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Last Updated: Thursday May 19 2005 07:07 GMT

Amazon 'is disappearing faster'

The Amazon rainforest
The Amazon rainforest is being destroyed much faster than we thought.

Hundreds of thousands of trees were chopped down there last year say officials in Brazil, and now a fifth of the rainforest has disappeared.

Some environmental campaigners say the Brazilian government cares more about selling goods and products to other countries than protecting the Amazon.

Last year an area larger than Wales was cut down, which is 6% more than in August 2003-2004.

The last time an area bigger than this - 26,000 square kilometres - was lost was in 1995.

Amazon rainforest
Map of Brazil
One square kilometre of the rainforest contains up to 90,000 tons of living plants
It produces 20% of the earth's oxygen
An estimated 2.5 million insect species live there
New species are constantly being discovered there
This year the trees were mainly cut down in an area called Mato Grosso, where trees have made way for soya fields.

The biggest use of soya is as food for farm animals, but it's also eaten by humans.

Soya oil is used to make loads of things including ice cream, margarines, mayonnaise and even lipsticks.

Greenhouse worries

Environmentalists are worried that by making the Amazon smaller, the rainforest will actually become a polluter of greenhouse gasses.

That's because it will be less able to absorb the harmful gases that are created as more trees are chopped up and burned.

The Amazon is still the largest rainforest in the world and is home to 30% of all animal and plant life on the planet.

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