The destruction of the rainforest is a problem that the people of the world can not continue to ignore. 14 percent of the Earth's land used to be covered by rainforests yet this number has dropped significantly to only about 6 percent (http://www.ran.org/ran/info_center/index.html). Rainforests provide the people of the world with many necessities, some of which would no longer be available if rainforests did not exist. In the last 50 years, rainforests have declined at a terrifying speed of 150 acres per minute or 75 million acres per year (http://www.
ran.org/ran/info_center/index.html). People must open their eyes to the horrible tragedy that will inevitably occur if the citizens of the world do not realize the seriousness of this problem.
To better understand the importance of the rainforest, one must be knowledgeable about what a rainforest actually is. The two main types of rainforests are temperate and tropical. Tropical rainforests are located in Latin and South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and other areas in which temperatures stay above 80 degrees Fahrenheit year round.
They can be found in 85 countries all over the world, however, 90 percent of them are concentrated into fifteen countries, each containing over ten million hectares. Tropical rainforests receive 160 to 400 inches of rain each year. Although these dense, damp forests cover just 5 percent of the Earth's surface, they can provide homes for between 50 and 90 percent of the Earth's plants and animals (http://www.davesite.com/rainforests/review1.shtml).
Tropical rainforests consist of three distinct layers referred to as the forest floor, the understory, and the canopy.
The forest floor contains very poor soil which is mainly due to the trees not allowing for ample sunlight to reach the ground. Because only one to two percent of the light at the top of the forest's canopy manages to reach the floor below, photosynthesis ceases to exist. On top of the soil lies a thin layer of the remains of millions of dead trees, plants, and animals which are quickly broken down by the numerous number of organisms on the floor (Nichol 45). It contains a variety of insects as well as larger mammals such as gorillas and jaguars. The understory is home to smaller mammals such as anteaters, lemurs, and tree kangaroos. It also contains small trees and numerous shrubs. The top layer, the canopy, is made up of the tops of trees which can grow to be over 200 feet in height. Here, trees receive the necessary sunlight to undergo photosynthesis which is crucial for the survival of the forest as a whole. Many tropical birds, monkeys, apes, snakes, and other animals reside in the canopy (http://www.davesite.com/rainforests/review1.shtml).
Temperate rainforests are located along the Pacific coast of Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Tasmania, Chile, Ireland, as well as Scotland and Norway. Most temperate rainforests are much younger than tropical rainforests only being less than 10,000 years old. The temperate rainforests differ from the tropical in that their soil is full of much more nutrients. Temperate rainforests are also much more scarce than tropical rainforests (http://www.davesite.com/rainforests/review1.shtml).
The rainforests of the world are homes to just about every group of animals known to man and it would be impossible to give recognition to them all. The only animals that appear to be few in number are large mammals. The largest animal of the rainforest is thought to be the okapi, 'a shy, elusive beast from west Africa (Nichol 56).' Gorillas, apes, the orang-utan of the Far East, gibbons, and chimps which can grow to the size of a human are also among the larger animals in the forest. A wide variety of monkeys including the tiniest monkeys in the world, the pigmy marmoset, live among the trees in the South American rainforests (Nichol 61).
One of the rarest primates in the world, the golden lion tamarin, lives in a very small portion of the rainforest in Brazil. These breathtakingly beautiful little monkeys resemble golden toys and it is believed that only 150 survive in the wild. Without the rainforest, these precious treasures would be lost forever (Nichol 61).
Over 100 types of birds including the spix macaw, hoatzin, and a numerous variety of parrots would be extinct if the rainforests were non-existent. Many birds of the rainforest appear seasonally, or when the trees begin to bud. Other rare animals in the rainforest include the Javan rhinos, capybaras, and the giraffe stag beetle (Nichol 71).
The rainforest has a larger diversity of plants than any other area on Earth. For example, 'a single hectare in Kenya's Kakamega Forest may host between 100 and 150 different tree species, compared to only about 10 different species in a hectare of the forest of North America (http://www.davesite.com/rainforests/review3.shtml). Many of these plants don't appear in any other part of the world. A small portion of these species are the passion flower, the rambutan, the heliconia flower, and an abundance of hardwood trees.
For hundreds of thousands of years, indigenous people, or Indians, have called the rainforest home. They are very knowledgeable about the rainforest and the secrets it holds. They have taught the people of the world how to find and use wild plants and how to farm small crops on the poor soil of the rainforest floor. There are said to be more than a thousand of these groups of people throughout the world, many of which are close to extinction. If these people become non-existent, the secrets of the rainforests may remain a mystery forever (http://www.stevensonpress.com/intro.html).
Many of the plants in tropical rainforests are used for medicines by both people in the forest and hospitals throughout the world. One-fourth of the drugs that are sold in the United States have products that come from rainforests (http://www.ran.org/ran/). From something as important as a treatment to help fight heart disease to an over the counter drug such as aspirin, every medicine that comes from the rainforest serves a significant purpose to the people of the world.
