Lockdown brings no respite for rainforest

Need an umbrella? The trees are so thick in the Amazon that rainwater takes 10 minutes to reach the ground. © BBC

Is the coronavirus a threat to the rainforest? There may be fewer cars on the road and planes in the sky, but the Amazon is struggling as lockdown encourages increased illegal activity.

What’s happening

The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world. It is home to 390 billion trees and covers an area 17 times greater than Britain. It is a carbon sink that balances the global climate. For years, it has been threatened by deforestation. Now, it is suffering as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Find out more

Deforestation is a major threat to the rainforest. It destroys animal and insect habitats, encourages poaching, and risks huge floods. Deforestation is caused by industries, such as logging and mining, and by fires.

Laws are in place to protect the forest, but many ignore the rules and fell more trees for profit. Farmers use the space for growing crops and rearing cattle.

Since January, deforestation in the Amazon has increased by 50%. More than a third of the rainforest lies in Brazil, where the virus has affected more than 600,000 people. Those who usually protect the rainforest have left, and the government is being less vigilant. Poachers and illegal miners have become more active.

Is the virus the biggest threat to the rainforest?

Some say…

Yes. Governments and individuals are focusing on how the crisis affects humans. As a result, illegal activity, like poaching and logging, is increasing. There are not enough resources to prevent this happening, and experts fear these new habits will be difficult to reverse. After the pandemic, the danger to the rainforest could be greater than before.

Others think…

The rainforest has greater problems. We should also be worried about the legal deforestation that has been taking place. The Brazilian government allows mining and logging that threaten the habitats and lives of millions of animals and plants. Meanwhile, global warming means that hugely destructive forest fires are becoming more and more common.

You Decide

  1. Is it wrong to use the rainforest for profit?

Activities

  1. Write an acrostic poem about the rainforest, with each line starting with a letter from the word “Amazon”.

Some People Say...

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”

Mahatma Gandhi

What do you think?

Word Watch

Carbon sink
A natural area that absorbs more carbon than it releases. The billions of trees in the Amazon absorb carbon and release oxygen through photosynthesis.
Deforestation
The action of clearing a large area of trees permanently.
Poaching
Hunting on land that does not belong to you; killing animals that are protected by law.
Rearing
Bringing up and caring for.
Vigilant
Keeping careful watch for possible danger. The Brazilian government is usually vigilant over protected areas of rainforest.
Miners
People who take valuable minerals other geological material from the Earth. There is a lot of illegal gold mining in the Amazon.
Logging
Cutting down trees and loading them onto trucks to transport elsewhere.
Reverse
Change back to how things were; go backwards.

Subjects

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