The fact is that 82 countries depend on the Amazon rainforest to survive. Many people live their lives oblivious to specific vital facts. People all over the world do not have the full picture of the factors that influence their livelihood. Across the globe, people list money, education, medicine and other elements as being essential to their continued survival. I can bet my last dollar that on 98% of those lists, you will not find the Amazon river rainforest as one of the elements that are crucial to our survival. The fact that you cannot see the Amazon river and the Amazon rainforest, does not remove from the fact that they keep you alive.
What Is The Amazon?
So, what is the Amazon river? The Amazon river in South America is the largest river by discharge volume of water in the world. By some definitions, it is the longest. It has an average discharge of about 209,000 cubic meters per second. This discharge is higher than the next seven largest independent rivers combined. The Amazon represents 20% of the global riverine discharge to the ocean. (Wikipedia)
The Amazon river flows in the Amazon rainforest. It is a moist broadleaf forest in the Amazon biome that covers most of the Amazon basin of South America. The rainforest covers 5,500,000 square kilometers of the Amazon basin. (Wikipedia)
Below are details about how the Amazon enables people in a lot of countries to survive.
Offsets Carbon Dioxide Emissions To Fight Global Warming
The Amazon soaks up 2.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air per annum. Soaking up global warming regulates the air that we breathe keeping us alive. When you take a breath of fresh air, know that the Amazon rainforest has a part to play in that.
Soaking up carbon dioxide helps to fight global warming and all of its adverse effects. At the moment there are rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which are warming the atmosphere — the increased temperature in the air results in higher evaporation rates. The other effect is a wetter atmosphere covering the earth. The moister atmosphere leads to a vicious cycle of further warming. Below is a diagram which shows the battle that the Amazon is fighting.
Below is the list of global warming-related catastrophes that the Amazon is preventing or at least, delaying.
Global Temperature Increase
The projection is that global temperature will increase by a minimum of 1.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century. The temperature increase is relative to the temperature level at the end of the 20th century. The projection for the maximum temperature increase is around 4.0 degrees Celsius. The forecast for the range for the maximum temperature increases is between 2.4 to 6.4 degrees Celsius.
The results of global warming are famine, disease, drought, death, among other effects. Global warming affects you wherever you are.
Global warming is melting the ice sheets and glaciers which has increased the level of the seas and oceans. The rate of increase in the sea level is accelerating. At the current pace, the Global Mean Sea Level will rise by 26 inches by the year 2100. In Kiribati families are forced to live in marginal areas as flooding from high tides is increasing.
As seawater reaches farther inland, it causes destructive erosion, wetland flooding, aquifer, and agricultural soil contamination. The seawater also results in lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants.
Effects on weather
IPCC (2012) concluded that human influences contribute to an increase in heavy water precipitation events at the global scale. Heavy water precipitation events also occur in areas where total rainfall amounts decrease.
Other weather events that will occur as global warming progress are heat waves and tropical cyclones. We will discuss the other many effects of global warming in another article.
Countries That Release The Most Carbon Dioxide
Below is a list of countries that are most in debt to the Amazon rainforest’s ability to remove carbon dioxide from the air. The simple reason is that the countries on this list release the most carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
|Country||Fossil fuel CO2 emissions (kt) in 2016|
The Amazon rainforest soaks up a significant amount of carbon dioxide created by the countries on the list above. The Amazon rainforest dumps some of the carbon dioxide in the Atlantic Ocean. Once in the ocean the carbon dioxide sinks to the bottom and stays there.
If you are in one of these countries, you should develop a sense of respect for the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon is keeping you alive. So pay it forward and start to help to preserve it.
Countries Hardest Hit By Climate Change
Below is a list of the countries that are the hardest hit by climate change in recent times. The people in these nations should be very interested in what goes on in the Amazon rainforest. The reason is the Amazon is fighting for their lives every second of the day.
Below is the 2016 ranking for the Climate Risk Index. The index lists countries regarding the losses that they have incurred as a result of global warming.
