Humans depend on, and destroy (sad!), Nature: 88% original forest deforested; 50% Nature's non-human lives wiped out since 1970
Washington Post: We’ve killed off half the world’s animals since 1970 - a jaw-dropping statistic
The new Living Planet Index report from the World Wildlife Fund opens with a jaw-dropping statistic: we've killed roughly half of the world's non-human vertebrate animal population since 1970.
The main culprits? Exploitation (i.e., overfishing and overhunting), and habitat degradation.
The declines are almost exclusively caused by humans' ever-increasing footprint on planet earth. "Humanity currently needs the regenerative capacity of 1.5 Earths to provide the ecological goods and services we use each year," according to the report. The only reason we're able to run above max capacity - for now - is that we're stripping away resources faster than we can replenish them. Carbon consumption - the burning of fossil fuels - represents a huge and growing chunk of the demand we put on the earth. "In 1961, carbon was 36 per cent of our total footprint, but by 2010 (the year for which the most complete dataset is available), it comprised 53 per cent."
The main sources of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest are human settlement and development of the land. In the nine years from 1991 to 2000, the most area of Amazon rainforest cleared rose from 415,000 to 587,000 km². Scientists have found that deforestation in Brazil is causing trees to produce smaller, weaker seeds that are less likely to regenerate.
They believe this has been triggered by the loss of large birds from the forests, which have beaks big enough to feed on and disperse the seeds. The study is published in Science. Pedro Jordano, from the Donana Biological Station in Seville, Spain, said: "One of our major surprises was how rapidly deforestation could not only be influencing the disappearance of the fauna, but to observe how deforestation could influence the evolution of the plant traits so rapidly - within a few generations."
Today, just 12% of the original forest remains.
Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest can be attributed to many different factors. The rainforest is mainly seen as a resource for cattle pasture, valuable hardwoods, housing space, farming space (especially for soybeans), road works (such as highways and smaller roads) and medicines. The annual rate of deforestation in the Amazon region increased from 1990 to 2003 due to factors at local, national, and international levels. 70% of formerly forested land in the Amazon, and 91% of land deforested since 1970, is used for livestock pasture.
In addition, Brazil is currently the second-largest global producer of soybeans after the United States, mostly for export and biodiesel production - Brazil opened a commercial biodiesel refinery in March 2005. It is capable of producing 12,000 m³ (3.2 million US gallons) per year of biodiesel fuel. Feedstocks can be a variety of sunflower oil, soybean oil, or castor bean oil. The finished product will be a blend of diesel fuel with 2% biodiesel and, after 2013, 5% biodiesel, both usable in unmodified diesel engines. As of 2005, there were 3 refineries and 7 that are planned to open. These three factories were capable of producing 45.6 million of liters per year. Petrobras (the Brazilian national petroleum company) launched an innovative system, making biodiesel (called H-Bio) from the petroleum refinery. In Brazil, castor bean is the best option to make biodiesel, because it's easier to plant and costs less than soybean, sunflower or other seeds.
In the pre-Columbian era, parts of Amazonas were a densely populated open agricultural landscape. After the European invasion in the 16th century, with the hunt for gold, western diseases, slavery and later and the rubber boom, Amazonas was depopulated and the forest grew larger.
Prior to the 1970s, access to the forest's interior was highly restricted, and aside from partial clearing along rivers the forest remained intact. Deforestation accelerated greatly following the opening of highways deep into the forest, such as the Trans-Amazonian highway in 1972.
(2)** Estimated remaining forest cover in the Brazilian Amazon (km²)
(3)*** Annual forest loss (km²)
(4)**** Percent of 1970 cover remaining
(5)***** Total forest loss since 1970 (km²)
(1)* (2)** (3)*** (4)**** (5)*****
1970 4,100,000km² - - -
1977 3,955,870km² 21,130 96.5% 144,130km²
1978-87 3,744,570km² 21,130 91.3% 355,430km²
1988 3,723,520km² 21,050 90.8% 376,480km²
1989 3,705,750km² 17,770 90.4% 394,250km²
1990 3,692,020km² 13,730 90.0% 407,980km²
1991 3,680,990km² 11,030 89.8% 419,010km²
1992 3,667,204km² 13,786 89.4% 432,796km²
1993 3,652,308km² 14,896 89.1% 447,692km²
1994 3,637,412km² 14,896 88.7% 462,588km²
1995 3,608,353km² 29,059 88.0% 491,647km²
1996 3,590,192km² 18,161 87.6% 509,808km²
1997 3,576,965km² 13,227 87.2% 523,035km²
1998 3,559,582km² 17,383 86.8% 540,418km²
1999 3,542,323km² 17,259 86.4% 557,677km²
2000 3,524,097km² 18,226 86.0% 575,903km²
2001 3,505,932km² 18,165 85.5% 594,068km²
2002 3,484,538km² 21,394 85.0% 615,462km²
2003 3,459,291km² 25,247 84.4% 640,709km²
2004 3,431,868km² 27,423 83.7% 668,132km²
2005 3,413,022km² 18,846 83.2% 686,978km²
2006 3,398,913km² 14,109 82.9% 701,087km²
2007 3,387,381km² 11,532 82.6% 712,619km²
2008 3,375,413km² 11,968 82.3% 724,587km²
2009 3,367,949km² 7,464 82.2% 732,051km²
2010 3,360,949km² 7,000 82.0% 739,051km²
2011 3,354,711km² 6,238 81.8% 745,289km²
2012 3,350,140km² 4,571 81.7% 749,860km²
2013 3,344,297km² 5,843 81.6% 755,703km²
- Earth polluted: aerial photo. Brazil: oil spill; new law'll cost Amazon forest loss size of Germany, Italy and Austria combined
- Plan in Brazil bears vision of forest protector shot to death 20 years ago trying to save the Amazon rain forest
- Oxygen grows on green trees - UN: Int'l Year of Forests 2011; Oxygen comes fr blue seas - dedicate another yr, 2012, to Oceans?
- "SOS Amazon": every second we lose 1.5 acres of rainforests once covering 14% of earth land surface, now a mere 6%
- "SOS Amazon": 1st action of Amazon tribes, sending message "Wake Up, World!" at 2009 World Social Forum in Brazil
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