Human Impact on the Amazon Basin


Deforestation: Deforestation is the removal of trees in a forest region that causes the conversion of forest land to non- forest land

The main cause of deforestation in the Amazon forest are human settlement and land development

Deforestation in the Amazon basin began in the 1600’s as a result of colonist established forms within the forest. Their farming existed as planting followed by a slash and burn method. This implies that crops are grown, harvested, and the land is burnt to prepare for the next planting season. Due to these farming practice, the land of the amazon had a short term fertility rate, and farmers had to seek new farming land within short periods of time. Over the years, deforestation in the amazon forest of Brazil continue to grow due to the following reasons

Pastoral farming is the leading cause of deforestation in the amazon. It accounted for about 38% of deforestation that occurred between 1966- 1975.  Today, about 80% of the beef produced in pastoral farming in Brazil is used for export.

One of the main causes of the increase in cattle production and cattle export is the drop in the country's currency. This weakness in currency allows brazil's agricultural product to be more competitive in the world market.

 Another cause of increased export is the complete eradication of Brazil's Foot and Mouth Cattle Disease, which allows Brazil to produce higher quality beef. Eradication of this disease also lead to an increase in price and demand for Brazil's Beef.

The constructions of  roads have also lead to easier accessibility to forest land. This has lead to the reduction in shipping and beef packaging cost.

The lack of agricultural certification in Brazil has lead to more and more people using domant forest land for cattle rearing. Colonist and developers could easily earn land title by converting forest land for pastoral farming use.




Subsistence agriculture in a method of crop production, where farmers produce only enough food to feed the family. The practice of subsistence agriculture is done mainly by poor farmers that settle in forest land. The government  encourages these farmers to settle on the land and earn ownership after five years of agricultural practice.

However, most of these farmers engage in the slash and burn method. The slash and burn implies that farm land is burnt after crops are harvested. However, in most cases, the fires set in farmland end up spreading to forest land.

Also, the slash and burn practice causes land to loose its productivity in about two years. This loss in productivity encourages land owners to clear more trees for crop cultivation. Between 1995 and 1998, the Brazillian government granted land to over 150 000 people This lead an increase in the amout of forest land lost to deforestation.                                                                                 

 CONSTRUCTION: Construction of roads and Highways to mining and logging sites in the amazon has also lead to deforestation. It has also opened new forest land that can exploited by peasant farmers, looking for new land or expansion of old land.


One of the major constructions that lead to deforestation and economic development in the amazon basin was the construction of the Trans- Amazonian High way. The Trans- Amazonian highway was created to open up new forest land to poor farmers, and also allow the production of timber and minerals.


However, the Trans- Amazonian Highway did not create prosperity as expected by the Brazilian government. It was subjected to erosion, traffic caused by flooding, and loss of soil productivity within short periods in the Amazon basin due to the slash and burn method that was practiced by the peasant farmers.  


COMMERCIAL AGRICULTURE AND SETTLEMENT: Brazil is known world wide in the global market for the production of food crops for export. It is currently the world’s 2nd largest producer of soybean. High soybean prices have lead to the increase in the amount of forest land used for commercial crop cultivation. The effect of soybean crop cultivation damage extends past the actual deforestation itself. It allows exploitation of more forest land by the slash and burn method practiced by subsistence agricultural farmers, and creates room for the creation of more highways. For instance, soybean farming lead to the creation of the BR-163 road which caused an increase in deforestation and settlement by poor rural farmers.