GDP in %
|1 (40)||Haiti||2.33||613||5.65||3 332.72||17.224||163|
|2 (14)||Zimbabwe||7.33||246||1.70||1 205.15||3.721||154|
|3 (41)||Fiji||10.17||47||5.38||1 076.31||13.144||91|
|4 (98)||Sri Lanka||11.50||99||0.47||1 623.16||0.621||73|
|5 (29)||Vietnam||15.33||161||1.17||4 037.70||0.678||115|
|6 (4)||India||18.33||2 119||0.16||21 482.79||0.247||131|
|7 (51)||Chinese Taipei||18.50||103||0.44||1 978.55||0.175||Not included|
|8 (18)||Former Yugoslav|
|9 (37)||Bolivia||19.33||26||0.24||1 051.22||1.334||118|
|10 (21)||United States||23.17||267||0.08||47 395.51||0.255||10|
Reasoning Behind The Climate Risk Index
So, how did these countries get onto this list? Haiti was severely hit by the hurricanes Matthew and Nicole in September 2016. Hurricane Matthew is classified as the worst natural disaster in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. Hurricane Matthew killed over 500 people. The hurricane left over 1.4 million people with food insecurity. Other people suffered from cholera outbreaks. According to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, over one million people were affected by the severe flooding and winds.
In Zimbabwe, the year started with extreme droughts associated with the El Niño. El Nino caused record-breaking heatwaves and acute agricultural losses. There was a poor distribution of rainfall through most of the year. After the poor rain heavy precipitation triggered by tropical storm Dineo hit Zimbabwe. Dineo caused floods in Zimbabwe in November and December 2016. The floods continued well into January 2017. These events reportedly killed around 250 people and left several thousand homeless. At least ten provinces were listed as severely hit. In these areas, the public infrastructure, especially dams and bridges, were destroyed.
Fiji was severely affected by extreme weather in 2016. Cyclone Winston hit Fiji in February as a category five storm. Cyclone Winston resulted in significant destruction, especially on the island of Viti Levu. The Cyclone left over 44 dead causing around US$1.4 billion in damages. Over 34,000 people were without homes and infrastructure was severely damaged. Fiji again was passed by Hurricane Zena in April with top speeds of 105 mph. Zena forced the evacuation of 3 500 people and the suspension of aid distribution.
Sri Lanka was hit by cyclone Roanu in May. Roanu landed after Sri Lanka experienced severe droughts during the beginning of the year. A depression southeast of the Sri Lankan shore caused torrential rain. Floods and landslides took the lives of over 100 people and displaced half a million. The economic damages are estimated at US$ 2 billion, with Roanu also causing damage to India and Bangladesh.
Vietnam’s extreme droughts continued well into the year 2016. The droughts are on record as the worst droughts in the last 100 years. The Mekong decreased to its lowest level since 1926, leading to severe salinization. Several natural disasters in 2016 caused over 160 lives to be lost and destroyed 370 000 homes. In addition to the drought, tropical cyclone Dianmu hit Northern Vietnam in mid-August. Dianmu caused several fatalities leveling hundreds of homes. A tropical depression and the storm Aere caused further damage in November. Aere brought large-scale flooding throughout central and southern Vietnam. The losses caused by Aere amounted to around US$ 112 million as of October 2016, causing 15 fatalities. Additionally, Vietnam was hit by tropical storm Sarika on 15th October killing another 15 people. In the Quang Binh and the Ha Tinh province, damage was caused to around 95 000 homes.
The heat waves in South Asia persisted until the beginning of summer 2016. The heatwaves broke a record of 51°C in Rajasthan, India in May 2016. Over a thousand people died of hyperthermia or dehydration. In total, 1 800 fatalities were reported, especially in Southeast India. The persisting drought and heat waves affected over 330 million people. Heat waves were followed by an extreme monsoon season lasting from June to October in eastern, western and central India. At least 300 people died due to the heavy rainfalls and landslides. Millions of people were affected by washed away crops, destroyed roads or disrupted electricity and phone lines. On 12th December 2016, cyclone Vardah, made landfall in Chennai. Several people died here, and infrastructure was severely damaged.
