A jaguar (Panthera onca), photographed deep inside the Nouragues Natural Reserve, French Guiana © Emmanuel Rondeau / WWF France

A jaguar (Panthera onca), photographed deep inside the Nouragues Natural Reserve, French Guiana © Emmanuel Rondeau / WWF France

Why is the Amazon rainforest so important?

26 Aug 2019

  • ecosystem
  • forests

South America’s Amazon contains nearly a third of all the tropical rainforests left on Earth. Despite covering only around 1% of the planet’s surface, the Amazon is home to 10% of all the wildlife species we know about – and probably a lot that we don’t know yet.


Our research shows that, on average, a 'new' species of animal or plant is being discovered in the Amazon every 3 days. However, tragically, because huge parts of the forest are being destroyed so fast, we may never know all the riches it holds.


People around the world, as well as locally, depend on the Amazon. Not just for food, water, wood and medicines, but to help stabilise the climate, playing a critical role in global and regional carbon and water cycles.


The Amazon is under siege like never before. Deforestation and fire are once again on the increase, and protected areas and indigenous lands face increasing threats. It needs our help more than ever. We cannot tackle the climate crisis without the Amazon’s vital life-sustaining role.


A caquetá titi (Callicebus caquetensis) at Chandless State Park in the state of Acre, Brazilian Amazon © Adriano Gambarini / WWF Living Amazon Initiative 

"We are only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unveiling the incredible species that live in the Amazon and understanding the vital role it plays in helping regulate our climate. Despite some important conservation successes, the Amazon faces greater threats than ever before. We need to act fast to protect this life-sustaining treasure for the millions of species and people that depend on it.”



About the Amazon

Aerial view of the Uatumã Biological Reserve, Amazon, Brazil © WWF-US / Ricardo  Lisboa


The Amazon covers a huge area (6.7 million sq km) of South America – mainly in Brazil but also Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.


This vast untamed wilderness is under increasing threat from huge-scale farming and ranching, infrastructure and urban development, unsustainable logging, mining and climate change.


Just two quick facts to give you an idea of what’s at stake here.

  1. The Amazon has more species of primate than anywhere else on Earth.
  2. You can find more types of ant on one tree in the Amazon than you can in some whole countries.

We’re so determined to help protect the Amazon, for the benefit of its people and for the planet as a whole. Your help will be vital.


Challenges facing the Amazon

Forest on fire in the Amazon, Brazil © Nigel Dickinson / WWF


The Amazon is at the heart of global climate concerns. Not only does the destruction of rainforests add to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it creates a ‘negative feedback loop‘ - where increased deforestation causes a rise in temperatures, which in turn can bring about a drying of tropical forests and increase the risk of forest fires.


Huge areas of rainforest are destroyed by clearing for farming, timber, roads, hydropower dams, mining, house-building or other development. The problem is it’s often seen as more economically worthwhile to cut the forest down than to keep it standing. We’re working hard to change that perception.


Rising global demand for food, especially meat, has led to Brazil becoming the world’s biggest beef exporter, and the second-biggest exporter of soya beans, mainly used for livestock feed. More and more forests are being removed to make way for grazing land or soya plantations.


How we’re helping

Right now, the Amazon is burning. Almost 73,000 fires have been recorded in the Amazon rainforest already this year – 85% more fires than were seen in the whole of 2018. Land is cleared and prepared for agriculture through fires, but not normally at this intensity. The current dry season also contributes to the rapid spread of these fires.


But you can help save the Amazon by donating to our emergency appeal today. Your donation will:

  • Fund intensive monitoring of the fire and evacuation plans
  • Provide medical support for personnel involved in firefighting
  • Provide fire fighting equipment and the transportation of firefighters
  • Support local communities’ needs for firefighter training and security




Find out more ways you can help save the Amazon.

Wildfires Emergency Appeal

Give now to help fight the fires raging through the world's forests and your donation will be matched dollar for dollar
Donate Now

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