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The Amazon covers 6.9 million square kilometres (2.72 million square miles) across South America and is home to more than 40,000 plant species, 1,300 bird species and more than 430 mammal species. Scientists believe it provides the Earth with between six and nine percent of all oxygen, meaning it is important to life on our planet. However, between 15 and 17 percent of the Amazon has been lost to human activity, with that number continuing to rise.

What would happen if all of the Amazon was destroyed?

For starters, there would be a huge loss of life.

Including the animals and plants, the Amazon is home to a stunning 10 percent of known insect fauna.

Every animal and insect plays its part in the natural ecosystem throughout the planet, and even if the smallest insect goes extinct, it could have a huge knock-on effect.

Sebastian Leuzinger, of the Auckland University of Technology, wrote in The Conversation: “Perhaps the most drastic, and least reversible, impact would be the loss of wildlife diversity.

“Once species are lost, they are lost forever, and this would ultimately be the most harmful consequence of cutting down the Amazon.

“It would possibly be worse than the loss of its role as a massive redistributor and storage of water and carbon.

“Last but certainly not least, there are about 30 million people living in and near the Amazon rainforest.

“The consequences of losing the forest as a provider of the ecosystem services mentioned above and as a source of food and habitat are unfathomable.

“The repercussions would reach far into global politics, the global economy, and societal issues.”

Another issue would be the way Earth stores carbon and distributes water.

The Amazon rainforest is believed to harbour 76 billion tonnes of carbon and if all the trees were lost, all of that carbon would be released into the atmosphere.

This would contribute to the already catastrophic climate crisis, as it is almost eight times the amount of carbon which humans produce a year.

The Amazon is also responsible for the circulation of massive amounts of water.

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Prof Leuzinger said: “If the Amazon’s cloud systems and its capacity to recycle water were to be disrupted, the ecosystem would tip over and irreversibly turn into dry savannah very quickly.

“Estimates of where this tipping point could lie range from 40 percent deforestation to just 20 percent loss of forest cover from the Amazon.

“Reforestation elsewhere to achieve the same amount of carbon storage is technically possible, but we have neither the time (several hundred years would be needed) nor the land (at least an equivalent surface area would be required).

“Once you cut the circulation of water through (partial) deforestation, there is a point of no return.

“The water doesn’t disappear from the planet, but certainly from the forest ecosystems, with immediate and powerful consequences for the world’s climate.”

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