The Amazon Rainforest - Water & Carbon Cycle Case Study

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  • The Amazon Rainforest - Water and Carbon Case Study
    • Facts
      • Largest tropical rainforest
      • 40% South American landmass
      • Hot, wet, dense vegetation
      • Indigenous people
      • 1 Mil plant species, 500 mammal species, 2000 fish species
      • Home to endangered species: Manatee (mammal), Black caiman.  (reptile) , Pirarucu (fish)
    • Water Cycle
      • Wet air blown over Atlantic towards Amazon = wet rainforest = high rainfall
      • Warm temp = high evaporation = increases precipitation
      • Dense canopy = high interception = less flow into rivers = also more slowly
      • Species adapted to high humidity, frequent rainfall
    • Carbon Cycle
      • Carbon stores = vegetation, soil = carbon sink
      • Increased productivity because vegetation has access to more CO2 = increasing biomass
      • Increased sequestered carbon
      • Trees grow quick but die young
        • May not be able to rely on rainforest as a carbon sink in future
    • Human Activities
      • Deforestation: lots exploitation of timber or use land for farming
        • Effects on water cycle
          • No canopy to intercept rainfall = too much water in soil = surface runoff = increased risk of flooding
          • Reduces evapotranspiration  rate = fewer clouds = reduced rainfall = increased risk of drought
        • Effects on carbon cycle
          • No roots to hold soil together = rain washes away nutrient rich soil = carbon from soil transferred to hydrosphere
          • Less leaf litter = no humus = soil can't support new growth = limited amount of carbon absorbed
          • Less trees = more atmospheric CO2 = enhances greenhouse effect = global warming
      • Climate change
        • Increasing temp & decreasing rainfall = drought
          • Amazon  = severe droughts in 2005, 2010
        • (Plants & animals adapted to moist condition) long drought = extinction of species
          • Drought also = forest fires = lots of CO2 released
        • 4 degree temp rise = 85% Amazon rainforest dead = lots carbon released as dead material decomposes = less CO2 taken in by photosynthesis
    • Attempts to limit human impacts on Amazon
      • Selective logging
        • Only some trees felled
        • Felling fewer trees = forest regenerates
      • Replanting
        • Few trees replace those cut down
          • E.g. Peru = 3.2 Mil hectares of forest by 2020
        • Same type of tree replanted = local carbon & water cycles restored to initial state
      • Environmental Law
        • Protects rainforests
          • Laws ban unsustainable wood use
          • Laws ban  excessive logging
          • Laws control land use
            • E.g. Brazilian Forest Code = landowners have to keep 50-80% land as forest
      • Protection
        • National parks, nature reserves protect rainforests
          • E.g.  Central  Amazon Conservation Complex, Brazil, 2003, protects biodiversity, 49,000km2, local people use forest in sustainable way
          • Damaging activities can be monitored & prevented




The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest, and it is home to 8 other countries. It is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on earth, and it is threatened by deforestation due to its wild crops and wildlife. The Amazon rainforest is a global issue so must check current ppc sales for your help, and the Aspinall Foundation has helped to fund two major research initiatives in the Amazon to understand how the Amazon rainforest functions; one of which is the Amazon Rainforest Carbon Cycle.

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