The Amazon Rainforest Doesn’t Produce 20% of Our Oxygen, Here’s Why
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The Amazon Rainforest Doesn’t Produce 20% of Our Oxygen, Here’s Why


You may have seen images like this all over social media. The Amazon rainforest is burning, and these images have, understandably, caused international alarm, with media outlets, NGO’s and politicians all weighing in on the conversation about the value of one of the most unique and biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. Amidst all the discussion, one particular claim has stood out: that the forests of the Amazon are the lungs of the Earth, producing 20% of the world’s oxygen. But, that’s not exactly right. Now, the Amazon is the world’s largest remaining rainforest, covering between 6-8 million square km of land, holding millions of species, from plants to insects, birds, and mammals, many of which are yet to be discovered by researchers. However, it’s an ecosystem that is compromised. This year more than 74,000 fires have been recorded in Brazil, most of which are in the Amazon region. And because of this, many are wondering if the deforestation taking place in the Amazon will have a negative impact on our global oxygen supply, which in turn, has led to the claim that the Amazon produces 20% of the world’s oxygen. So where exactly did this figure come from? “This misunderstanding arises from the fact that the Amazon accounts for roughly 20% of the land surface photosynthesis on the planet, and photosynthesis produces oxygen and takes our carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But the bigger issue is that it misunderstands what happens to that oxygen, and where our long term oxygen resource comes from. And the key thing to understand is that most ecosystems consume as much oxygen as they produce.” In other words, we can assume that the Amazon probably consumes the same amount of oxygen that it creates. “We estimate that about 60% of the oxygen produced by plants is consumed by plants as well for their metabolism. And the remainder is consumed by microbes, in particular, as they’re consuming dead organic material, and we estimate that’s somewhere around 40%. So overall, in terms of oxygen supply, the Amazon and almost any other biome on Earth is pretty close to zero, in the net amount of oxygen it provides.” The biggest contributor to Earth’s oxygen supply is actually within our oceans: around half of Earth’s oxygen is generated from marine organisms through photosynthesis. Phytoplankton are one of the primary producers, using carbon dioxide, water, and solar energy to create their food and produce oxygen as a byproduct. Okay, so you might be wondering if we did lose the Amazon completely, what would happen to Earth’s atmosphere? Unlike carbon dioxide, which has quite a low concentration in the atmosphere, with carbon dioxide at around 400 parts per million, oxygen is 21% of the atmosphere, so the atmosphere is awash in oxygen. So, if the Amazon was entirely disappear in flames, the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere would dip by just a tiny fraction of a percent. However, the Amazon still remains a crucial part of our global ecosystem. It regulates regional rainfall and by extension, the global climate, through deep tree roots that can access water and recirculate it back to the atmosphere, generating moisture that can produce clouds and rainfall. Most importantly, it acts as a carbon sink thanks to the process of photosynthesis, and that would be the biggest threat we’d face if we lost this rainforest. “So if the entire Amazon rainforest were to disappear, atmospheric CO2 concentrations would increase by around 10%, which may sound like a small number, and it is, compared to our fossil fuel emissions. But if this were to happen, our chances of stabilizing atmospheric CO2 concentrations at a level that we can say within a safe climate zone would be much, much more challenging.” So, all this is to say, that as the world considers how to protect the Amazon, it’s important to make sure that we’re equipped with the right facts when having these discussions. “I think this relates to the idea of the lungs of the Earth, which I think is a fine metaphor, if you just use it as a poetic metaphor of how important Amazon is. I prefer to think of as a global cooling system or a global pump. I think that there are plenty of strong scientific reasons to to protect the Amazon to value the Amazon. And it’s good to make the case for the Amazon based on where the science is strong. It’s dangerous to make a case of something that actually is a flawed scientific concept.” If you liked this episode, let us know in the comments below, and check out this video on what a cloudless world would look like. Make sure to subscribe, and thanks for watching.

