Amazon rainforest
A definitive guide to the Amazon Rainforest, the Amazon River, and the Amazon Basin

Amazon Home

Information about the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest

Up until 1970 there were very few roads that traversed the Amazon Rainforest.  However in 1970 the Brazilian government decided to try to integrate the rainforest with the rest of the country by building over 9000 miles of roads through the forest.  As the forest became more accessible by road farmers began to encroach upon the land and started clearing it for agricultural use.  Soybean farming was very popular in southern Brazil, and this allowed farmers to start clearing trees in the forest to expand their production northward.  Cattle ranchers also began to deforest the rainforest as there was always a need for more pastures for their animals.  Unfortunately since the land is so nutrient poor cattle ranching in the Amazon produces only about 25% of the beef production per hectare as compared to other areas of the world.  Cattle ranching is destroying both the floodplains and the higher land, as they are moved back and forth depending upon the season.  As trees are cut down, there is a decrease in forest shade, and thus certain streams will completely dry up in the dry season.  Any aquatic animals that may be living in these streams will therefore die in the dry season.  Farmers are also begging to clear land for chicken farming which is more productive than cattle ranching.  However the price of chickens is less than half of that of beef, therefore expansion will be limited compared to the larger land clearing needed for cattle ranching.

There are several cash crops in the Amazon such as coconuts, oranges, coffee, and palm oil.  However, soybean farming is the larges of all.  The danger in soybean farming when compared to cattle ranching is the fact that soybean farmers use pesticide.  During heavy rains the excess pesticide runs off the land and flows into the rivers.  Time will tell what effect these toxic chemicals will have on the wildlife of the river.  Dams have been built to try to harvest the hydroelectric potential of the river.  Environmentalists fear that the dams will have an impact on the local wildlife as the local environments are transformed.  Local fishermen fear that they will be impacted as several species of fish that make migratory movements will no longer be able to pass through the dams.

Since the 1970’s when chainsaws became widespread in the Amazon logging has increased steadily.   Although there are plenty of trees in the forest less than 20 percent of the trees have a high commercial value.  The species virola is highly sought after and usually cut down wherever it can be found.  The giant kapok tree has been a target of loggers due to its’ enormous size and the fact that it can be used for ply wood.  Since these are the largest trees in the forest, their loss causes the destruction of the rainforest canopy, and thus the loss of shade for the plants and animals that live below them.  There is a relatively large amount of logging in the floodplains of the forest.  However due to the nature of the trees that grow in the floodplains there is little use for them in commercial construction.