Tropical rainforests are commonly referred to as the Earth’s lungs, largely because they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and emit large amounts of oxygen. Although there are several rainforests around the world, the Amazon rainforest is one rainforest that fully lives up to the title. That’s partly because it’s the largest in the world, being so large that it accommodates many other rainforests, accounting for more than half of the remaining rainforests on Earth.
It spans nine countries, almost two-thirds of them in Brazil. Several million species live in the huge area of the rainforest, which makes it the most species-rich on earth with almost 400 billion trees and over 2 million animal species.
The rainforest also has carbon reserves of up to 200 billion tons, which can limit climate and global warming problems. Unfortunately, the Amazon has been extremely exploited over the years, mainly due to deforestation. Over the past 40 years, over 20% of the Amazon has been cleared to encourage ranching in Brazil, which is home to a significant portion of the forest.
When forests are cut down, the large amounts of carbon stored in the forest are released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that plays a major role in global warming. Even worse are the cases of fires reported from the area.
While wildfires or wildfires are among the causes of fires in the Amazon, most fires are attributed to human activities. In 2019, the Brazilian Amazon saw over 72,000 fires, including one that lasted more than three weeks, prompting calls for action to protect the rainforest.
Despite heavy exploitation and weak environmental regulations by the Brazilian government, the Amazon continues to be the world’s largest rainforest. However, scientists wonder if it will remain so if it continues to be damaged.
How big is the Amazon rainforest?
The Amazon rainforest is approximately 1.35 billion hectares. In comparison, the second largest rainforest in the world, the Congo rainforest, measures almost 500 million hectares, while the third largest, the New Guinea rainforest, measures up to 200 million hectares. That means you can comfortably fit in both at least twice in the Amazon.
How many square miles (and KM) is the Amazon rainforest?
The Amazon rainforest covers an area of up to 5.5 million square kilometers in square kilometers. This also equates to an area of 2,123,516 square miles. Just as you can fit two of the other great rainforests into the Amazon rainforest, some of the world’s most popular countries can even fit in more than 10 times.
France, for example, has an area of 551,695 square kilometers, which means that France would fit in about 10 times. The comparatively smaller United Kingdom, at 243,610 square kilometers, fits more than twenty times that.
Compared to larger countries like Canada and China, the Amazon rainforest will cover more than half of the country at 9,984,670 square kilometers and 9,707,961 square kilometers respectively. Even in Brazil, where a significant portion of it occurs, the Amazon forest will cover more than half.
If the Amazon rainforest were a separate country, it would be the seventh largest in the world, while countries like India, Argentina, Spain, Saudi Arabia and Algeria would all have smaller areas by comparison.
How big is the Amazon rainforest compared to the US?
Although the Amazon rainforest is larger than most countries in the world, the United States is not one of them. The United States of America has an area of 9,372,610 square kilometers (2,316,022,369 acres or 3,618,783 sq mi), making it the fourth largest country in the world, which also accounts for 6.1% of the earth’s surface. That means the US is much larger than the Amazon, although the rainforest would still cover more than half of the United States.
Relative to population, the United States is home to over 330 million people. However, 47 million people live in the Amazon region, including two million indigenous people from more than 400 indigenous groups.
In terms of other parameters such as the population of plants, birds and other life forms, the Amazon clearly surpasses the United States. The Amazon is believed to be home to 10% of all known species on earth and that new species are discovered almost daily.
Has the Amazon Rainforest been fully explored?
Despite the availability of information about the Amazon rainforest and its size, much of the forest remains to be explored. One of the rainforest areas called Vale do Javari is considered the most unexplored place on earth. The predominantly dense and unfriendly landscape is said to be home to some of the world’s deadliest creatures, including jaguars, anacondas and Brazilian wandering spiders.
This part of the Amazon has also been reported to experience heavy rains causing severe flooding, making it uninhabitable and extremely dangerous to explore. Nonetheless, at least 14 Indigenous uncontacted tribes are believed to live in this area.
To further suggest that there may be more to the Amazon, archaeologists recently uncovered evidence that several hundred villages lie off the great river, leading to the assumption that millions of people may be living in the middle of the forest.
The areas away from the Amazon remain largely unexplored, as it was believed in the past that ancient communities preferred to be near the waterways.