100 Comments

  • Seeker

    Hi, thanks for watching! The team at Seeker continues to support the protection and preservation of the Amazon rainforest. As such, we wanted to take the time to address the misuse of the 20% statistic and take a deeper dive into Earth's oxygen supply because it’s crucial to get the facts straight when we’re talking about how we can safeguard it. Let us know if you'd like to learn more about one of the most unique and biodiverse ecosystems on the planet!

  • Jrogel Mejos

    I feel like this video is intended to defend people who wants the trees cut down on Amazon. What could possibly be the reason why you would make this video instead of make one defending it

  • Yusof Sarangani

    I'm starting to think that we are robbing Brazilians of the opportunity to gain capital from Amazon, because we are sensational to the fact that the Amazon needs to be deforested for it to be farmed.

  • Khali Mo

    The leading cause of rainforest destruction, species extinction, ocean dead zones, Amazon deforestation is the ANIMAL AGRICULTURE. people all around the world has the power to change this by simply not funding your money into animal products and those killer companies. They don't tell us the truth because of loosing profit instead they prefer to keep us telling lies over lies, manipulation over manipulation. Please everyone, we need to save our mother nature, she is crying and screaming for help just as the innocent animals are right now, every second, every day, every moment. We can change that, because we have the power to change and win this injustice taking place right now. I want to be a part of the generation who ends this injustice, who else? Let's get together and help the planet, the starving children in Africa, the scared animals in the slaughterhouses and devil places, let's help them and create together a world where we can look back at this time and wish that this injustice will never happen again. Please watch "COWSPIRACY" it's a documentary free to see on youtube about the Amazon Forrest and its loss, it's very actual and need to be seen.

  • Blade Vizor

    Well people should lie and say the Amazon produces 20% of oxygen cause it might make governments actually give a shit about the planet. Just cause the Amazon doesn’t produce that much oxygen doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about the Amazon.

  • Miles North

    Libs: The Amazon is the Earth's lungs producing oxygen from CO2, we must protect it! Also, let's strip CO2 from the air bc muh climate alarmism.

  • Vinit

    Title is causing negative impact for the non believers in climate change. A non believer will look at title and not care about Burning Amazon. Title should mention that Amazon is important in other ways which can't be ignored. For example mention how Amazon stores huge amount of carbon which when released will create self reinforced loop worsening climate change. Look at comments from biro24 to understand what I mean.

  • Hidden Retribution

    The amazon burning up due to climate change and severe burning from the brazilian goverment and its illegal companys that are literally burning the trees for space.

  • Kenny Omg

    Thank you for this video.

    It really saddens me that for geopolitical purposes facts are really dismissed in favor of appeal to emotions. To me it's obvious following global politics that this recent hysteria about the Amazon is based on trying to get rid of the elected leader of Brazil to benefit a few single countries in terms of having easier egocentric negotiations and strengthening a black and white world view that everybody on the economic right is per definition evil and the economic left is per definition virtues. Having the distorted world view enforced into the mind of the voters worldwide is only to circumvent discussion through argumentation backed up by facts.

    In this case Macron is struggling with endless protests due to his economic attack on the working class and the lower end of the middle class by making traveling to work virtually impossible.

    So instead of addressing the problems of those demographics he'd rather solve it through politicking by enforcing the idea that there is no room for discussion and anyone that is on the other side of the political spectrum is evil.

    This results in radicalization of his backers, all for monetary profit for his party. It's dangerous and irresponsible.

    We should address climate change, but it should be done through convincing people with facts. Not through demonizing anyone that is not convinced yet. Then there need to be investments done into technology that would actually solve the problem instead of trying to convert back into the stone age. Throwing anyone that isn't filthy rich directly into poverty. If you want the general population to switch their motes of transport, give aid and incentives to make that transition as seamlessly as possible. You can't just say "Ow now driving is illegal, and btw I'm not getting rid of my private jet but you aren't allowed to fly anymore." this elitist way of thinking is not productive and will only damage the cause in the long run. It's counter productive.

