Forest fire, deforestation, climate change and other factors are putting great ecological pressure on the Amazon rainforest. The countries in the Amazon basin are taking effective protection actions, and international organizations and countries outside the region are also actively participating in it, exploring various ways of environmental governance, and improving the lives of local people through sustainable development and management.
A study published in the academic journal Ecosystem recently showed that due to frequent fires, the savanna formed by white sand is expanding in the seasonal flood plain in the center of the Amazon rainforest, becoming a white “island” scattered in the rainforest. The Amazon rainforest is facing the risk of “grassland”.
Increasing ecological pressure
The researchers explained that the frequent forest fires destroyed the vegetation, making the surface layer of clay-rich soil more vulnerable to the erosion of periodic floods and gradually sandy, and the vegetation types also changed, and the tropical grassland tree species and herbaceous plants were increasingly dominant. Carlos Noble, a leading Brazilian climatologist, warned that when the deforestation rate reached 20% to 25%, the forest systems in the eastern, southern and central Amazon would be transformed into non-forest ecosystems. “If the current rate of deforestation is maintained, it will go beyond this critical point irreversibly in 15 to 30 years.”
The Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest with the richest biodiversity in the world, with an area of more than 6.8 million square kilometers, accounting for 20% of the global forest area. It is distributed in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and French Guyana. In recent years, the Amazon rainforest is under increasing ecological pressure.
According to a monitoring project called “Andean Amazon”, the Amazon rainforest lost more than 2 million hectares of original forest in 2020, and the main purpose of deforestation is to open up pasture. WWF warned that the forest coverage in the Amazon region has been reduced from 80% to 58%, leading to the destruction of animal and plant resources and a series of environmental problems such as soil erosion, rainstorm, drought and land desertification.
Extreme weather caused by climate change has led to a sharp increase in the number of fires in the Amazon region. Marcello Selucci, an expert at the Disaster Monitoring Center of the Brazilian National Space Research Institute, pointed out that the low rainfall in the rainy season that has ended this year indicates that the dry season fire may be more serious. Researchers pointed out that when the rainfall is below a certain threshold, the rainforest will lose its ability to recover from fire and other damage and become a drier ecosystem. Forest shrinkage will further reduce rainfall, lead to drought and more fires, and enter a vicious circle.
Protect the rainforest in multiple ways
Faced with the severe situation, many countries in the region actively explore new ways of economic growth, take practical actions to protect and repair the Amazon rainforest, and improve people’s lives through sustainable development of the rainforest area, starting from combating environmental crime and repairing damaged ecosystems.
According to the data released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, from 2011 to 2015, a total of 44 new protected areas were set up in the Amazon region. So far, more than 170 million hectares of land in the Amazon region have been protected. In 2019, the leaders of Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana and Suriname signed a document in the southern Colombian city of Leticia, seeking to establish a cooperative mechanism to combat illegal activities in the Amazon rainforest, formulate fire prevention policies, implement ecological restoration, and increase environmental monitoring.
60% of the total area of the Amazon rainforest is located in Brazil. In order to protect the rainforest, the Brazilian government has previously promulgated the Law on the Ecological Protection of the Amazon Region, which has withdrawn the forest management and logging rights previously delegated to the state government, and implemented unified national management and sustainable logging. In addition to legal supervision, Amazon’s forestry authorities strengthened monitoring of scattered and small-scale deforestation activities with the help of high-resolution satellite images. In April this year, the “Green Brazil Action 2” coordinated by Brazil’s public security agencies and environmental agencies carried out more than 100000 inspections and air, land and sea patrols in the Amazon region, and seized 506000 cubic meters of illegally logged timber. In the same month, the Brazilian government launched the “Amazon Plan 2021/2022” project, increased the efforts to combat illegal logging and arson in key areas, and provided education, health and technical assistance to local residents.
In order to cope with soil desertification, the Peruvian government and scientific research institutions have carried out forest landscape restoration projects in ecologically damaged areas, and gradually restored a complete and healthy ecosystem by cultivating and planting diversified local tree species and improving soil quality by using biochar. In 2020, Peru’s Tambopata National Reserve repaired 150 hectares of land damaged by mining, and this year will further expand the restoration area.
A public initiative called “Heart of Amazon” is being implemented in the rainforest region of Colombia. Through the introduction of incentives, land owners are encouraged to repair degraded land, develop agricultural and forestry projects, and promote the sustainable use of forests. Participants in the initiative can receive technical assistance, including improving crop yields, sustainable agricultural practices, and adaptation to climate change. The Bolivian government has cooperated with indigenous tribes in the Amazon region to promote the rehabilitation of thousands of hectares of degraded land. The project includes improving local nurseries, supporting biological enterprises, restoring ecological services, etc. to improve local water and water quality, enrich biodiversity and reduce land erosion.
Multi-party participation forms joint force
At present, more and more international organizations and countries outside the region have actively participated in the protection of rainforests and gradually formed a joint force of environmental governance.
From 2014 to 2019, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and other agencies implemented integrated protected area projects in nine countries and regions in the Amazon basin to help improve the livelihoods of local people and reduce the impact of climate change on the Amazon ecosystem. In the future, the project will continue to influence the protection policies at the local government level, include indigenous people and women in the agenda of activities, and comprehensively promote the management of protected areas, sustainable agriculture and agricultural biodiversity.
The Amazon Sustainable Landscape Plan, funded by the Global Environment Facility, supports rainforest conservation and restoration projects in Brazil, Peru and Colombia, covering the expansion of protected areas, ecological restoration, sustainable management of natural resources, technical training, and the formulation of environment-related policies and incentive mechanisms. The plan also promotes the exchange and interaction of all parties involved in order to achieve coordinated action and sharing of experience among countries in the region in the area of rainforest protection.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) established the Amazon Fire Emergency Fund in 2019 to provide assistance to people at the front line of fire fighting. As of May this year, US $1.39 million has been donated to Brazil and Bolivia, including fire-fighting supplies, communication equipment, fire risk management equipment and training. In addition, WWF is also participating in protected area projects in the Amazon region to promote the development of sustainable forest economy.
China has also contributed to the protection of the Amazon rainforest in various forms. The South China Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences held an international training course on biodiversity conservation and management, helped Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and other Latin American countries train young scientific research talents, and cooperated with the National University of San Marcos in Peru to establish a laboratory to jointly research and develop plants with high economic and agricultural values. In addition, China and Brazil have jointly developed a number of China-Brazil earth resource satellites to play an active role in monitoring the Amazon rainforest.