South America is home to some of the world’s largest and lushest rainforests. Fully one fifth of the different species of flora and fauna on the planet can be found in these forests, and quite a number of them are indigenous to this region alone. Despite the sheer size of the rain forests, they are rapidly being diminished by deforestation in South America.
The reasons for the deforestation in South America generally run the usual gauntlet that has plagued other countries; first and foremost on the list are man’s need for more arable farm land, and the need for lumber. These two needs are difficult to avoid, as the world’s increasing population makes subsequent changes in the demand for food as well as lumber for construction.
The other two reasons for south american deforestation are the conversion of forest area into urbanized areas, and the location of valuable iron ore and petroleum deposits deep in the rain forests. These other two reasons have been the target of some public scrutiny, as they usually lead to the destruction of sections of rainforest without using the lumber for any useful purpose.
More often than not, the trees are either thrown away and left to rot, or the forest sections to be cleared are actually razed by fire. In either event, the forest is treated more as an obstruction to progress and civilization instead of the valuable commodity that it is. However, the four reasons given above are common factors of deforestation the world over. But in South America, there are other, stranger reasons for deforestation that seem to be specific to this continent alone.
In Brazil, the leading reasons for deforestation are cattle ranching and soybean farming. Brazil itself is home to large sections of the amazon rainforest, which itself actually stretches althroughout most of south america. Aside from the amazon, brazil holds one third of the world’s number of rain forests. Despite this large percentage, almost a quarter of the forests in Brazil have already been lost. The practice of cattle ranching and the destruction of forest for grazing land has long been a heavy contributor to deforestation in south america, and these numbers have increased steadily as European countries have turned to Brazil for 75% of their meat imports.
Soybean farming is a fairly recent development in Brazil, yet has already climbed up the ranks to be the second highest cause of deforestation in South America. The creation of new breeds of soy bean in Brazil has already allowed it to compete neck in neck with the United States as the world’s leading soy bean exporter, and the subsequent increase in demands for comercially arable land has led to the destruction of vast tracts of forest region.
Another reason for deforestation in south america that is different from the usual is the presence of gold and diamond mines in Venezuela. Venezuela’s rain forests originally were divided by the Orinoco river that runs through the country, with 20% of the forests growing north of the river and the remaining 80% growing south. The usual reasons of logging and the need for farming and urban land have already more or less decimated the upper 20% since most of the inhabitants of Venezuela live north of the Orinoco. However, the discovery of rich gold and diamond deposits in the rainforests south of the river have sparked numerous mines, which are currently the leading reason for deforestation in Venezuela.
Lastly, Colombia is another part of South America where deforestation is due to more than just the “usual” reasons. The infamy of the country’s drug lords is well justified, and numerous Colombian rain forests have been razed to make farm land for growing cocaine, marijuana, opium, and other recreational pharmaceuticals. Since these “farms” are usually hidden deep in the rain forests, when anti narcotics forces attack them to shut them down, the ensuing battles usually wind up devastating large tracts of the surrounding rain forests as well.
As you can see, the problem of deforestation in South America is not quite as simple as it is in other countries. With various factors thrown in aside from the common ones that affect other regions, any efforts made at saving the South American rain forests require dedication and support far above the norm.
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