Threats to the Amazon

Threats to the Amazon comic

Because the Amazon has such a valuable array of important plants, animals, and natural resources the threats to this critical ecosystem are unfortunately abundant and diverse. Destruction and depletion of the Amazon comes in many forms.


  • Logging – Trees in the rainforest are cut down to be used for flooring, furniture, paper products, construction of new buildings and other items. 60% to 80% of all logging in Brazil is estimated to be illegal.
  • Oil and Gas – According to studies oil and gas fields now cover 283,172 sq miles of the Amazon, many within indigenous territories. Exploration is continuing.
  • Roads – New roads are being built in the Amazon for purposes of development. Areas near a road are approximately eight times more likely to be deforested than untouched forests.
  • Electricity – Trees are cut down and burned for firewood, charcoal, and to generate electricity.
  • Palm Oil – Palm Oil is found in roughly half the packaged products sold in US grocery stores. It is estimates that by 2022, Palm Oil plantations for biofuel will cover 700,000 hectares in Brazil. Old growth forests are often destroyed to plant Palm Oil. 
  • Cattle Ranching – Destroying forests for beef production has caused about 65% of all deforestation in the Amazon, using slash-and-burn-techniques to clear the land.
  • Agriculture-In many cases, the soils in the Amazon are unsuitable for growing crops. When the conditions are adequate crops like soybeans, rubber, tea cacao rice, citrus fruits, coffee, bananas, coca, and opium, are grown. In most cases Slash-and-burn techniques are used. Soils are quickly depleted in the Amazon, so more forests need to be continually cut and burned to grow crops.
  • Dams – Hydroelectric dams are a major source of electricity in the Amazon, with about 80% of Brazil’s electricity coming from power generated by dams. Dams flood critical forests, alter the water chemistry, and can affect the passage of fish, compromising their survival.
  • Fires – Fires in the Amazon have not been a natural occurring phenomenon until recently. Because trees bring moisture and rainfall to an area, deforesting the Amazon causes drought and the forests to dry out. During drought years, its estimated that wildfires can emit around a billion tonnes of CO2.
  • Wildlife trafficking – Wildlife trafficking is an approximately 10 billion dollar a year illicit activity, and is the third most profitable after drugs and weapons. The biodiversity of the Amazon is vulnerable due to the high levels of unique plants and animal species. Many people illegally hunt animals to sell as food and raw materials for products. Animals like the Amazon Manatee, the Amazon River Turtle, Red Faced Uakari, Giant Otter, and South American Tapir are endangered through the loss of habitat, hunting, use for medicine and apparel, and as pets. Birds, primates, and reptiles are the most sought after.
  • Mining – Copper, tin, nickel, bauxite, manganese, iron ore, and gold are found in the Amazon rainforest. The mining of these natural resources can be unregulated and Illegal and can cause disastrous degradation of the environment. Mining for gold is one of the most devastating practices in the Amazon today, by using mercury in the process, poisoning the peoples and the forests ecosystem.

From the Blog: Mercury and Gold Mining

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