Since the Amazon ranforest is burning, countless posts are getting viral on social media. In attempt to save the rainforest in their own way, people are using different narratives. One of the common narratives is “The Amazon rainforest is the earth’s lungs”. And, it contributes to 20% of the earth’s Oxygen.
While the emotional outrage is justified, we still cannot rely on false information to the cost of awareness. Especially, when it comes to basic science. In fact, we wouldn’t want to be embarrass the people who look back at us millions of years later.
Amazon Rainforest Is Not Earth’s Lungs
This is almost “mythological” that Amazon rainforest contributes to 20% of the earth’s Oxygen. And, that is earth’s lungs. In truth, the number is just made up. This is true because thousands of creatures live in Amazon rainforest. Right from a caterpillar to a python, everyone needs oxygen to breathe.
The trees that produce the oxygen in the first place also need oxygen for respiration. All this living creatures use all the oxygen that the entire rainforest collectively produces. No oxygen ever escapes the rainforest. Therefore, amazon rainforest neither does the net production of Oxygen nor the net consumption of Carbon.
How Could We Even Call It Lungs?
Richard Muller wrote a hard-hitting answer as to how calling Amazon rainforest earth’s lungs is totally wrong. He goes on to ask a fundamental question: what do our lungs do? When you breathe, you are taking out the carbon di oxide present inside your body out of your mouth in the environment (exhaling) and taking in the oxygen present in the environment inside your body (inhaling).
With that logic, Amazon raniforest has to do the same to qualify as being the lungs of the earth. It has to take out carbon di oxide and take in oxygen. But it doesn’t. Because, it does the other way around. Then, how come it is the lungs of the earth?
The Numbers Are Just Made Up
There has been no valid scientific calculation made to find the 20% number. It is just made by writers to emphasize their point. “The Amazon does not change the oxygen balance much. It, for example, annually removes up to two billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, and it returns about 1.5 billion tons of oxygen to the atmosphere. But 1.5 billion tons of oxygen is a very small fraction, 0.001% of the planet’s oxygen, ” explained climatologist Carlos Nobre.
Trees Are Not the Primary Source of Oxygen?
Oceans are. And, other water bodies.
The tiny diatoms that live in water bodies contribute to the maximum amount of Oxygen that we use for breathing. Technically, they are an algae. And, they could be so tiny that they would fit across the width of a human hair. In fact, not just oceans. They were everywhere. In waterways, soil, seas, and where not.
Diatoms are one of the major phytoplankton. When they undergo photosynthesis, they convert carbon di oxide into organic carbon and produce Oxygen.
As per the ScienceDaily magazine, they contribute to the 40% of the organic carbon. This is so because the population of diatoms double every single day. Remember, phytoplanktons are the ones that become the food of giant creatures that live in marine.
While saving the forest from burning is important in every way, we shouldn’t still compromise with the truth. As Malcom X said, “I am for truth no matter who tells it.” I think it is valid to say that I am for truth no matter even if a lot of people don’t agree with it.