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While destruction of rainforests is causing concern in many parts of the world, nowhere is it worse than in the Amazon. Often referred to as the 'lungs of the planet' the 1.2 billion acre rainforest produces about 20% of the earth's oxygen and is therefore, not just crucial for its own ecosystem, but also, for the survival of all living creatures, including humans! Fortunately, the deforestation trends there are slowly but surely, starting to reverse.
As in many parts of the world, population growth combined with the lack of knowledge about the importance of the rainforests had resulted in large parts of the Amazonia being cleared out to make room for cattle ranches, mining operations, logging as well as subsistence agriculture. By 2003, about 20% of the Amazon rainforest had been destroyed and disappeared forever, taking along with it, numerous species of plants, animals and insects. Experts feared that if the pace continued, the Amazon rainforest as we know it today, would be destroyed forever. Something had to be done and very soon!
Fortunately, the authorities in Brazil along with environmentalists took immediate action and by 2004, the trends started to reverse - Slowly at first, and then much more rapidly, after the Brazilian government established the Amazon Fund in 2008. Set up to reward individuals or organizations that help preserve the forests, it along with more stringent regulations has resulted in a dramatic reversal in what could have been a worldwide catastrophe.
In July 2011, the Brazilian government announced that deforestation had declined sharply from the peak levels. Just a few weeks ago, on August 3rd, 2012, there was additional good news - The data from received from satellite images showed that from August 2011 to July 2012, there was a further reduction of 23% - Just 0.791-sq.miles as opposed to the 1.034-sq.miles that was cleared during the previous 12 months. While these initial figures may change slightly when data from other sources is compiled, the long-term trends remain extremely positive - One that gives both the authorities and environmentalists hope that they will be able to achieve their goal of zero deforestation by 2016!
About the size of the 48 contiguous US states, the Amazon rainforest gets its name from the 4,080-mile long Amazon river, the largest freshwater source on Earth. Not surprisingly, it is home to a large variety of exotic plants and animals, including macaws, jaguars, anteaters and even anacondas.
Resources: guardian.co.uk, blueplanetbiomes.org, amazonfund.org