The largest tropical rainforest on Earth, the Amazon provides one of the richest examples of biodiversity on the planet. Rainforest resources provide numerous benefits that impact the entire planet, from producing copious amounts of oxygen to storing carbon and reducing the impacts of global climate change.
However, human activity - particularly in association with the acquisition of non-renewable resources - has historically threatened the long-term survival of this crucial rainforest.
Non-Renewable Resources in the Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon produces a number of rainforest resources, including precious minerals like gold and copper, as well as cattle and hydroelectric energy. While these Amazon resources bring huge economic benefits to the region, they also damage the rainforest in the process. The activity surrounding the production of these resources directly accounts for huge amounts of deforestation, pollution and displacement of wildlife.
Mining in the Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon produces several different valuable minerals. Researchers estimate that South America produces 20 percent of Earth's iron ore, which is a valuable component in construction and machinery. South America also contains about 25 percent of Earth's copper stores, which people use in the production of electrical wiring.
Mining activities in the Amazon also produce tin and gold. Gold mining in particular causes extensive damage to the forest. Miners illegally burn sections of forest to rapidly access the ground, and use toxic mercury during the gold separation process, polluting waterways.
Deforestation in the Amazon: Cattle Ranching
Cattle ranching accounts for the majority of deforestation in the Amazon. Ranchers clear sections of forest to create more appropriate grazing land for cattle. The rate of deforestation in the Amazon actually increased in 2020, with 4,281 square miles of rainforest cleared. Mining also makes up a large portion of deforestation, as does the timber industry.
Hydroelectric Energy From the Amazon River
While hydroelectric energy is actually a renewable resource, the construction of dams used in the production of hydroelectric energy adversely impacts the surrounding forest and the wildlife within. Damming a river results in the displacement of the people living in the surrounding area as well. The dam floods the surrounding rainforest and prevents aquatic species from travelling into different regions of the river.
Renewable Resources in the Amazon Rainforest
The renewable resources in the Amazon impact not just the local economy, but the entire world. The Amazon rainforest plays an important part in the climate of our planet and produces a large percentage of our global oxygen supply. It also holds a large portion of our fresh water, and contains an immense variety of plants and animals.
Water, Oxygen and Carbon in the Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon River and its surrounding tributaries contain 20 percent of Earth's fresh water. This watery habitat also supports numerous fish and wildlife species that the local people rely on for food.
In addition to fresh water, the Amazon also produces 20 percent of our oxygen. The millions of trees in the forest take in carbon dioxide emissions and release oxygen into the atmosphere. As deforestation removes the forest, global carbon emissions increase, worsening the impacts of climate change.
Rainforest Resources: Medicine
Scientists have identified approximately 40,000 different species of plants in the Amazon rainforest. Of those species, researchers have only evaluated a tiny percentage for their potential medicinal value. Several important medicines derive from Amazonian plants, including quinine, tubocurarine, vincristine and vinblastine. Scientists use these medicines as anesthesia and to treat cancer and malaria.
Ecotourism in the Amazon
Ecotourism provides locals with an alternative to deforestation and destruction of their rainforest. By conserving the ecosystems around them, ecotourism expansion can provide people in these regions with a new revenue stream and source of income. Accessibility remains one of the biggest hurdles for ecotourism in the Amazon.
- National Geographic: Protecting Biodiversity in the Amazon Rainforest
- National Geographic: Resources in the Amazon
- BBC: Brazil's Amazon Deforestation Surges to 12-Year High
- AmazonAid: Global Importance of Amazon Natural Resources
- Global Citizen: Four Known Medicines With Roots in the Amazon Rainforest
- WWF: Ecotourism Could Help the Amazon Reduce Deforestation and Handle Climate Change
About the Author
Marina Somma is a freelance writer and animal trainer. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Marine and Environmental Biology & Policy from Monmouth University. Marina has worked with a number of publications involving animal science, behavior and training, including animals.net, SmallDogsAcademy and more.