DEFORESTATION IN BRAZIL. Jake Gust ANR 250. Michigan State University

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1 Deforestation in Brazil 1 Running Head: DEFORESTATION IN BRAZIL DEFORESTATION IN BRAZIL Jake Gust ANR 250 Michigan State University

2 Deforestation in Brazil 2 Abstract Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest has been a growing issue in Brazil as the size of the Amazon continues to shrink. Driven by deforestation, cattle ranching and the production of soybeans, deforestation is causing many environmental problems. These problems include climate change, the destruction of biologically diverse ecosystems, as well as the negative effects on indigenous peoples of the Amazon s lifestyles. New policies and solutions such as the increase of sustainable development, fines, as well as environmental permits are attempting to slow the spread of deforestation.

3 Deforestation in Brazil 3 Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest located in Brazil has been an issue since the 1940 s when Brazil began a program pushing for development of the Amazon River basin. Deforestation didn t really become a problem until the 1960 s when it became popular as a way of removing forests to create lands to graze cattle on. In the 1960 s a slash and burn method also arose in the Amazon. Farmers would slash the trees and burn them. This would create nutrients to grow crops. However, the soils are nutrient poor and would only be fertile for a few years after the trees were slashed. These slash and burn methods continued to grow into the 1970 s and into the 1980 s. According to Wikipedia.com, By the late 1980 s, an area the size of England, Scotland, and Wales was being removed annually (Wikipedia, 2008). Deforestation in the Amazon occurred for many reasons, but there are three main reasons that it happened. These reasons include raising cattle and ranching, raising soybeans, and logging. The first and the leading cause of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is the development of pasturelands and cattle ranching. Raising cattle in this area is popular because of the low costs involved and the good profits that can be made. As Wikipedia.com puts it, 70% of formerly forested land in the Amazon, and 91% of land deforested since 1970, is used for livestock pasture (Wikipedia, 2008). World beef deman is rising, and the cattle market in Brazil is export driven. So making pastures of the deforested Amazon has allowed Brazil to be more competitive in the world beef market. A second cause of the deforestation of the Amazon is soybean production. Brazil is now the second largest soybean producer in the world. Many of the acres of Brazilian soybeans are located on what was previously rainforest. World demand for soybeans is increasing as soybeans are being used more and more to feed growing human and animal populations, as well

4 Deforestation in Brazil 4 as to support the increased production of biodiesel. This increased use of soybean products increases the demand for soybeans and also the price. Rising soybean prices push farmers to cut down more trees and to plant soybeans. Logging is the third large cause of deforestation in Brazil. The demand for fuel wood and timber, especially rare species such as Mahogany, is high. Often, loggers will illegally cut down the rainforest. As Tom Phillips puts it, With commodity prices hitting recent highs and loggers and soy farmers pushing even further into the Amazon Jungle deforestation was once again on the rise after three years on the wane (Phillips, 2008). There are many problems caused by deforestation. Of these, three of the largest problems are climate change and global warming, the destruction of biologically diverse ecosystems, and the effects on the lives of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. The first and the most serious problem is that deforestation is contributing to global warming. Because the trees of the Amazon are involved in carbon dioxide exchange, they create a large sink for carbon dioxide. When these trees are slashed and burned, they release their carbon dioxide into the air. All of this carbon dioxide going into the air is helping to cause global warming. Trees are also good for the atmosphere because as they grow, they take in carbon dioxide, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. According to the Environmental News Network, the Amazon Rainforest has enough vegetation to absorb approximately 10% of atmospheric carbon dioxide (Deforestation, 2008). Another harmful problem with deforestation is that it reduces the amount of biologically diverse ecosystems in the world. The Amazon is home to over a million species, and by killing its trees; you are killing many different animals and plant s environment. These biologically

5 Deforestation in Brazil 5 diverse resources are responsible for being the origin of many of today s medicines as well as scientific research. A third problem of deforestation is that when the timber is cut and the land is cleared, erosion is more likely to take place. When cleared, there is nothing to hold the soil in place and so floods and washouts will create large amounts of soil erosion. This erosion can be harmful because the top soils wash away. After deforestation, the soil is also more likely to get baked by the hot sun, which burns up the organic matter, making the land useless to farmers. There are some solutions to the deforestation problem being put into action. The Brazilian government is in the process of getting many of these implemented. These processes include mandatory environmental permits, banning products produced from the deforested lands, as well as a national environmental force composed of firefighters and policemen to prevent deforestation. Other minor solutions to the problem are in the works as well. One of these includes an international carbon credit plan. This plan would make those who pollute the atmosphere pay to conserve the Amazon instead of reducing their carbon dioxide emissions. The first of these solutions is environmental permits. Environmental permits are designed so that landowners must show them to authorities to prove that they are not illegally clearing land. If they are not illegally clearing land, they will be able to get a loan. But if they are illegally clearing land, they will not be permitted to receive a loan. The second of these solutions is aimed at encouraging sustainable development. One group, the Brazilian Vegetable Oils Industry, has already agreed to ban soybeans that were grown on deforested lands after The government is negotiating with sawmills and slaughterhouses for in an attempt to ban wood and meat products produced on deforested land.

6 Deforestation in Brazil 6 The third major plan is a controversial one. It calls for policemen and firefighters to guard the Amazon and protect it from being deforested. This issue here is that there is a large amount of forest perimeter to patrol. In conclusion, deforestation is a major problem in the Brazilian Amazon. Steps are being taken to slow deforestation, but after lower deforestation numbers in 2007, 2008 s deforestation numbers grew by almost 70%. As Environmental News Network wrote regarding 2008 s deforestation, The expanse of deforested land is about 69 percent greater than last year (Deforestation, 2008). Driven by high commodity prices, it will continue to become a problem until stricter actions are taken to prevent it.

7 Deforestation in Brazil 7 Works Cited Deforestation Escalates in Brazilian Amazon (2008, September 5). Environmental News Network. Retrieved September 19, 2008, from Phillips, Tom (2008, September 1). Brazil: Deforestation rises sharply as farmers push into Amazon. The Guardian. Retrieved September 19, 2008, from Wikipedia.com (2008, June 29). Deforestation in Brazil. Retrieved September 19, 2008, from

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