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Forests of Brazil

Effects of deforestation

Loss of biodiversity

The Atlantic rainforest has 70 percent of plants and 20 primate species that are found exclusively in this area of the world. It is home to 202 endangered animals including the jaguar, tapir, red-tailed parrot, black faced lion and armadillo. The most endangered animal is a small monkey called a golden lion tamarin. It is at great risk of extinction because only 2% of the natural habitat of this small primate still remain.

The Amazon forest arguably contains the most diverse and numerous animals in all the forests and all the regions of the world. Hundred of thousands of varieties of; ants, termites, wasps, butterflies and other insects; peccaries (wild pigs), tapirs, agoutes and pacas and capybara (rodents), jaguars, pumas, (cats); spider monkeys, sloths, otters, armadillos and anteaters; thousands of species of birds; colourful parrots, humming birds, toucans plus herons and egrets; over a thousand varieties of fish; tetras, angel fish, arapaima, gigas, piranhas, electric eels, stingrays and manatees (seacows), plus pink river dolphins.

Every day in the Amazon many species of insects become extinct and at least one major animal species becomes extinct. Many organisms become extinct before ever being identified. Potential medicines and foods are gone - never to be discovered!

This Brazilian forest is the greatest pool of genetic material on Earth. With plant and animal extinctions occurring at a rate unprecedented in history this represents a massive economic loss of genetic stock for the biotechnology industry, for science and for all people. Genes are the blueprints for building structures and enabling functions to occur in living things. They are very useful. Unfortunately the Brazilian government does not appreciate how useful they are because they continue to allow people to destroy them.

Loss of culture

There were an estimated ten million Indians living in the Amazon rainforest about 5 centuries ago. In 1900 there were about one million. Although there may a few indigenous groups living in the depths of the rainforest that have never had contact with the outside world it is estimated that today only about 200, 000 people from 215 ethnic groups remain. They form about one thousand communities and speak 170 different languages. About 90 indigenous tribes were destroyed in just over a century. With them have gone centuries of accumulated knowledge about the rainforests.

The cost to the community of a road death is estimated as about US$1,600,000. This takes into account the use of police, ambulance, morgue and other resources. That is the financial cost. But no one can put a figure on the emotional aspect of the tragedy. Many people survive car crashes only to be confined to a wheelchair or unable to look after themselves. The cost of looking after them for the rest of their lifetime is then transferred to the family members.

The Amazonian Indians have been living in the forest for thousands of years and depend on the forest for clothing, shelter, tools, food and medicine. A succession of Brazilian governments have been insensitive to the cultural needs of Indian communities and problems like alcoholism, alienation, poverty, disease have been the result. These communities are disappearing with the forest. Deforestation, development and globalisation threaten their language, culture and their very existence.


Erosion, land degradation, floods, landslides and increasing salinity have been the trend. The full consequences of Brazil's forest clearing have not yet been realised. At current rates of decline the Amazon is set to become the world's largest dust bowl.

Global warming

Burning of the Brazilian forests for agricultural land, the decaying of trees after logging and burning contribute significantly to the amount of carbon dioxide causing global warming. The release of methane from the cattle which graze on the grasses that replace the forests also contributes to global warming.

The winners and losers

Deforestation is driven by a small number of people: landowners and cattle ranchers; owners of logging, mining and oil companies; developers; and the multinational companies who buy the beef and cash crops. It is they, plus the consumers in northern industrial nations who benefit most from the deforestation. The indigenous Indians, the poor of Brazil, the people of the world and future generations lose most from the deforestation.

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