With the effects of climate change mounting, Amazon basin countries met in Colombia for a summit Saturday to strategize on how to save the world's biggest rainforest.

"To sustain the Amazon, according to science, we need to keep 80 percent of its forests standing and not manage to go beyond 20 percent deforestation, and unfortunately we are already at 17," said Colombian Environment Minister Susana Muhamad.

"Losing the Amazon, reaching the point of no return, has irreversible consequences for global climate change," she warned at the meeting attended by representatives from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

Rainforests are often called the "lungs of the Earth," soaking up planet-warming carbon dioxide and expelling life-giving oxygen. Their protection is crucial in the battle to combat climate change.

In a bit of rare good news, deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon fell by one-third in the first six months of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's administration compared to the same period last year, the government said last week.

Lula's leftist government also has pledged to seize half of all land deforested illegally in areas designated as having special environmental protection, set aside three million hectares (7.4 million acres) of protected land by 2027, and strengthen Brazil's network for environmental monitoring.