Amazon Rainforest Crisis

By Amigos IAS

Why in News?

  • The “lungs of the earth”, the Amazon Rainforest, is currently experiencing a severe and unprecedented drought.
  • This crisis is profoundly affecting the Indigenous people’s lives and the entire ecosystem.

More about the news

Factors Causing Drought in the Amazon Rainforest

El Niño Phenomenon:

  • It is a major driver of the drought.
  • Causes abnormal warming of the Pacific Ocean’s surface waters, impacting rainfall patterns.
  • Leads to reduced humidity and rainfall in the Amazon, intensifying drought.

High Water Temperatures in the Northern Tropical Atlantic Ocean:

  • Warm ocean waters cause heated air to rise, which then affects the Amazon.
  • This warm air hinders cloud formation, resulting in a sharp decrease in rainfall.

Anthropogenic Climate Change:

  • Deforestation, from activities like agriculture and logging, weakens the Amazon’s ability to control climate and retain moisture.
  • The loss of vast vegetation areas escalates temperatures, generating a cycle of worsening droughts due to reduced evapotranspiration.

Mining Activity:

  • Unregulated mining creates land barriers, affecting river navigation.
  • Mining’s ecological impact releases pollutants and greenhouse gases, influencing the climate.

Hydroelectric Dams:

  • Particularly on the Madeira River, a major Amazon tributary.
  • Reservoir creation alters natural river flows and impacts ecosystems.
  • Decomposing organic matter in reservoirs emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Transportation Infrastructure:

  • Infrastructure, like highways, cuts through conserved areas.
  • Increases deforestation and climatic anomalies.

Impact on the Water Cycle

  • Collective disruptions from the above factors harm the Amazon’s natural water cycle.
  • This results in decreased river water volumes, extended droughts, and detrimental effects on aquatic fauna, habitats, and dependent communities.

Drought’s Consequences on the Amazon Rainforest

  • Water Levels: Record low levels observed in rivers, including the significant Rio Negro.
  • Human Impact: Many are stranded in remote areas, facing scarcity in food, clean water, medicine, and other essentials.
  • Health Concerns: Outbreaks of diseases like diarrhoea and skin infections due to contaminated water.
  • Biodiversity: The rainforest’s diverse wildlife, including fish and the Amazon River dolphins (boto or pink river dolphin), are dying, leading to polluted water bodies.
  • Forest Fires: The drought escalates forest fire risks, destroying vast vegetation, emitting large CO2 volumes, and causing poor air quality in many regions due to smoke.
About the Amazon Rainforest

·       Occupies the Amazon River’s drainage basin and its tributaries in northern South America, spanning 6,000,000 square km.

·       Supports the world’s most extensive rainforest, contributing to over half the global rainforest volume.

·       Located in regions of Brazil, Peru, Guyana, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Suriname, French Guiana, and Venezuela, it forms the world’s largest drainage system.

·       Bordered by the Guiana Highlands, Andes Mountains, Brazilian Central Plateau, and the Atlantic Ocean.

·       These tropical forests lie within 28 degrees of the equator, receiving over 200 cm of rainfall annually, with temperatures ranging between 20°C and 35°C.

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