One of the best-known medicines that comes from the rainforest is quinine. For many years, quinine was the only treatment for malaria. Another plant that aided in the fight against a deadly disease is the Madagascar periwinkle. It was discovered that two compounds from this plant could be used in the treatment of leukemia. As a result of this plant, the survival rate of victims of leukemia has risen form one in five to four in five (Nichol 78-79).
On a global basis, the rainforests are of extreme importance because they help control the Earth's climate. The plants in the forest store carbon dioxide in their roots, stems, branches, and leaves which lessens the greenhouse effect, consequently, lessening global warming. Also, when rain falls in the rainforest, the high temperatures make the water evaporate back into the air which recycles the water. Also, the clouds that cover the rainforests around the equator reflect the sunlight. This keeps the rainforest from getting too hot (http://www.stevensonpress.com/intro.html).
Destroying the rainforest could have devastating results. The people who live in the rainforests would be forced to move into camps or cities. These people would ultimately die off because of the new diseases that city life would bring, diseases that are not found in the rainforest. If they ceased to exist, their culture could be lost forever (http://www.ran.org/ran/).
The destruction of the rainforest could also cause an increase in the greenhouse effect. The carbon dioxide that the plants of the rainforest had been storing would be released and cause the temperature of the Earth to rise and the ice caps to melt. This would cause major flooding around the world.
Yet another important downfall of the cutting down of the rainforest is the effect on the forest floor. It is a known fact that 80 percent of the rainforest's nutrients comes from trees and plants which means the other 20 percent remains in the soil. When the leaves fall to the forest floor, these nutrients are immediately recycled back into the plants and trees. When a rainforest is clear-cut, this process is dramatically affected. The sun is not blocked by the trees which begins to dry up the soil. It is then blown away by the wind which makes it nearly impossible for the rainforest to grow back (http://www.stevensonpress.com/intro.html).
One of the most devastating affects of the cutting down of the rainforests would be the extinction of a tremendous amount of the plants and animals that reside there. Also, the remedies that have prevented many deaths over the years would no longer exist because the plants in which they originated from would be gone.
Although it should be obvious that the rainforest is better left alone, some people insist on destroying them. The Forest Alliance of British Columbia accounted for this by saying, 'The global population has more than tripled this century, and will continue to grow for the next 50 years, particularly in developing countries. World population is expected to reach ten billion by 2050. Because the number of people living on the planet increases every year, the number of forest products needed also increases, forcing temperate and tropical rainforests to be cut down (http://www.davesite.com/rainforests/review4.shtml).'
Farming in the rainforest is very hard because of the poor soil but is still done because the land is cheap. Because of the lack of nutrients, farmers can not use the same piece of land over and over. In following years, many farmers just move to a new piece of land which destroys the forest little by little. Ranchers also follow the same process of using a piece of land to raise cattle and then clearing another large piece of land. During the 1980s, about 16.9 million hectares of tropical rainforest was cut down and replaced with farms and grazing land for cattle (http://www.mtc.com.my/lib/formal/fact4/overview.htm).
Another reason why the rainforests are being destroyed is the logging industry. Trees from the rainforest are used for building houses, making furniture, and providing pulp for paper products. Many corporations have convinced countries that contain rainforests that it would improve their economy if they would allow logging in the rainforest. Many of these countries' economies now depend on their support (http://www.davesite.com/rainforests/review4.shtml).
Many companies such as Occidental Petroleum try to bribe and trick the natives of the rainforest into giving them their land. This oil company was unsuccessful in trying to illegally force the people of the rainforest to sign away rights to the land which would violate the Ecuadorian and international law protecting indigenous people. This will hopefully set an example for the companies of the rest of the world who want to cut down the precious rainforest (http://www.davesite.com/rainforests/review4.shtml).
Although the destruction of the rainforest seems as if it is a problem that only world leaders can attack, it is definitely something that a person as an individual can protest. Many people have boycotted fast food restaurants that serve hamburgers that came from cattle raised on rainforest land. If there is no demand, then companies will stop raising cattle on land cleared from a rainforest. Also, an individual could help by not buying furniture products made from rosewood, mahogany, ebony, or teakwood, materials that are most likely from the rainforest. In many cases, people have taken it upon themselves to adopt acres of the rainforest. The 1996 Tropical Rainforest Coalition has stated that it would cost only forty-five dollars to 'adopt' one acre of the rainforest. This amount of money would fund land acquisition, legal fees, and security costs which would make sure that the adopted land would be protected (http://www.davesite.com/rainforests/review5.shtml).
The destruction of the rainforest is a problem that the people of the world can not continue to ignore. 14 percent of the Earth's land used to be covered by rainforests yet this number has dropped significantly to only about 6 percent (http://www.ran.org/ran/info_center/index.html). Rainforests provide the people of the world with many necessities, some of which would no longer be available if rainforests did not exist. In the last 50 years, rainforests have declined at a terrifying speed of 150 acres per minute or 75 million acres per year (http://www.ran.org/ran/info_center/index.html). People must open their eyes to the horrible tragedy that will inevitably occur if the citizens of the world do not realize the seriousness of this problem.