  • GreatDaneLoverz

    You totally 100% neglected to even mention that this is kill off the natives 2.0 on this continent… They are killing off the native indigenous people because just like the European invaders, the far-right government of Bolsenero doesnt like indigenous people being where they have been for thousands of years… He wants their land and resources at whatever cost… So his government turns a blind eye while the farmers and rich developers move in and burn off the forest to get rid of the indigenous people…

  • ronaldojam

    Great! Now talk about how the earths temperatures aren't rising because of global warming and it's not the hottest it's ever been.

  • Antony Simkin

    I would prefer this myth to still alive and not busted. People believe in stupid and useless things like detox juices, karma, gods, conspirology and so on… And they literally fight for those beliefs. I would prefer this people to believe that Amazon forest is what we need to survive, so people do something for it. Sadly, the majority of people on this planet is not able to use analytic thinking. You bust this myth and they will say "oh, so it doesn't affect me? Screw the forest! Where is my beer?" You better bust another myths to direct people, since they are usually very limited in thinking ability.

  • scott moore

    This also happens every year it’s mostly farmers and ranchers clearing already in use land they burn what’s left of their crops in order to feed their crops for next year. It puts nutrients into the earth for the crops to grow.

  • Aaron P.B.

    Thank you for clearing up the very simplified version of the importance of the Amazon rainforest. There are miracles yet to be discover in the Amazon but we MUST clean up the great river of the world. The only good thing about this fire is that it has millions of people who may not give a thought about climate finally waking up to the fact that all life is intertwined with every organism serving a purpose.

  • Stallings Lad

    I never claim 20% because I never heard of it lol I'm pretty sure school would have mentioned it if it was true since we talked about the Amazon rainforest alot in biology lol but doesn't mean we shouldn't save the rainforest

  • zaczane

    If marine algae creates most of the worlds oxygen
    Why not fill giant vats fill with them as to pull co2 out of the air and make more oxygen for us?

  • Coexist

    Nobody has anything to say when all the locals are chopping down every tree that they can put a chainsaw on to put a buck in their pocket. Let it burn

  • Cee Jay

    Forgot to mention the economic and medicinal value of the amazon…and to me most importantly the many amazing species that call it home which would go extinct

  • peteabc1

    Amazon is burning every single year. Just this year there are little more fires (probably because of climate change). It's actually a wonder there's still forest..

  • G P

    So are we just gonna let it burn down, because it doesn't produce that much oxygen? Who cares about oxygen when thousands of species live there??! Hello??? Humans are not the only living creatures here on Earth. While we are arguing about this shit, these animals are dying… Stop being so selfish
    (By the way, Amazon still clears the air…)

  • Aakash Patel

    Leave people with this thought of 20% O2 create by Amazon, because if they stop carrying Amazon they'll definitely let it burn… so if a lie can help to aware people about environment let them be.

  • Lukass1896

    So you are trying to say that trees and forests are now suddenly useless? … Go on and burn down all forests and let's see how you all will breathe…

  • Eric Bullis

    You know it's government people that are burning down the rainforest and they're doing it on purpose that way they can say Global b***** and text the s*** out of you for just being able to breathe start planting more trees and work around the government's start getting groups to replant the forest all over the place you don't need government permission to plant anything remember that

  • Guru dev

    So how do you calculate how much oxygen something produces…?? With proof???and how much oxygen is there in the air, not in %, in exact amount, where it is going, how much is consumed, how much is produced… ???So many questions…. And I don't trust these so called experts😀

  • NSScrazy

    This video is fake it’s to make people calm and not go crazy over all the slow changes in our health there will be because of this fire 50% of the oxygen comes from the ocean and It’s 30% and 20% for the Amazon and everywhere else this is some bullshit they want you to believe to keep you in the matrix STAY WOKE

    Like this shit if I’m right

  • Shubham Agarwal

    Sign up to use Ecosia as your search engine if you havn't already – they put all of their advertising revenue towards tree planting projects around the world. They have planted over 66 million trees just by people searching the web. It's free and super effective. www.ecosia.org

  • praveen ch

    somehow watching this video made me to care less about the Amazon fires( but that's not okay). I think it's because of knowing the fact that it is not producing the oxygen that I breathe (atleast directly) and also other problems of CO2 levels , rain water seems manageable atleast for now.