However, based on a 2018 study, archaeologists from the University of Exeter found new evidence that this was not the case. The archaeologists found remains of fortified villages and mysterious mounds of earth called geoglyphs, which are artificial features created on the earth’s surface by removing or removing sand or stones to create a contrast between the figure and the ground. Villages are usually located near or within the geoglyphs.
Studies show up to 1,300 geoglyphs covering 400,000 square kilometers of southern Amazonia, suggesting that around 600 to 1,000 enclosed villages could still be found.
How Much of the Amazon Rainforest Has Been Lost?
Unfortunately, there was widespread deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, which began as early as the 1960s, especially in Brazil. In 1964, under a military dictatorship, people were encouraged to move to the Amazon with the prospect of economic incentives for farmers and ranchers to clear land in the area.
This went on for years. Deforestation in the Amazon increased significantly in the 1970s and 1980s as infrastructure projects and agricultural opportunities attracted more people to the rainforest.
By 1988, satellite images of the Amazon showed that the rainforest had lost over 10% of its original cover. In order to limit the extent of deforestation, the Brazilian government launched a program in 1989 to identify areas to be protected from exploitation. However, enforcement remained weak, and in 1995 the country reached a new peak in deforestation, with more than 11,000 square miles (7,040,000 acres or 28,490 km²) cleared that year.
Things stayed the same until 2003, when a significant effort was made with the appointment of a new environment minister who helped improve laws and reduce deforestation. In the years that followed, deforestation seemed minimal until President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019 and deregulated land and pesticide use. This proved to be a disastrous measure, leading to an increase in land burning in the Amazon, primarily to allow for crops and grazing.
According to reports, more than 60,000 fires broke out in the Brazilian part of the Amazon in August 2019. Bolsonaro’s decisions continued to pose a threat to the Amazon, and environmental regulations became even weaker. In 2022, reports again showed that more than 1,500 square miles (960,000 acres or 3,885 km²) were cleared in the first six months of the year.
In contrast, this part of the Amazon is larger than countries like Luxembourg, the Faroe Islands, Singapore and Bahrain. It is also five times the size of New York (302.4 sq mi/784 sq km/193,664 acres), more than twice the size of London (607 sq mi/1572 sq km/388,450 acres), and 38 times the size of London Paris (40 .7 sq mi/ 105.4 sq km/ 26,048 acres).
About 17% of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed in the last fifty years, and scientists estimate that deforestation of 20 to 25 percent will mark the point at which the tropical climate dries up. Human activities such as agriculture (farming and ranching), construction, and burning are responsible for forest destruction.
While many people believe that cracking down on deforestation could slow economic growth in the region and in Brazil more generally, experts say enough has been done for the rainforest to meet the country’s needs. Over-exploitation would only further damage the Amazon.
How big is the Congo rainforest compared to the Amazon rainforest?
The Congo Rainforest is not only the obviously smaller rainforest in this comparison, it is also large enough to deserve some recognition. While the Amazon rainforest can be described as the lungs of the earth, the Congo rainforest is often referred to as the lungs of Africa.
It spans six countries, most of which is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The area is also home to more than 600 species of trees and 10,000 species of animals.
Deforestation is a significant disturbance of this rainforest, and in 2020 alone, approximately 1.2 million acres (1,875 square miles or 4,856 square kilometers) of forest were lost to illegal logging and agricultural use. However, the Congo rainforest continues to contribute to the fight against global warming as the rainforest has stored 32 billion tons of carbon in its trees and plants.
As in the Amazon, scientists assume that significant parts of the forest will be lost if the rain forest in the Congo continues to be exploited. Based on the current rate of disturbance in the country, it is estimated that by 2050 a quarter of Congo’s rainforest will have been cleared.
|units||Amazon rainforest area|
|square miles (mi2)||2,123,516|
|square kilometers (km2)||5,499,906|
The Amazon rainforest is quite literally the most critical ecosystem in the world, which explains the urgent need for its conservation and protection. A third of the identified terrestrial animal and plant species occur in the Amazon, although it covers only 4% of the earth’s surface.
The trees of the Amazon contribute significantly to the regional and global water and carbon cycle, releasing 20 billion tons of water into the sky every day.
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