Brazil owns most of the Amazon rainforest, and therefore is considered by the rest of the world as a country responsible for its conservation or total destruction, which would have serious consequences on the climatic and environmental balances, including biodiversity. The large mass of Amazonian plants also mitigates the greenhouse effect, releasing oxygen in large quantities and absorbing carbon dioxide; but the breakdown of the large forest region, at least in the southern and eastern parts, into ever smaller sub-regions determines its slow transformation or irreversible degradation when the sub-regions themselves become too small and are clearly separated. In fact the winds are wedged between the plant masses, the temperatures change, the
The observation of satellite images, managed by the United States both through NASA with the Landsat program, and in collaboration with the Brazilian space agency INPE (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais), allows us to evaluate Amazonian deforestation, as part of the UN-International Geosphere Biosphere Program pilot project on deforestation and vegetation regrowth in the Brazilian Amazon, equatorial Africa, the large islands of Insulindia and Australia. This project was started in the nineties and is destined to continue after the 2000s.
According to Indexdotcom, the high resolution data from the satellites indicate that, in part, deforestation is due not so much to the destruction of the primary forest by cutting or by fire, but to the new destruction in areas of regrowth, following abandonment after a first cut of space. intended for agriculture or breeding; in part, these are areas where the original rainforest is degraded or thinned; this phenomenon affects from 25 to 30 % of the total forest area of Brazil, which, according to UN-UNEP data, covered about 64 % of the territory in 1970 ; in 1990 it was reduced to 59 % and in 1996 to 57%; however, this percentage concerns the whole Brazil, that is, not only the forest of the Amazon basin, but also the southern forests of the Paraná and Paraguay river basin, or residual areas of the plateau and even the few Atlantic coastal forests, which however are largely protected part in parks. The real primary Amazon forest, according to satellite surveys, resists for about 80%, while the major marginal areas have been largely deforested. This phenomenon has spread since the 1970s, in an effort to economically develop the Brazilian tropical border: the major factors of deforestation were agricultural expansion, the considerable increase in small direct farmers, the increase in trade and above all the conversion of the forest into pastures for farming.
The settlement in the northern Brazil and the government programs of agricultural expansion in the forest, in the seventies and eighties, were based on the assumption that the Amazon basin was an ’empty frontier’, to be exploited to dissolve the tensions in the overpopulated southern areas; mining interests as well as agricultural ones were also important stimuli for colonization. Indeed, recent studies tend to show that the demographic factor, i.e. the overpopulation of part of the country and the rapid growth of the population, is only one of the indirect causes of deforestation: the phenomenon is actually more complex. Poverty widespread among large sections of the population, government policies, fiscal incentives and long periods of very high monetary inflation have combined with misinterpreted or deliberately ignored natural factors, such as rapid soil degradation after forest clearing, in a region of heavy rainfall; livestock has been used for several years as an investment against inflation, safer than crops, given the demand from the Brazilian and North American markets themselves.
To repay the large foreign debt incurred to finance development programs, Brazil must export mainly agricultural products; a large part of the funding was used to extend soybean crops, especially in the state of Paraná, in order to free the country from highly variable coffee prices. But in this way a low-labor-intensive, mechanized crop, soybeans, has been replaced by a highly labor-intensive crop, coffee; this has increased unemployment and accentuated the phenomenon of migration towards the Norte forest border. There is no simple relationship between the increase in population density in the forest frontier areas and the destruction of the rainforest, but a complex relationship between demographic, financial, distant, almost ‘global’ political and economic, operating across different time and spatial scales. In the 1990s the rate of deforestation slowed, based on satellite observations; however the process continues.
A new orientation of the ‘conservationists’ and scholars of the various organizations concerned, largely non-governmental, consists in the programs of investigation and assistance directed to the development of the Amazonian populations of the forest, who have lived for generations in the forest itself without causing the destruction that occurred. on the border. The concept of integral conservation, which turned out to be utopian, is replaced by that of the regulated use of parts of the forest, which, moreover, in many areas is only slightly modified by the action of rubber collectors, by the controlled use of wood, by regularly practiced fishing. for the sale. The populations concerned are not only the remaining Indians, but above all the much more numerous Caboclos, that is people mixed with the Indios and descendants also from Portuguese and Spanish. The exploitation of forest products occurs in a predatory way in many areas, but sustainable use has been observed when the reproduction rate of resources is high, and this occurs in the least degraded forest. Beyond the economic value, the large hydroelectric dams of Itaipú (also owned by Paraguay) and of Tucuruí sul Tocantins in Pará raise environmental concerns due to the alteration of river regimes.
Two other problems, less known than that of forest destruction, concern the deterioration of coastal mangroves and the alteration of the freshwater ecosystem of the Amazon River, in which about three thousand known species, and perhaps others still not identified, would live; it is the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world, supplying the oceans with one fifth of all freshwater they receive from rivers. For half of the year, distant forests up to 20 ÷ 25km from the river are flooded for a few meters in height: this particular environment hosts fish and plants that are partly different from the rest of the forest and is the maximum source of biodiversity, essential for the health of the entire Amazonian ecosystem. In the lower third of the Amazon River, the submerged forest remains intact for only a residual 20 %. Coastal mangroves contribute to marine biodiversity, protecting wet coasts and coral reefs from sedimentation from waterways; Brazil owns about 800. 000 ha of coastal mangrove forests, with conservation problems at the gigantic estuary of the Amazon.
The Brazilian authorities believe that the international community should, through the World Bank, the UN and other bodies, finance the salvation of the forest with non-repayable investments of sufficient magnitude to allow economic developments capable of substantially improving the average conditions of the population, very difficult fact, at least in substantial proportions. Only in recent years have World Bank loans been aimed at environmental purposes and a greater awareness of Brazil Amazon basin, such as Bolivia and Peru. L’ isolation and the great distances of several areas of the Norte border and the conditions of considerable rural, and sometimes urban, poverty in the Northeast make solar power plants convenient and desirable, for which the Brazilian state energy bodies spread them with the concurrence of assistance programs from the United States and the World Bank itself, which in the past decades had been criticized for having funded other programs deemed harmful to the environment; the program whereas in past decades it had been criticized for funding other programs deemed harmful to the environment; the program whereas in past decades it had been criticized for funding other programs deemed harmful to the environment; the program America’s 21th century features solar or mixed-system electrification of over 500. 000 homes, starting with the states of Pernambuco and Ceará.
The problem of safeguarding Amazonian biodiversity affects the whole planet, and the UN takes it upon itself through study commissions and international research funds: it is a great problem for the near future, together with the apparently larger problem of climate change. Most of the known plants, in primitive and original forms, exist in the forest and its mountain edges, like many other little-known or perhaps completely unknown plant species, which may contain active ingredients of great interest for medicine and pharmacology, as has been found in various world conferences and conventions promoted in the framework of the UN-UNEP programs, such as the 1993 Convention on Biological Diversity.