8 facts you need to know
You know that the Amazon rainforest is important to humanity. But do you know why?
The world’s largest tropical forest spans nine countries and is home to some 30 million people and counting. It generates oxygen, it affects weather patterns the world over, it’s critical for preventing a climate crisis — and it’s facing perhaps the gravest threat in its 55-million-year existence: deforestation caused by humans. Why is Amazonia so important? Why is it worth protecting? And what happens if we don’t?
Here are 8 things you should know.
© CI/photo by Katrin Olson
Amazonia boasts the richest biodiversity …
… of any ecosystem on the planet, with at least 10% of the world’s known species of wildlife found there. One region in the Ecuadorian Amazon is widely regarded as the most biodiverse area of land in the world, boasting more diverse species of trees in a given hectare of forest than there are in all of North America.
- © filipefrazo
Amazonia stores (so much) carbon.
The world’s forests absorb about 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon each year. The Amazon rainforest does most of the heavy lifting, accounting for a quarter of that carbon storage, and is one of humanity’s greatest hopes for regulating the climate.
- © Christina Mittermeier
Amazonia is home to indigenous stewards.
Indigenous peoples manage 35% of the Earth’s intact forests, which holds more than three-quarters of all global biodiversity. They are some of the Amazon’s best protectors — and they are severely threatened by changing land rights.
- © Flavio Forner
Amazonia is shrinking fast.
More than 15% of the Amazon has been deforested since the 1970s; that adds up to twice the size of California. This number continues to grow as a surge in fires in 2019 — largely exacerbated by climate change — burns through Amazonia’s forests.
- © Luana Luna
Amazonia is nearing a catastrophic ‘tipping point.’
Continued deforestation risks transforming the Amazon’s rainforest ecosystem. Scientists say that once a certain percentage of the forest is lost, the Amazon will hit an ecological “tipping point” at which the forests could irretrievably degrade into drylands.
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- © Pete Oxford/iLCP
The Amazon can help halt climate change.
Protecting and restoring tropical forests and mangroves would account for at least 30% of the global action needed to avoid the worst climate scenarios. Reforestation could also help some of the most vulnerable communities adapt to an already changing climate.
- © Flavio Forner
The Amazon can — and must — be restored.
Luckily, the Amazonia ecosystem is incredibly resilient. In fact, most of the deforested areas can regenerate trees on their own, but only if humans give them enough time and space to grow.
- © INVEMAR-Fundación Natura
Things are being done to tackle this crisis. You can help.
From establishing a carbon tax to creating new protected areas, countries across Amazonia are working tirelessly to ensure this tropical forest is conserved. Want to do your part? Here are 5 ways you can help fight climate change.
The next five years are critically important for Amazonia.
To protect the Amazon, Conservation International is helping establish new protected areas that will conserve forests, benefiting the well-being and livelihoods of local communities and indigenous peoples. By protecting these areas, communities will be able to conserve biodiversity, while generating income from ecotourism and carbon markets.