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Power of Nature

Amazon: Lungs of the planet

The Amazon in South America is the largest, most diverse tropical rainforest on Earth, covering an area of five and a half million square kilometres (2.1 million sq mi).

It accounts for more than half of the planet’s remaining rainforest and  is home to more than half the world's species of plants and animals.

But over the last 40 years, this great verdant tract has been increasingly threatened by deforestation. Clearing of the forest began in the 1960s and reached a peak in the 90s when an area the size of Spain was cleared, primarily to make space for cattle and soybean production.

But the soil exposed by this clearing is only productive for a short period of time, meaning that farmers must continue to clear more land to keep their businesses viable.

Although deforestation rates have now declined – hitting an all time low in 2011 - the forest is still gradually disappearing, reducing the region’s scale and biodiversity.

But this felling also has an impact on the planet as a whole because the forest also plays a critical role in cleaning the air we breathe.

It does this by sucking up the global emissions of carbon dioxide from things like cars, planes and power stations to name just a few.

Without this “carbon sink” the world’s ability to lock up carbon will be reduced, compounding the effects of global warming.

In this film, ecological economist Dr Trista Patterson, lead scientist with The Nature Conservancy Dr M Sanjayan, sustainability advisor and author Tony Juniper and environmental economist Pavan Sukhdev reveal the richness of life supported by the Amazon and the hidden contribution this great forest makes in helping regulate the planets climate.

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