Aerial, Essequibo River


The rainforests of Amazonia are vital to life on Earth — and humans are rapidly destroying them


Amazonia, by the numbers

of all known species

The forests of Amazonia host the richest biodiversity of any ecosystem on Earth.

of all freshwater flows on the planet

Amazonia’s river system supplies hydropower for millions of people.

30 million
people live in the Amazon basin

The region has the population of Tokyo, Mexico City and New York City combined.

As the largest forest in the world — spanning eight countries — Amazonia stores massive amounts of carbon, making it critical in the fight against climate change. But humans are driving the region to the brink.

For millennia, the Amazon rainforest has thrived on an endless cycle of rainfall supported by billions of trees recycling water back into the atmosphere. But as more trees are cleared, the forest is losing its ability to retain moisture. If this cycle of destruction continues, the rainforest will be pushed to an ecological tipping point — gradually turning into a dry savanna.

Conservation International is pursuing an ambitious strategy to sustain the forests of Amazonia, so that they can continue to sustain us all.


The challenge

According to a recent study, about 13 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been deforested so far by the expansion of agriculture, grazing land, extractive industries and urban development. Scientists estimate that the “tipping point” for the forest could occur after 20-25 percent of the forest is lost. If this occurs, Earth’s climate will change irrevocably, affecting all life as we know it.


The goal

Conservation International is committed to preventing the “tipping point” in Amazonia. By 2025, we aim to conserve 80 percent of the forest while ensuring increased prosperity and human well-being in the region.


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Our strategy

Conservation International research has revealed that the Amazon rainforest stores more than 20 percent of all “irrecoverable carbon” — stores of carbon in nature that, if released into the atmosphere through deforestation, would not be able to be recaptured in time to prevent runaway climate change.

To ensure the forest retains its ability to prevent climate breakdown, we must avert the tipping point. This will require adding 100+ million hectares (247 million acres) in new conservation areas and strengthening protections across more than 400 million hectares (988 million acres) of existing protected areas and Indigenous lands.

Collaboration is central to meeting these ambitious goals. Conservation International is building on our 35-year history in the region — forging partnerships with governments, Indigenous peoples, local communities, the private sector, civil society, donors and investors to make this happen.

To set our conservation priorities, we have categorized Amazonia into three “zones”:

Green Zone: Formally protected areas, Indigenous lands and other types of forest management areas (64 percent). The Green Zone must be strengthened and expanded.

Yellow Zone: Intact forests and other natural habitat that have not yet been formally protected or designated by governments for any particular use (22 percent). The Yellow Zone must be protected.

Red Zone: Forests that have been converted to agriculture, developed into cities or degraded to meet demand for food, homes, power and jobs (14 percent). Promoting sustainable agricultural production in the Red Zone will help to alleviate deforestation in the Yellow and Green Zones.


Our solutions

Looking up at the canopy in the Amapá State Forest, Brazil
© Adriano Gambarini

1. Strengthen and expand the Green Zone

Despite its protected status, approximately 345,000 hectares (852,000 acres) of forest are lost annually within the Green Zone due to poor management. In response, Conservation International is building new opportunities for ecotourism, carbon finance and other revenue streams that are based on living forests. We are also supporting Indigenous peoples to protect and defend their lands from illegal deforestation and enhancing community livelihoods through agroforestry and sustainable development.


© Neil Palmer/CIAT for Center for International Forestry Research/Flickr Creative Commons

2. Avoid deforestation in the Yellow Zone

The most at-risk zone, the “Yellow Zone” is the front line for turning the tide of destruction, as it encompasses large areas of forest not yet designated for protection — or for production. To avoid an ecological tipping point, another 105 million hectares (259 million acres) of forest in the Yellow Zone must be protected. Conservation International’s approach includes advising on the establishment of new protected areas and Indigenous lands and territories; expanding programs that encourage people to protect their forests by providing economic benefits; increasing access to climate finance; and promoting adoption of natural capital accounting as a framework for long-term sustainable development.



3. Increase sustainable production in the Red Zone

In the “Red Zone,” where Amazonia’s forests have already been lost or heavily degraded, Conservation International is promoting sustainable agriculture and smart development planning to reduce poverty and minimize the impact of infrastructure and mineral extraction — two of the main drivers of deforestation in these more densely populated areas. We are also helping governments restore degraded landscapes back into natural ecosystems, proving that it can be done in a cost-effective way that yields multiple benefits to local communities.


Protect an Acre of Forest

You can protect an acre of forest for $25 to help create a healthier, more productive planet.

News About Forests And Indigenous People

© CI Peru/Marlon del Águila

Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities

Our Future Forests–Amazonia Verde is working to conserve up to 12 percent of the Amazon — about 73 million hectares (180 million acres) — by 2025. Supported by the government of France, the project is one of the conservation priorities of the Alliance for the Protection of Tropical Forests, an initiative for the protection, restoration and sustainable management of tropical forests.

Learn more