Deforestation in the Amazon

Deforestation in the Amazon
    Apart from its global reputation for footballing excellence, Brazil's most famous feature is probably the Amazon rainforest. 

The Amazon covers 5,500,000 square kilometres (2,100,000 sq mi) and 60 per cent of this is in Brazil. It is the most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world, with around 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species.

An estimated 438,000 species of plants of economic and social interest have been registered in the region and it is thought many more have yet to be discovered.

The Amazon also plays a vital environmental role – the world's rainforests contain 90-140 billion metric tons of carbon, helping to keep the global climate stable.

Deforestation is a huge problem in Brazil, driven by human settlement, agricultural expansion and illegal and unsustainable resource extraction. From 1991-2000, the amount of Amazon rainforest cleared rose from 415,000 to 587,000 sq km – an area the size of Spain.

Recently, the rate of deforestation has been slowing – the slowest rate since records began was recorded in 2011. 

Between August 2012 and July 2013, however, there was a 28 per cent rise in the rate of deforestation, with a 52 per cent rise in the Mato Grosso region, according to data from the Brazilian Spatial Institute.

Environment minister Izabella Teixeira insisted the Brazilian government is committed to reversing the trend but needs the support of governments and society in order to do so.

Paulo Adario, coordinator of Greenpeace's Amazon campaign, blamed the government for helping cause the problem.

"The change in the Forest Code and the resulting amnesty for those who illegally felled the forest sent the message that such crimes have no consequences," he said.

Environmental groups are working hard to preserve the rainforests, helping to reduce illegal logging and promoting more sustainable farming methods. Doing so will help to preserve rare species, combat climate change and protect plants that could offer remedies for currently incurable diseases.

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