Effects of Deforestation on the Amazon

What happens to the Amazon when you cut down the trees? Not only does the Amazon affect our world’s
climate, but deforestation of the forests influence the region and its animals, plants and peoples.

Photo by Adrian Tejador

  • Disruption of Livelihoods of Amazonia Peoples – Deforestation of forests directly affects and reduces the forest natural resources and ecosystem services. Cutting down rainforests can damage habitat, diminish levels of biodiversity and food sources, degrade the soil, pollute rivers and lands, and cause areas to dry out affecting the overall productivity for the peoples and animals that live there.
  • Less Rain and Moisture and more fires – The trees in the Amazon make their own rainfall as weather patterns move from East to West. On a normal day the Amazon releases 20 billion tons of moisture into the atmosphere seeding the clouds with rain. Deforestation causes the forest to dry out and can cause drought and wildfires.
  • Reduction of Biodiversity – The destruction of forests destroys the homes, habitat and food sources for the species that live there. It is estimated that 100,000 species become extinct in tropical forests yearly. The loss of one species in an ecosystem can affect others who rely on it. The more biodiversity in a system the healthier and more resilient the system.
  • Higher Temperatures – The Amazon is already extremely hot. Removing trees allows more sunlight to penetrate the forest floor, causing it to dry out and the ground surface to heat up. Also tree’s are made of carbon- a greenhouse gas. When trees are burned the carbon held in their trunks, roots, branches and leaves is released into the atmosphere, adding to the thermal layer that traps and absorbs heat on earth. Approximately 30% of all carbon emitted yearly is from the burning of trees. We are burning the very things that are protecting us. 
  • Pollution – Increased human activities often bring degradation to the ecosystem, through destruction of trees which are a natural filter for pollutants, through improper use and treatment of water and soil, and 
  • Disruption of Migratory Corridors – Destruction of the forests can in many cases leave fragmented patches of habitat. These scattered portions of forest can cause issues for the animals who need connected contiguous forests to travel or migrate from one area to the next. Animals are unable to travel their normal paths for food which makes them vulnerable. 
  • Erosion and degradation of the soil- The soil of the Amazon is thin and devoid of nutrients, with most of the nutrients found in the plants and animals. The trees of the Amazon not only keep the soil from eroding by holding the topsoil in place, but trees drop decaying matter that helps fertilize and feed the organisms that live in the soil. The forest canopy also shields the soil from the the intense heat which can dry out the soil, kill off the organisms, and release the carbon that is stored there. through the release of unregulated chemical and waste products. Unregulated small scale gold mining(ASGM)is one example of a human activity that pollutes the environment by releasing 30-100 tons of mercury into the Amazon yearly.

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