August 29, 2019
By Erica Rymer, Events and Marketing Specialist
The Amazon Rainforest is the most diverse ecosystem on Earth. Its 1.4 billion acres of forest produces 20% of the planet’s oxygen and is home to 10% of all known plant and animal species. Sadly, the forest’s genetic diversity and natural beauty are in jeopardy because of a great number of unsustainable practices.
If you have been on social media recently, you may have noticed people using the hashtag #PrayForAmazonas, or possibly #AmazonRainforest. This is because the rainforest has seen a record 74,000 fires so far in 2019, marking an increase over last year of 84% and growing. Despite July and August being the beginning of the forest’s dry season, the foliage is still so wet that it rarely ignites on its own. This means a vast majority of the current fires have been set by humans. Setting fires, though illegal in Brazil, is still a common practice for clearing patches of forest for agriculture and cattle farming, and logging and farming are a main source of income for many of the people there.
The increased number of fires is not only eliminating trees and species at an incredible rate - it is bringing the forest ecosystem closer to collapse. The rain in this habitat is not accidental. Trees within the rainforest drink in water from the ground and release that water in the canopy as part of a process called evapotranspiration, helping the forest to make its own clouds. This delicate system requires an incredible number of trees and a reliable and constant source of water to thrive. Fires dry up this water supply and eliminate trees, tipping the scales and bringing the rainforest closer to becoming a savanna. Scientists speculate that once we reach this tipping point, the effects will become irreversible.
To ensure the safety of one of our greatest natural wonders (and resources), it is important that we get involved now. There are many programs around the world currently contributing to the rebuilding and preservation of the forest. There are three ways you can get involved with the help of your Akron Zoo!
1. Donate your aluminum cans to Cans for Corridors. Not only are you diverting from the landfill, but every donation also helps us to fund the planting of tree corridors in Brazil. Each tree costs 75 cents to plant, which is the equivalent of 40 to 50 cans. With your help, we can rebuild the forest for jaguars, tamarins, capybaras, birds and more! Visit our Cans for Corridors page to learn more.
2. Choose environmentally responsible products. Did you know that a large portion of the unsustainable clearing of the Amazon is making space for oil palm trees? Unsustainably sourced palm oil can be found in many foods as well as household products. Your Akron Zoo is one of many organizations vowing to use only sustainably sourced palm oil to protect our natural resources. Download “Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping” app from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and use the convenient barcode scanner to check your shopping list and see where you can make a change.
3. Share this article, or others like it, on social media. The more people who know about the problems facing the rainforest, the more likely they are to help. Make it known that we care about the #AmazonRainforest! Change starts with us!