ‘The climate regulation’ characteristic of the rainforest regionally and globally.
  • Half of the Amazon remains under protection against deforestation under the law of the land.
  • Government, locals and the global society share an equation of conservation leading to regional development that is environmentally economical and socially sustainable (highly efficient.)
  • Agriculture activities are carried out with the best and the most efficient practices which are appropriate and legal.
  • Transportation and energy infrastructure are better planned and implemented to reduce the harmful impact on the natural ecosystem on hydrological cycles and to biological diversity.
  • A strong relationship has been belt by the WWF taking into account the local and national government, local NGOs, civil society groups, and the private sector.
Amazon rainforest
Image Credit: AmazonWatch.org

Being POSITIVE is the Key

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It is undoubtedly frightening to read news headlines from media houses about that degenerating affair of the tropical rainforest. A report published by The Independent in 2009 was titled – ‘Fate of the rainforest is irreversible’, ‘We are in destroying the rainforest so quickly, they might be gone in 100 years’ wrote The Guardian in 2017. The Economist said ‘The amazon is on Deathwatch’

In 2018-19 the world lost around 3.6 million hectares of its primary rainforests (about the size of Belgium.)

Amazon rainforest
Image Credit: BBC.com

Now, there are perfect examples of effective law enforcement and efforts to prevent deforestation. Indonesia has reduced its deforestation activities by nearly 40% in 2018, Brazil actually reduced such activities in the Amazon by approximately 70% between 2004 -12, as reported by Global Forest Watch.
If countries like Indonesia and Brazil, often referred to as the worst offenders of the forest, can turn the tables around why can’t we be optimistic as well?

I believe in what Princy Ea, a famous American rapper in spoken word artist said about how our political policies should be, as simple as any kindergarten philosophy. Policies safeguarding our natural environment should be as simple as cleaning up our own mess, putting things back to where we found them, changing our unhealthy habits to make lives better, holding hands, and sticking together.

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One of the most important requirements to determine a vision of success is the active cooperation of all.

 

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