The Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon area is divided into three areas; igapos, varzeas, and low plateau. The igapos are the lowest point and are permanently flooded. The varzeas are only under water when the rivers are at their highest points.
The Amazon rainforest is one of the largest areas of natural wild rainforest in the world, but today it is threatened by more destruction than ever before. It has become one of the most important conservation issues in our world today. Since the 1990s there has been an estimated 40 % increase in the destruction of the Amazon rain forest. In an effort to stop this destruction, the World Wildlife Fund has called for desperate measures to save this area. From such a strong reaction, we can clearly see that the importance of this area is so great. However, up to 10,000 square miles of the rain forest have been destroyed in Brazil between July 2001 and June 2002. This is an increase from the averages that were around 7,000 per year in the 1990s. Many organizations have shown that if the medicinal plants, fruits, nuts, oils and other resources like rubber, chocolate and chicle, were harvested, the rainforest land has much more economic value than if trees were cut down for wood or if it were burned down for cattle or farming. We benefit from harvesting these types of resources today as well as in the long term through income and profits year after year.
Some people think the rain forest destruction it is due to rising soy production in the area, which is the world's largest producer of the crop. But there are also other factors contributing such as livestock grazing and legal and illegal logging in the forest. Land is cheap in the area and this only encourages farmers to settle there and cut down more trees to make room for their homes.
The latest statistics show that rainforest land converted to cattle operations gives the landowner $60 per acre and if timber is harvested, the land is worth $400 per acre. However, if these renewable and sustainable resources are harvested, the land will yield the landowner $2,400 per acre. This value provides an income not only today, but also for years. Just as important, to harvest the rainforest resources effectively, local people and indigenous inhabitants are employed. Today, entire communities and indigenous tribes earn 5 to 10 times more money harvesting medicinal plants, fruits, nuts and oils than they could earn by chopping down the forest.
The Amazon has been referred to as the “richest biological incubator” on the planet. It contains millions of plant, animal and insect species. In these archives, drugs like quinine, muscle relaxants, steroids and cancer drugs are found. It is like a huge chemical library. More importantly, new drugs are still awaiting discovery, such as drugs for AIDS, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer's. Many secrets and untold treasures of medicinal plants are out there that we do not know about. The plants are used by healers and the indigenous people of the Rainforest Tribes. Over 100 pharmaceutical companies and even the US government are currently donating money to projects that study the unique plants used by the natives and healers.
At one time, rainforests covered 14% of the earth's surface. They now cover only 6%. In less than 50 years, more than half of the world's tropical rainforests have been destroyed and it is not stopping. Over 200,000 acres of rainforest are burned every day in the world. That is over 150 acres lost every minute of every day. Experts estimate we are losing 130 species of plants, animals and insects every single day as they become extinct from the loss of rainforest land and habitats. This means we could be losing cures for some serious diseases we are dealing with today. The rainforest is loaded with possibilities and it is up to us to protect them so they will be around for people in the future to benefit from.