Chinese Taipei suffered due to an abnormally cold winter. 85 people died of hypothermia or other cold-induced illnesses in January. The area also saw six intense typhoons in 2016. Typhoon Meranti brought severe agricultural damage. Meranti left over a million households without water supplies or electricity when it made landfall on 14th September. Typhoon Megi caused further destruction upon its arrival on 26th September, killing four people and injuring hundreds. Megi was also the fifth category five storm to occur worldwide in 2016.
An untypically cold winter in Eastern Europe also affected Macedonia. Temperatures dropped below -20°C in early 2016. From 6th to 10th August torrential rain caused severe flooding in the Macedonian capital Skopje. The heavy precipitation resulted in flash floods as high as 1.5 meters which killed at least 21 people. In the northern part of Skopje, 70% of the houses were damaged due to rainfall.
In late 2016 the Bolivian capital La Paz also suffered its worst drought in 25 years. The drought is attributed to the fact that Bolivia’s glaciers have receded by over 40% since 1985. Despite the droughts, extreme precipitation and landslides caused several fatalities and destroyed 300 homes in Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, and La Paz at the beginning of December. Across the country, weeks of heavy rain at the end of the year reportedly killed at least 40 people and left 10 000 homeless. The ongoing droughts forced the Bolivian government to declare a state of emergency in early 2017.
The United States of America
The United States experienced flash floods and floodwaters in North and South Carolina in April. Extreme flooding and torrential rains in Louisiana followed on 10th August 2016. The flooding amounted to US$ 10 billion in damages. In June, an intense heatwave accompanied by wildfires killed several people and destroyed ten thousand acres of land. The unusually dry conditions and hot winds in the South East accounted for severe fires in Tennessee. The conditions left 14 dead and destroyed 2 000 homes. The damage is estimated at US$3 billion. Hurricane Matthew arrived at the US shores in October. The hurricane impacted South and North Carolina, Florida and Georgia. Matthew accounted for 49 deaths and damage of over US$10 billion.
The countries that fell victim to these catastrophes, and the countries that caused them, all need to pay attention to the Amazon rainforest. It is playing its part to reduce the severity and frequency of these events.
The Amazon Rainforest Helps To Feed Nations By Maintaining Brazil’s Water Cycle & Virtual Water Trade Balances
The Amazon rainforest maintains balance in Brazil’s climate. Transpiration from the rainforest leads to rainfall falling thousands of miles away. The rain waters Brazil’s crops for export.
The Virtual Water Trade
The Amazon rainforest’s effect on the water cycle keeps Brazil’s Virtual Water Trade in the positive. Virtual Water Trade refers to the hidden flow of water in food or other commodities traded from one place to another. For instance, it takes 1,340 cubic meters of water to produce one metric tonne of wheat. The precise volume can be more or less depending on climatic conditions agricultural practice. Hoekstra and Chapagain have defined the virtual-water content of a product as “the volume of freshwater used to produce the product.” (Wikipedia)
Many regions in the world are facing serious water scarcity, mainly due to the consumption of water for agricultural production. Porkka et al. report that in Central Asia, over 80% of the population suffer from water stress. Approximately 50% suffer from water shortage.
Virtual water trade is the trade in commodities such as crops that consume a lot of water in production. This water trade saver water in the importing country. The practice is a mechanism that has reduced water demand and shortages in some of the most water-scarce nations in the world. Through virtual water imports, a lot of countries have substantially externalized their water footprint.
A lot of these countries rely on Brazil and in particular, the Amazon rainforest to keep the process going.
Europe is the largest importer of virtual water in agricultural commodities from Brazil. The continent has a gross export of 27.7 billion cubic meters per year, which corresponds to 41% of the total amount of gross virtual water export. For comparison, the Sobradinho Reservoir in Brazil is the 12th largest artificial lake in the world. Sobradinho’s storage capacity is 34.1 billion cubic meters
Russia imports 8.9 billion cubic meters per year of virtual water. The virtual water trade is mainly in the form of sugar, beef, and pork.
