Photograph by John Stanmeyer/VII
The Amazon River carries more water than any other river on the planet, and about 60 percent of the Amazon River basin's rainforests fall within Brazil's borders. The Amazon rainforests are what scientists call a "sink" for atmospheric carbon dioxide, by which dense vegetation soaks up atmospheric carbon and traps it in tissue.
Deforestation therefore reduces the Earth's capacity for absorbing CO2 pollution from fossil fuels. It's responsible for an estimated 15 percent of man-made carbon emissions. U.N. climate change negotiators failed in December to reach agreement on how to manage deforestation.
Farmers burn ancient rainforests to make way for more farmland to raise cattle and soybeans. Rising commodity prices worldwide drive farmers to burn more and plant more, erasing massive tracts of pristine forest.
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