The Amazon: A Global Treasure Rainforests sustain us. They help regulate the global climate and are vital to maintaining the earth's fragile balance. The Amazon rainforest is the world's largest and most biodiverse tropical rainforest, covering an area larger than the continental United States. It houses one-third of the Earth's plant and animal species and produces one-fifth of all its flowing fresh water. Nearly 400 distinct indigenous peoples depend on the Amazon rainforest for their physical and cultural survival. At current rates of deforestation, nearly 50 percent of the Amazon could be lost or severely degraded by the year 2020, and the vast majority will no longer be in a pristine state. With global deforestation contributing 20–25 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, Amazon Watch and our indigenous partners are providing a service to all humanity as we together seek to defend the rainforest. Each of us can take action. We may be the last generation that has a chance to protect this precious gem of our world's cultural and ecological heritage – an irreplaceable source of life and inspiration.