The topic of this essay is the world's tropical rainforests. The graphs below show the extent of primary forest cover and tree cover in the tropics for the world's five major rainforest blocks: the Amazon, Congo, Australiasia, Sundaland, and Indo-Burma.
The Amazon rainforest is the biggest in the world. The Amazon rainforest, which spans nine countries and covers more than 40% of South America, accounts for slightly more than half of all tropical primary forests. The Amazon is forested to the tune of 6.29 million square kilometers (629 million hectares), with about 84 percent — 5.26 million square kilometers — classified as primary forest. The United States has 9.15 million square kilometers, while Australia has 7.63 million square kilometers.
The Amazon has more than 3 times the amount of primary forest as the Congo Basin rainforest, the world's second-largest. The Amazon rainforest accounts for slightly more than one-third of all tree cover in the tropics.
The size of the Amazon is not limited to its forest cover. The Amazon is the world's longest river. While there is some debate about which river is the world's longest, there is no doubt that the Amazon River is the world's largest: it transports more than five times the volume of the Congo and twelve times that of the Mississippi.
The Amazon rainforest is also home to the world's largest indigenous forest population, including the most diverse tribes and communities living in voluntary isolation. These people are referred to as "uncontacted tribes" at times. The Amazon rainforest has the most plant, bird, animal, reptile, amphibian, freshwater fish, and insect species of any ecosystem on the planet.
Central Africa's Congo Basin is home to the world's second-largest tropical rainforest. The basin is forested in 2.87 million square kilometers as of 2020, with 1.68 million square kilometers classified as primary forest. The Congo rainforest covers an area roughly the size of India. The Congo rainforest is dominated by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Gabon, the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to 60% of the region's primary forest.
The Congo Basin's deforestation rate is increasing. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is responsible for nearly all of the Congo's primary forest loss.
The Australiasian rainforest includes tropical forests on New Guinea's island and in northeastern Australia and scattered islands that were joined as a single landmass when sea levels plummeted during the last ice age.
Almost all of the region's primary tropical rainforest is found on the island of New Guinea, which is roughly divided between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
New Guinea is the world's most linguistically diverse island, with over 800 languages. There are believed to be a few uncontacted groups in isolated areas of New Guinea.
Sundaland consists of the islands of Borneo, Sumatra, and Java, as well as Peninsular Malaysia. The majority of the region's remaining forest is found on the island of Borneo, which Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei officially share. Sundaland lost the most primary forest cover in the world between 2002 and 2019. Borneo has lost 15% of its tropical forests, while Sumatra has lost 25%.
The Indo-Burma region contains a wide range of tropical forest types. Because of historical large-scale forest loss resulting from human population pressure, the region's surviving forests are more fragmented than those mentioned thus far. The majority of the region's tree cover comprises plantations, farms, and secondary forests. Myanmar has the region's most primary forests, accounting for nearly one-third of the total area.
Since 2001, Indo-Burma has lost approximately 8% of its primary forests and 12% of its tree cover. Cambodia was responsible for more than a third of the region's primary forest loss during this period.
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