What are the causes of deforestation in the Amazon?

Deforestation in part of the Amazon taken by a NASA satellite in 2007. Image from: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=38782

It has recently been reported in the news that deforestation in the Amazon has increased by 28% in a year. This is on top of an area the size of Panama being lost to deforestation each year. 1 Pretty much everyone knows that it is occurring, but do they know exactly why? The main causes are listed below:

1. The growing of crops. 2 The main culprits are soy and palm oil. Unfortunately palm oil manages to worm its way into many products nowadays, so it is hard to avoid eating products with it in. However, recently there has been a drive towards sustainable palm oil, but this is only effective if enforced at ground level and not just on paper. As for soy, vegetarians beware, you may think that not eating animal products isn’t impacting the environment, but it certainly is in a big way if you eat soy based products.

2. Cattle farming, for example, most corned beef comes from Brazil. 3 The clearing of large areas of land provides ideal grazing grounds. This is the main cause of deforestation, with arable farming occurring on redundant pasture land.

3. For the hardwood itself. This is used by big multi-national corporations as well as subsistence by locals. A large part of wood removal is illegal.

4. In order to build on the land. Brazil, where most of the Amazon rainforest lies, has a booming population.

5. Oil exploitation. If you don’t know the story of the Yasuni National Park in Ecuador then you should get acquainted with it. 4 Despite massive opposition from around the world, and huge funds being raised by richer countries to avoid the destruction of this area of the Amazon, the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa has given the go ahead for oil drilling. 5 As my friend would put it, capitalism. Ecuador is a poor country and cannot resist a chance to become rich. The world demands oil at almost any price, and they can provide this need. This shows why it is important to switch to renewable energy as soon as possible.

These of course, are not all of the causes. However, as can be seen from the ones listed above man’s greed is the driver behind many of them. Without support from other countries Brazil will continue to exploit the Amazon rainforest as it is a large source of income. This is not solely Brazil’s problem, it is a global problem which will not truly be solved until we are sustainable. The sad fact of the matter is that after a while the growing of the crops, grazing of cattle and removal of the wood, degrades the soil to such an extent that nothing can grow on it. The reasons why the soil of the Amazon is so fertile and the effects of deforestation shall be discussed in future blog posts.


1 http://www.livescience.com/27692-deforestation.html

2 http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/sdjclimel2&div=11&id=&page=

3 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305750X99001497

4  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasuni_National_Park

5 http://ens-newswire.com/2013/10/09/ecuadorean-voters-may-decide-fate-of-yasuni-national-park/


2 thoughts on “What are the causes of deforestation in the Amazon?

  1. Pingback: What are the effects of deforestation in the Amazon? | Fighting The Biocrisis

  2. Pingback: How can the Amazon support so much life? Is it due to soil fertility? | Fighting The Biocrisis

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