Rainforests around the world are being threatened on an unprecedented scale, and if things continue, experts predict they could disappear altogether in 100 years. Tropical forests are among the most important ecosystems on the planet, being home to much of the world's biodiversity. Yet global deforestation continues, and it's not in everyone's interest to end it. This can currently be seen in Brazil, where populist leader Jair Bolsonaro turns a blind eye while the Amazon burns. But how much of the world's rainforests are left, and what are the reasons for its destruction?
The Amazon rainforest - which plays a vital role in balancing the world's climate and helping fight global warming - is also suffering as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Deforestation jumped 55% in the first four months of 2020 compared with the same period last year, as people have taken advantage of the crisis to carry out illegal clearances. Deforestation, illegal mining, land clearances and wildfires were already at an 11-year high and scientists say we're fast approaching a point of no return - after which the Amazon will no longer function as it should. Here, we look at the pressures pushing the Amazon to the brink and ask what the nine countries that share this unique natural resource are doing to protect it. The largest and most diverse tropical rainforest in the world is home to 33 million people and thousands of species of plants and animals.
A reforestation assistant measures a newly-planted tree in a field damaged during illegal gold mining in Madre de Dios, Peru, on March 29, 2019. Since the project began three years ago, the team has planted more than 42 hectares (115 acres) with native seedlings, the largest reforestation effort in the Peruvian Amazon to date. The group is in discussion with Peruâ€ s government to expand their efforts. MADRE DE DIOS, Peru (AP) -- Destruction of the forests can be swift. Regrowth is much, much slower.
In Panama, indigenous tribes are turning to a modern tool to help protect their homes: drones. Vast rainforests, which once covered more than half of Panama's land surface, are shrinking – eaten away by development, both official and unofficial. Forest land is becoming mines, hydroelectric projects, farmland, cattle habitat, and the site of illegal logging. In response, seven indigenous tribes, whose members live in autonomous zones known as comarcas, have begun sending up drones to keep an eye on their forests. Three members from each tribe received a month of training on how to use the drones, Reuters reports.
Destruction of the forests can be swift. Regrowth is much, much slower. But around the world, people are putting shovels to ground to help it happen. In a corner of the Peruvian Amazon, where illegal gold mining has scarred forests and poisoned ground, scientists work to change wasteland back to wilderness. More than 3,000 miles to the north, on former coal mining land across Appalachia, workers rip out old trees that never put down deep roots and make the soil more suitable to regrow native tree species.