Amazon disappearing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 June, 2010, 12:00am

Vanishing wonder

The Amazon is the world?s largest rainforest. It is also the biggest river basin. Its borders are in eight countries. It has 20 per cent of all our free-flowing fresh water.

As the WWF says, protecting it is vital for the planet?s health. But we are chopping and burning the Amazon down.

So far, more than 600,000 square kilometres of the Amazon?s rainforest is gone ? or has been deforested. At this rate, about half of it will be gone by 2030. The main reason for the deforestation is cattle raising. Cattle need lots of land to graze.

Under siege

Experts think that rainforests once covered 14 per cent of the planet's land surface. Now they only cover 6 per cent. Every day, more than 130 plant, animal and insect species disappear. Most of them live in rainforests.

This is because rainforests like the Amazon are extremely bio-diverse. This means they are home to countless species of plant and animal life. Scientists think we have only explored about 1 per cent of the species in the Amazon.

The Amazon holds many amazing secrets. About 25 per cent of our drugs for treating diseases come from plant species in the rainforest.

Carbon sink

Brazilian and American scientists have been working together to try to figure out how much carbon dioxide the Amazon rainforest holds.

All plant life takes carbon dioxide from the air and turns it into oxygen. The Amazon jungles are so huge they are sometimes called the 'lungs of the planet'. Scientists think the forests soak up around two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

Unfortunately, it is not only human activity that's damaging those lungs. Scientists think global warming is causing droughts in the Amazon. The droughts kill the vegetation.

Now do this ...

1 The Amazon rainforest borders ... countries.

a. eight

b. nine

c. 12

2 Deforestation of the Amazon mostly takes place because of ...

a. agriculture.

b. logging.

c. raising cattle.

3 So far, we have explored about ... of the Amazon's plant and animal life.

a. 25 per cent

b. 1 per cent

c. 10 per cent