The Amazon is at risk of dying. We have known that for decades, but recent studies and political events have shown that the demise of the Amazonian rainforest is much quicker than previously thought. Paradoxically, the sector that most threatens the survival of the Amazon rainforest – agriculture – is also the one that will be hardest hit by the rainforest’s disappearance, with consequences far beyond the borders of the Amazon basin. Studies show that the Amazon is so close to being lost, with so little done about it, that it will likely start to negatively affect the Americas’ agricultural sector – including two of the world’s largest food producers: the US and Brazil – from as early as 2030 onwards.
Today’s Amazon rainforest is a relic from a much moister time. If it wasn’t for the world’s largest rainforest, northern South America would be a much drier ecosystem, not much different from Africa’s savannas. The forest is producing its own climate, though, with its billions of trees pumping gigantic amounts of water vapour into the atmosphere. A good part of this water vapour forms clouds immediately above the Amazon rainforest, raining down on it and being captured by the roots of myriads of trees and other plants right away. That way, the water enters the cycle through absorption by plants – evaporation through plants – raining down on the forest without having the chance to run off to the big rivers and ending up in the Atlantic Ocean.
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