This is far from the truth, below you will see how deeply you are impacted on a daily basis by the rainforests around the world. You will see what they do for you and will realize why its so important that you return the favor and do some thing for them.
1. There are two kinds of rainforests, tropical and temperate. The tropical rainforests are the ones we think of when we hear “rainforest”, they are located closer to the equator. There are large expanses of tropical rainforest in Africa, South East Asia, and the Middle East, but the largest by far is the Amazon Rainforest in South America. Temperate rain forests exist in climates farther from the equator both in the northern and southern hemisphere. Some of these places are the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Japan, Southern Australia and New Zealand.
2. Once a large tract of the rainforest have been cut down it is very hard to reestablish any thing similar to what had been there. One of the reason for this is that there is very little nutrients in the topsoil of rainforests. All of the leaf litter and other debris that falls to the forest floor is quickly utilized by the many critters that live there. Because of this there is not much organic matter for new seeds to establish in, or for new roots to take hold.
3. The rainforests are being destroyed for a multitude of reasons, the main two being lumber and agriculture. Vast tracts of woods are sold off for pennies on the dollar to supply the international demand for exotic hard woods. Even those that are “sustainably” harvested can have devastating impact on the forest leaving logging roads scaring the land scape. Some areas are being entirely cleared of trees in a method that is known as “slash and burn”. All the vegetative matter that is left after trees are cleared is burned leaving a thin layer of ash on what was once a forest floor. On this land cattle are grazed or crops are planted, often for the export market. Leaving local people with no forest and no food. Because the soil has only limited nutrients after only a few growing seasons the land becomes infertile and is left to bake in the hot sun, a dry cracked, lifeless patch of dirt.
4. Tropical rainforests are an amazing source of medicines. Some two thousands plants have been discovered to have anti-cancer properties. Around 25% of modern pharmaceuticals are derived from tropical plants. Sadly some of these plants are already extinct, including one that quadruples the rate of survivability for childhood leukemia. There are surely many more potential medicinal plants out there with these amazing properties as only 1% of the plants have been analyzed. Let’s just hope they don’t go extincted before we find them.
5. The lungs of the planet are how the rainforests are often described. Taking in carbon dioxide and cycling out oxygen, the Amazon alone is responsible for at least 20% of the oxygen we breath. Rainforests cover only 6% of the Earth’s surface today where as only 50 years ago they covered 15%. We we are quickly loosing a crucial component to a clean atmosphere. As the consequences of our non stop spewing of green house gasses become irrefutable, we will realize how reliant we are on these natural filters for clean fresh air.
6. There are four main layers of life in the rainforest, the floor, the understory, the canopy and the emergent layer. Much of the life which exists in the rainforest is above the forest floor. Most animals in the rainforest never even touch the ground there whole lives, some never even leaving one tree. The upper layers of these forest are often so dense that very little light ever reaches the forest floor.
7. Rainforests are the most densely biodiversity place on the earth. Over half the earth’s species are living in the rainforests and who knows the number of yet undiscovered plants and animals that are living in there. It is estimated that every day 50,000 species go extinct, many of which have never even been ‘discovered’.
8. Many of the foods we commonly see today in or local stores or grow in our own communities are originally from the rainforest. Some estimates put this as high as 80%. Some items are obvious and to this day only grow in rainforest-like surroundings such as chocolate, coffee, vanilla, mangos, and bananas. Some however may surprise you as they did me, such as black pepper, corn, winter squash, potatoes, and yams. Another item that is not on the food side of things but is indispensable in our daily lives is rubber. The rubber tree, originally from South America is now grown in tropical regions from Africa to South East Asia.
9. Rainforests are home to thousands of people, no matter what part of the globe. Entire tribes of people call the rainforest home and live sustainably off the bounty it provides. Whether they build their houses in the tops of trees or clear a little space out of the dense forest, these people are entirely dependant on the forest and the things it provides. They know all the plants, animals, sources of food and medicine. These people are as endangered as the forest themselves. As they disappear so do their cultures, languages, and histories.
10. We know that the rainforests of the world are in danger, but the statistics are jaw dropping. Every second a football field of rainforest is cut down, in the time in takes you to read this one section we will have lost 5 more acres of rainforest. At this rate some estimates give our rainforests only 40 more years. What we will have lost will be irreplaceable, the damage to our environment irreversible. Our grandchildren will know only stories of once great forests, only recordings of the call of monkeys echoing though the dense growth, only photographs of the thousands of species of butterflies.
If your heart is breaking, as mine did when writing this piece, know there are ways you can take action to protect our environment both locally and globally. There are many organizations you can join or donate to. This is a great project to involve school children in because deforestation is very easy concept to grasp at younger ages. Another great way to get dozens of ideas is by joining up with Going Green Today Many small steps can add up to a revolution in how we care for our environment.