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Amazon Day highlights need to preserve the biome

The world's most biodiverse environment is essential to maintaining life on the planet
published: Sep 06, 2018 02:06 PM last modified: Sep 06, 2018 02:06 PM

Arquivo/Agência Brasil

Arquivo/ Agência Brasil

The Amazon is Brazil's largest biome and the largest environmental reserve in the world. To celebrate and highlight the need for its protection, Prince Dom Pedro II instituted Amazon Day in 1859. The date reinforces the need to preserve the region, which, besides its biodiversity, also shelters diverse populations of different customs and is an important source of income for the country.

The Amazon territory covers seven million square kilometres spanning nine Brazilian states and eight neighbouring countries (Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, French Guiana and Suriname). Learn more about this essential biome for the planet:

Biodiversity

The Amazon is covered by vast swaths of rainforest that is home to 40,000 species of plants, 300 species of mammals and 1,300 species of birds in the North, Midwest and Northeast of the country. In all, it accounts for half the world's biodiversity and is an important source of research in biotechnology and the search for active principles for medicines.

About 20% of the world's freshwater is in the Amazon. The Amazon Basin, fed by springs in the Andes mountain range in Peru, is the largest on the planet and a major part of the biome. The Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) has already established 314 Protected Areas in the territory to strengthen the protection of this invaluable environmental wealth.

People

Amazon's community of 27 million inhabitants is formed largely by traditional Brazilian peoples, including quilombolas (descendants of former escaped slaves) and 55% of the indigenous peoples living in Brazil. The region is also inhabited by caiçara (traditional coastline people), riverside, rubber tapper, fishermen and peasant communities.

About five million people benefit directly or indirectly from products extracted from the Amazon forest (such as oils, resins, herbs, fruits and rubber) that provide important contributions to the regional economy.

Global Impact

In 2003, the Amazon Forest was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The listing ensures the quality of the soil, contributes to maintaining the supply of fresh water and protecting local fauna and flora, and also helps control the levels of pollution. Another great contribution by the forest's ecosystem is that the evaporation and transpiration processes it conducts help regulate the planet's climate.

In order to expand and reinforce its commitment to preserving the forest, Brazil has signed the Paris Agreement, which provides for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The country has committed to reducing deforestation in the Legal Amazon to 3,900 km² by 2020.

Amazon Fund

One of the federal government's most relevant initiatives for preservation is the Amazon Fund, which captures investments to be made through the National Development Bank (BNDES) in actions to fight deforestation. Countries such as Norway, the United Kingdom and Germany also contribute resources to the fund, which currently benefits 100 projects with US$ 1.7 billion.

Fighting environmental destruction

Deforestation rates in the Amazon have been declining in recent years. While in 2004 the data showed a total 27,700 km² of cleared forest, that same number fell to 6,900 km² in 2017, a 75% decrease.

The drop is largely due to the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon (PPCDAm), implemented in 2014. The Plan's actions include surveillance of illegal logging, the creation of Protected Areas totalling more than 25 million ha and the demarcation of 10 million ha of indigenous lands.

Curbing deforestation also contributes to reducing impacts on pollution, since, 65% of Brazil's greenhouse gas emission comes from felling and burning.