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The world's largest rainforest, the Amazon spans eight countries and covers 40% of South America -- an area that is nearly the size of two-thirds of the US, according to the World Wildlife Fund. More than 30 million people live in the Amazon, which is also home to large numbers of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, most of them unique to the region. A new plant or animal species is discovered there every two days.
The Amazon forest, which produces about 20% of earth's oxygen, is often referred to as "the planet's lungs."
An inferno in the Amazon, two-thirds of which is in Brazil, threatens the rainforest ecosystem and also affects the entire globe.

Since the beginning of 2019, Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (known as "INPE") has reported 72,843 fires in the country, with more than half of these being seen in the Amazon region. This means more than one-and-a-half soccer fields of Amazon rainforest are being destroyed every minute of every day, INPE has stated.

An 80% increase in deforestation has occurred so far this year compared to last year.

Farmersand cattle ranchers have long used fire to clear land and make it ready for use, so they are likely behind the unusually large number fires burning in the Amazon today, said Christian Poirier, the program director of non-profit organization Amazon Watch.

Currently, the Amazon is a "sink" for carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas that is emitted mainly from burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, according to WWF. Under natural conditions, plants remove CO2 from the atmosphere and absorb it for photosynthesis, yielding carbon, which allows plants to grow, and releasing oxygen back into the air.

Scientists say that excessive carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to the warming of our planet.

The Amazon remains a net source of oxygen today -- despite the fact that about 20% of the world's total carbon dioxide emissions are caused by deforestation. 

The Amazon is incredibly important for our future, for our ability to stave off the worst of climate change.

(Source: Susan Scuttie, CNN)