Deforestation in the Amazon Research Paper

Pages: 4 (1848 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Agriculture

Deforestation in the Amazon

One of the consequences of modernization and industrialization is that certain primeval lands become more desirable for human settlement, agriculture, timber mining, and other land development. This has happened throughout history, as primitive tribes and even the Ancient Empires used up resources in a given area and then moved on. However, one specific and quite serious example that has affected a huge amount of land, indigenous populations, and perhaps even the very health of our planet, has been the extreme devastation and deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest. In fact, in just 9 years between 1991 and 2000, the total area of the Amazon Rainforest cleared just for ranching was an area six times that of Portugal or almost 85% of the state of Texas. Most of this forest has been made into cattle ranches to both increase Brazil's output to a demanding world and prop up a lagging economy and high unemployment rate. Despite many environmental and political activists, as well as global initiatives, the devastation continues and may, for both the short- and long-term, have serious ramifications (Abell).

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Historical Overview- Prior to the opening of the 1972 Trans-Amazonia Highway, the Amazon forest was relatively restricted from outsiders, other than some academic scholars and poachers. The highway was a huge project, challenging, and yet was considered vital to integrate the more remote regions of Brazil with Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador. It offers an overland route into remote areas of the Amazon, and has allowed heavy equipment and trucks to penetrate more of Brazil's natural resources. Brazil also hoped the highway would increase it agricultural production, and made a significant effort to incentivize farmers and agricultural laborers into the area (Skole,

Research Paper on Deforestation in the Amazon Assignment

In many parts of the Amazon, poor soils made plantation or industrial agriculture relatively unprofitable, and therefore undesirable. However, using slash and burn technology, heavy amounts of artificial fertilization, and crop rotation, many profitable farms were founded. One problem with this soil, though, is that after a few years it must be left fallow to redevelop. Cattle ranching, however, requires less labor, generates more profits, and grasses for feed are easier to grow than many food crops. This, of course, also caused sociological issues between small farmers and larger cattle ranches (Fernside). One estimate is that about 30% of the Amazonian deforestation comes from small intensive farms, and the rest from medium and large ranchers, who possess almost 90% of the land and are continually trying to enlarge their herds (Williams).

Causes of Deforestation - There are a number of actual causes for the devastation in the Amazon: cattle, hardwood, housing, agriculture, modernization, pollution, and industrialization. The annual rate of deforestation in the area continues to increase because there is no real concentrated effort that bridges local, national, and international levels (Kirby, In fact, thanks to so many local farms, Brazil has become the number two global producer of soybeans after the United States, primarily in the export and biodiesel markets. As these industries continue to demand biofuels, more and more soybeans must be produced, thus pushing Brazilian farmers even further northward into the forested areas. This is exacerbated because of Brazilian legislation which states that clearing land for crops or fields is considered an effective use of land, helps the path towards land ownership, and is up to ten times more valuable in resale than forested land (U.S. Ethanol).

Impact on Climate- Many environmental researchers, using NASA satellite data; have found that clearing the forest for cropland or ranching has become quite significant to the devastation of the Amazon. This change in land use and the removal of prime tropical forests also has an effect on the region's climate. In deforested areas, the land heats up faster and reaches a much higher temperature. This causes a localized heat pattern to rise that ultimately produces clouds and even more rain; and without the old growth tree roots, potential for more flooding and erosion. The Amazon rain forest has also been compared to the body's lungs; and with less rainforest and change in microclimates there may be additional global climate changes as well (NASA Data).

Trade in Wood- Brazil is rich in diverse hardwoods, has a lumber shortage, and is forced to import lumber because of severe restrictions on trade in any native wood. The physical task of clearing extremely large trees from the forest is daunting, and often requires the use of the military and heavy equipment. And, since the main motivation for clearing land is for cattle ranching, much of the hardwood is either burned or becomes part of fencing or other farm related micro-construction. However, much of this wood is extremely valuable, and the geography of the area so vast that it is difficult to adequately police, therefore causing a great deal of smuggling and illegal trade. Even though Brazil has strict penalties for environmental crimes, and the fines and penalties are substantial, illegally harvested wood is routinely seized by Brazilian law enforcement agencies. The demand for these rare woods, though, remains high (Illegal Loggers).

Impact on Indigenous Cultures - The tropical rainforests of the Amazon have long been home to a number of indigenous tribes, many who have clung desperately to their own cultural heritage, despite the influx of the modern world. As forests are cleared, these peoples lose their lands, homes, and cultures. While they are often given the choice of whether to allow their land to be developed, large corporations and government contracts typically rule. It is difficult to put an economic value on a loss of diversity from a culture, but there is certainly knowledge, tradition, and history that are lost, and a tremendous richness in unique societies, once these cultures are assimilated into the mainstream (Butler).

Issues in Biodiversity -- In a similar manner, tearing down the primeval rainforest results in a loss of biodiversity in both flora and fauna. Many species are only able to exist in certain parts of the rainforest, in certain sections (e.g. The canopy), etc. And are ill equipped to evolve in a new, flatter biome that is much hotter and wetter than even the tropical rainforest. Many modern pharmaceuticals were developed from rainforest plants, and scientist now believe that the rainforest may also be losing an overwhelming variety of bacteria and microorganisms (Deforestation).

Potential Solutions to the Issue - With the amount of acreage in the Amazon, the number of countries involved, and the global economic and political issues that surround the region, solutions are quite difficult and polarized. Also, depending on the point-of-view for the problem -- ecological, political, social, or economic- solutions are quite different. However, most of the problems leading to deforestation in the Amazon region originate from the activities of those living in the area -- not from outsiders. Therefore, the majority of the solutions must also come from internal groups and actions:

Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples -- Despite having lived in the rainforest for millennia, the indigenous tribes of the Amazon region are under considerable pressure to relinquish control over their lands. They require adequate land for culture, way of life, and continuation. Protection of these rights would need to be federally legislated by the Brazilian Government, which could lock the minimum amount of land devoted to indigenous peoples and establish an agency to collect knowledge and help preserve culture while maintaining the area of demarcated land (Butler).

Sustainable Land Management Paradigm -- The issue of land management is complex and problematical. Within the Amazon region, there are thousands of low-income, landless farmers who settle and farm lands until either the soil gives out or they are forced to relocated. Changing this model will be complex, and will require the Brazilian government to focus resources (human and fiscal) on retraining to implement agroforestry practices (shifting cultivation, constraints on productivity, use of solar energy, changes in crops, etc.) (World Bank).

Mining -- The Amazon area, despite being difficult to navigate overland, is quite rich in many mining opportunities. Often, these opportunities cause deforestation, the release of toxins (mercury and cyanide) and strip any semblance of future use once the mining is done. By both improving mining techniques using modern technology, companies could for instance retain more of the gold lost in spills, run offs, etc. This could be done by limiting and tracking mining permits, require that mining operations meet minimum restoration standards, and mandated use of electronic monitoring that detects excess pollutants (Project Amazonia, 2010).

Sustainable Ranching -- The global penchant for beef (fast food, low-carb diets, etc.) has moved beef into one of the major exports of the Brazilian economy, and the methods that are filling this need are a major cause of deforestation. In addition, clearing of grazing lands removes many of the plant-based nutrients and depletes the land. This could be mitigated with consumer information programs in the Developed World asking that beef supplies be scrutinized. Ranches could be set up in more ecological templates, and certain lands could be protected from… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Deforestation in the Amazon.  (2011, August 2).  Retrieved September 23, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Deforestation in the Amazon."  2 August 2011.  Web.  23 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Deforestation in the Amazon."  August 2, 2011.  Accessed September 23, 2020.