Study Notes

GCSE Geography | The Scale of Deforestation (Tropical Rainforests 3)

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas

Last updated 19 Jul 2023

The UN food and agriculture organization estimates that about half of all the world’s rainforests have now been cleared, and since 2000 the rate of deforestation has increased in South America, Asia and Africa.

What's happening across the globe?

In South America it has increased in Peru and Bolivia. In Asia it has increased in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, and in Africa, it has increased in Mali and Madagascar. Rates in Peru and Indonesia have actually doubled! On a positive note there are some countries where deforestation has decreased over the last 2 decades, perhaps most surprisingly in Brazil! However, 20% of the Amazon has been lost – equating to seven hundred and sixty one thousands km² - which is 3 times the size of the UK).

Headline figures

Around the world, rainforest loss is…

• 1 hectare per second/60 hectares per minute

• 86,000 hectares per day (an area larger than New York City)

• 31 million hectares per year (an area larger than Poland)

Deforestation rates in Brazil have overall fallen since 2004 – but why is this?

There are a number of reasons for this decrease. Illegal deforestation was a huge issue in the Amazon rainforest – this is now being heavily cracked down on. There has also been pressure from consumers not to use products from deforested areas, so there has been a decline in cattle ranching as huge companies like McDonalds try to source their meat from more environmentally sustainable sources. The Brazilian government is also committed to reducing carbon emissions as part of globally agreed targets and understand just how important the rainforest role is in meeting these targets. Finally Brazil has led the world in conservation as the rainforest is home to half of the world’s species – so over half of the Amazon has been given protected status.

But it’s not all good news in Brazil. Unfortunately in 2019 President Bolsonaro took office and announced that he was going to roll back protection of the rainforest and its indigenous tribes in order to exploit its resources and boost the economy. As a result deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has hit the highest annual level in a decade. Between August 2020 and July 2021, the rainforest lost 10,476 sq km – an area nearly seven times bigger than greater London. However, Bolsonaro lost the recent general election (October 2022), and new Brazilian president Lula has vowed to protect the Amazon rainforest from future exploitation.

Scale of Deforestation | AQA GCSE Geography | Tropical Rainforests 3

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