Tropical rain forests have suffered badly for many decades owing to human exploitation and deforestation and, more recently, climate change. The rapid decline in rainforests that are teeming with life has had scientists and environmentalists worrying not only about the loss of biodiversity, but also about how the disappearance of huge areas of forests will impact on regional and global climate. After nearly a century of destruction, tropical rain forests in Africa and South America have now reached a critical point at which they could either disappear altogether or slowly recover. However, there are signs that the rate of decline can at least be halted and even reversed. The future depends not just on government actions and inhabitants, but also further research on these delicately balanced ecosystems: Recent studies have suggested that a global temperature rise of 4°C would represent an irreversible tipping point for rain forests beyond which there would be no return .
At least such warnings have been headed by some governments, most notably in Brazil, which has achieved a dramatic decline in deforestation rates during the past 13 years after 50 years of rapid loss. At the peak of deforestation in 2004, 27,400 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest was cleared per year, while 2014 forest clearance had decreased to around 5,000 square kilometers, according to Brazilian government figures (http://www.obt.inpe.br/prodes/index.php).
Protect and replant
Yet, there is no cause for complacency. Most of that decline in deforestation has been attributed to Brazil and has not been matched in most other countries. Furthermore, there have been signs that the decline in deforestation in the Amazon area is bottoming out, partly reflecting the fact that Brazil's efforts have targeted large clearances of 500 hectares or more while current deforestation is occurring chiefly in smaller plots. A recent study confirmed that …
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