… Deforestation is accelerating
Brazil has historically had the distinction of serving as the world’s leader of deforestation. According to Walker, during the last three decades, an annual average of 6,500 square miles of the Brazilian Amazon – an area that is greater than the size of Connecticut – has been deforested.
Satellite data indicates that the rate of Amazonian deforestation is accelerating; in some areas, the rate increased by 50 percent since last year. And with over 20 million people and 70 million cattle now inhabiting the Amazon, about a 600 percent increase in the last 60 years, more trees are being razed to make room for cattle ranches, said Walker.
Small-scale ranchers – including poor, subsistence farmers – encroach on forests gradually, felling trees and creating modestly sized pastures in a piecemeal fashion. By contrast, larger land owners use tractors and bulldozers to quickly mow down vast tracts of forest, and then burn remaining vegetation to establish huge ranches. Either way, the landscape ends up fragmented and ecologically devastated.
Ground zero for global extinction
As the world’s largest tropical rainforest, the Amazon houses the world’s largest collection of living species of plants and animals. It also plays a significant role in stabilizing local climate and may provide the raw materials to cures for some of the world’s deadliest diseases.
But deforestation has transformed the Amazon into ground zero for global extinction. In addition, burning and rotting trees release carbon dioxide, which contributes greatly to climate change.
“Brazil overall is the fifth or sixth largest emitter of carbon dioxide and by far the most important source is deforestation,” said Eugenio Arima, an assistant professor of environmental studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a former conservation and development researcher at the Brazilian nonprofit institute Imazon. …
via Amazon Deforestation: Earth’s Heart and Lungs Dismembered – Yahoo! News.