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The Disappearing Rainforests

 

Every year an area of rain forest the size of New Jersey is cut down and destroyed. The plants and animals that used to live in theses forests either die or must find a new forest to call their home. Rainforests play a part in our global environment. They house many different kinds of animals and plants, helping to preserve biodiversity.

They play a role in the oxygen cycle, supplying badly needed oxygen to our atmosphere, while taking in all the carbon dioxide we make. They hold moisture in the atmosphere, acting like giant, green sponges.

When you cut down a rainforest, you lose the protective cover of the trees and the bare ground is pounded by rain, losing its topsoil to erosion. Once gone, new soil can take generations to develop. Plus, what happens to the soil that gets washed away? It can cause other environmental problems. It washes downhill into rivers and builds up. This is called sedimentation. The river fills in and gets shallower.

Boats then can’t travel in the shallow waterways. The river can become murky, making fishing a lot harder. All of these things affect the lives of the people and animals in and around the rainforest. These are just some of the dramatic side effects of deforestation.

  

Humans are the main cause of rain forest destruction. So why do we cut down the rain forest?

   
  • wood for both timber and making fires;
   
  • agriculture for both small and large farms;
   
  • land for poor farmers who don´t have anywhere else to live
   
  • grazing land for cattle
   
  • pulp for making paper
   
  • road construction
   
  • extraction of minerals and energy
  • mining – bauxite, oil, gold, diamonds, iron ore in Amazonia, nickel, copper, tin, coal in Indonesia, coals in Columbia, uranium,
   
  • dams – electricity
 

Rain forests are also threatened by climate change, which is contributing to droughts in parts of Amazon and Southeast Asia. Drought causes die – offs of trees and dries out leaf litter, increasing the risk of forest fires, which are often set by land developers, ranchers, plantation owners and loggers.

In 2005 and 2010 the Amazon experienced the worst droughts ever. Rivers dried up which resulted in isolation of several communities and millions of acres of land burned. The smoke caused widespread health problems, interfered with transportation and blocked the formation of rain clouds while the burning contributed huge amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere which worsened the effects of climate change.

How fast are the Rain forests disappearing?

In the last 50 years 50% of the earth´s rain forest has been destroyed. At the present rate of destruction, an area of rain forest the size of 2,000 football pitches is lost during a 90 minute football match.

Experts estimates that we are losing 137 plant, animal and insect species every day due to the rain forest disappearance. this means every year we loose 50,000 species a year. 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide come from rare plants and when we cut the rain forests down we can loose possible cures for life – threatening diseases.

Even though we use the rain forest plants for medical purposes only 1% of the plants and trees were tested by scientists.

There were an estimated ten million Indians living in the Amazonian rain forest five centuries ago but today there are less than 200,000.

What do rain forest have to do with us?

Why should the loss of tropical forest be of any concern to us in light of our own poor management of natural resources? The impact on the world because rain forests are so biologically diverse is huge, more so than other ecosystems on Earth.

Let us think about these:

  • pond in Brazil can accommodate the same amount of fish as all of rivers in Europe
  • 700 species of trees can be found on a 25-acre rain forest in Borneo which equals to tree diversity of whole North America
  • rain forest in Peru contains more bird species than are found in the entire USA
  • one tree in Peru harbors 43 different species of ants which is a total number of ant species in the British Isles
  • number of species of fish in Amazon exceeds number found in Atlantic ocean.

Some beautiful pictures of rain forests