  • Frank Chase

    You people are so full of shit!  The Amazon rainforest CONSUMES as much oxygen as it creates is an absolute LIE.  Your own toothless Brit admits that if the Amazon disappeared completely, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would increase by 10%.  That is a planet killing number, you stupid fucks.

  • consulting insultant

    In heatwaves which causes droughts the plants emit less oxygen and gives off much more disproportionate amounts of carbon dioxide. Heat waves are poised to increase.

  • John Cherry

    Fuk the silly details , intentionally burning an amazing ecosystem is about as ASSHOLE as asshole humans can be. What about the inhabitants that live there? You know … those lifeforms , so called animals , which after all are far more intelligent than us. After you don't see them fuk n us over for profit. … P.S. … Undear human beings … DO US A FAVOR , AND GO EXTINCT.

  • Abhi Jain

    let me tell you all a simple math assume that ocean produce x amount of oxygen and trees y amount of oxygen now x+y amount of oxygen is used by every animal and human if we remove y that is oxygen from plants whole animal and human will get dependent on x that is oxygen from ocean. Now just think if whole animal amd human will get dependent on only ocean it will automaticaly reduce a large amount of oxygen from environment. Just think.

  • Maa'Quchii

    burning amazon bad… deforestation bad.. desertification really really bad…
    literally… makes sense to embellish shit to get people off their asses to do something…

    twisting the truth for good cause is OK.. let it happen…
    people always jump in the bandwagon of twisting truths for bad reasons.. to gain votes and such…

    reality is… most people not there.. and people not directly in professions related to forests and animals etc.. really dont care… people tend to only care when something is happening in their own back yards…
    if 1000's of species die today.. most people on earth and hear in the comments will go "awe.. thats terrible.. how sad" butt thats further-est extent they will go.. ya'll know im right.. dont even deny it..

    butt if u say embellish it a bit.. and make people FEEL more connected and affected by said events.. they are more likely to act…

  • Koofey McDonald McDonald

    WHY IS SHE TALKING LIKE SHE'S CONSTIPATED, AND WHAT'S UP WITH ALL THE HAND GESTURES?

    JESUS CHRIST, IT'S AN INFORMATIONAL VIDEO, NOT A MONOLOGUE; JUST READ THE GOD DAMN TELEPROMPTER.

  • Maa'Quchii

    my sources say amazon produces about 6%

    a different unrelated source speculated on what would happen if only 15% of the oxygen levels decreased and disappeared…
    ITS NOT A GOOD THING…

    if the amazon burns away… its not hard to assume that missing 6% wont be extremely dangerous to life ..

    20 % 15% or 6% … ur gonna feel it..when its gone..

    ppl see this vid "oh so its not that bad then… ok.. lets go on about our lives as normal"

    year later… 6% completely gone… "u bitch… u told me i was gonna be gucci…this small % is actually a big fking deal.. if had know i could have spent that year at least tryna do something to help.."

    reminds me of how people were like "fk bisons… not that important.. plus i love meet.. also i want land.. and their in my way… what could go wrong.."
    years later… bison are near extinction.. giant portion of america under goes desertification…
    cause these massive herds arent around to eat up dead grass that suffocate grass under it… that ruin the soil…
    no shit and poop to be spread and trampled to revitalize the soil.. any Gardner would know this..

    bam massive desert in the middle of the USA where Bison literally use to roam…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpTHi7O66pI&list=PLW1uuLoD1kzMMakSpsCCkOos-vsxWRhWt&index=15&t=660s
    at this point.. we need to "fear monger" and get people emotionally connected and off their fking chairs and keyboards and do something…
    like vote better.. lmao.. gotta start somewhere

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