Germany occupies the second position with 4.3 billion cubic meters per year and Italy the third position with 2.5 billion cubic meters per year. In Germany and Italy, coffee gives the most substantial contribution to these virtual water flows.
The Asian continent also imports a large volume of virtual water embedded in traded commodities. Asia imports a total of 21.6 billion cubic meters per year. The Asian imports correspond to 32% of all virtual water exported from Brazil. The virtual water flows from Brazil to Japan amounts to 3.1 billion cubic meters per year in total. Of this total, 1.5 billion cubic meters per year is related to coffee trade. 1.2 billion cubic meters per year is related to chicken trade. 0.4 billion cubic meters per year contributes to the maize trade. In Asia, Saudi Arabia occupies the second position with 2.9 billion cubic meters per year of virtual water imported from Brazil. The primary commodities imported from Brazil by Saudi Arabia are chicken and sugar.
After Europe and Asia, the Americas represent the third destination for Brazilian virtual water export. This destination receives an average virtual water volume of 9.3 billion cubic meters per year. The United States of America and Canada import 4.1 and 1.1 billion cubic meters per year of virtual water, respectively. Venezuela imports 1.2 billion cubic meters per year as the commodities beef, chicken and sugar.
Africa imported 8.2 billion cubic meters per year of water in virtual form from Brazil. The imports correspond to 12% of the total gross virtual water export from Brazil. Approximately 2.7 billion cubic meters per year of water resources flowed in virtual form from Brazil to Egypt. The flow from Brazil to Egypt was mainly due to the trade in beef (51%) and sugar (33%).
The average volume of water resources transferred to Brazil from other counties in virtual water form in this period was 12.3 billion cubic meters per year. Other South American countries exported 11.2 billion cubic meters per year of virtual water to Brazil, accounting for 91% of the total.
Without the Virtual Water Trade all of the countries I have mentioned, and others, would have serious issues feeding their people. The costs of producing food would go up in their countries and raise the poverty datum line. This would lead to a lower quality of life among other adverse effects.
The Amazon Provides Medicines That Save Lives Daily In Many Countries
Only 1% of plants in the Amazon rainforest have been studied by scientists to determine their medicinal value. Of those plants 2 mentioned in this article treat epidemics worldwide. The medicines below owe their existence to the Amazon rainforest.
Quinine is a medication that treats malaria and babesiosis. The applications of the drug include the treatment of malaria due to Plasmodium falciparum. While used for restless legs syndrome, it is not recommended for this purpose due to the risk of side effects. It can be taken by mouth or used intravenously. (Wikipedia)
The countries that owe the Amazon for the existence of quinine are nations that have the highest prevalence rates of malaria. Find the list of countries below. Malaria would be a bigger problem if the Amazon rainforest did not exist.
|Rank||Country||Reported Cases of Malaria (in millions)|
|3||Democratic Republic of Congo||6.3|
The two medicines below have their origins in the Amazon jungle as well. Cancer patients worldwide and the nations that are their homes owe their prolonged lives to the Amazon rainforest. The logical step for people in these nations to take is to care for the Amazon rainforest.
Vincristine and Vinblastine
Vincristine is marketed under the brand name Oncovin among others, is a known chemotherapy medication. The types of cancer that Vincristine treats include acute lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, neuroblastoma, and small cell lung cancer among others. (Wikipedia)
Vinblastine, sold under the brand name Velban among others, is a chemotherapy medication. The drug treats cancer. The types of cancer include Hodgkin’s lymphoma, non-small cell lung cancer, bladder cancer, brain cancer, melanoma, and testicular cancer. (Wikipedia)
Countries With The Highest Cancer Rates
The countries listed below are the ones that are the most indebted to the Amazon rainforest as they have the highest cancer rates.
|Rank||Country||Age-standardised rate per 100,000|
|12||New Caledonia (France)||324.2|
As you can see the Amazon rainforest and the Amazon river play a big role in the survival of millions of people in numerous countries. The Amazon rainforest is fighting for your life whether or not you realise it.
Start learning about the Amazon and contribute to its care and preservation. Contact me and find out how you can play a part in preserving your life and livelihoods, wherever you are.