Rainforests Degradation

Maryam Adrees, Green Blogger.

Forests cover 31% of the land area on our planet. They help people thrive and survive by purifying water and air and providing people with jobs. Some 13.2 million people across the world have a job in the forest sector and another 41 million have a job that is related to the sector. Many animals also rely on forests. Eighty percent (80%) of the world's land-based species such as elephants and rhinos, live in forests. Forests also play a critical role in mitigating climate change because they act as a carbon sink—soaking up carbon dioxide that would otherwise be free in the atmosphere and contribute to ongoing changes in climate patterns. Rainforests are one of the world’s biggest forest on the planet earth.  Rainforests are ecosystems filled with mostly evergreen trees that typically receive high amount of rainfall, found on every continent except Antarctica.

Rainforests Facts:

§  Rainforests once covered 14% of the Earth’s land surface.  But now rainforests cover less than 2% of the Earth’s total surface area.

§  Rainforests are the world’s thermostat because they regulate weather patterns and temperatures.

§  The world’s largest rainforest is the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon Rainforest produces more than 20% of the world’s oxygen.

§  The Amazon Basin contains 20% of the world’s fresh water.

§  Rainforests have provided over 25% of natural medicines and 80% of food.

§  Rainforests are home to 50% of the Earth’s plants and animals.

§  All rainforests get between 60-80% rainfalls annually.

§  Rainforests produce 20% of all oxygen on earth.

§  Rainforests help to fight global warming.

§  Location of rainforests worldwide: The Amazon basin contains the world's largest rainforest, which is nearly the roughly of the continental United States and covers about 40 percent of South America. Nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest lies within the borders of Brazil. The second largest rainforest is found in Central Africa's Congo Basin. Next is the rainforest of New Guinea. On a country basis, Brazil ranks number one in terms of rainforest cover. It is followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Peru, and Colombia.

§  Two types of rainforests are there; (1) Tropical rainforests and (2) Temperate rainforests.

§  Tropical rainforests contain a great diversity of plant and animal life than any other vegetation type. In the most species-rich forests, every second tree may be a different species, whereas in temperate forests, every second tree is likely to be an oak or a pine.

§  The diversity of tropical rain forests is well illustrated by reference to Australia, where tropical rainforests cover a mere 0.5% of the continent, yet this tiny area includes 50% of the plant and animal species recorded from the whole continent.

§  Out of the 3,000 plants the U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified as useful in the treatment of cancer, 70% of these plants are found only in rainforests.

§  25% of the ingredients contained in Western Pharmaceuticals are derived from the Rainforest.

§  Less than one percent of the tropical rainforest species have actually been analyzed for their medicinal value.

Moreover, rainforests are under great threats posed by human and other activities jeopardizing these benefits. The threats patent themselves in the form of Deforestation and Forest Degradation. The main cause of deforestation is agriculture and the main cause of forest degradation is illegal logging. We are losing 18.7 million acres of forests annually. In the Amazon, around 17% of the forest has been lost in the last 50 years, mostly due to forest conversion for cattle ranching.

Causes: Deforestation and forest degradation---Deforestation and forest degradation are the biggest threats to forests worldwide.

§  Deforestation occurs when forests are converted to non-forest uses, such as agriculture and road construction.

§  Forest degradation occurs when forest ecosystems lose their capacity to provide important goods and services to people and nature. Over half of the tropical forests worldwide have been destroyed since the 1960s, and every second, more than one hectare of tropical forests is destroyed or drastically degraded. This intense and devastating pressure on forests is not limited to the tropics. An estimated 3.7 million hectares of Europe’s forests are damaged by livestock, insects, diseases, forest fires, and other human-linked activities.

Conversion to agriculture---Due to an increase number of population, there is an obvious need for more food. Rising demand has created incentives to convert forest to farmland and ranch land. Once a forest is lost to agriculture, it is usually gone forever along with many of the plants and animals that once lived there. 

Fires---Fires are a natural and beneficial element of many forest landscapes, but they are problematic when they occur in the wrong place, at the wrong frequency or at the wrong severity. Each year, millions of acres of forest around the world are destroyed or degraded by fire.


(1) Increased greenhouse gas emissions---Deforestation and forest degradation are responsible for around 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions. These greenhouse gas emissions contribute to rising temperatures, changes in patterns of weather and water and an increased frequency of extreme weather events. 

(2)Disruption of water cycles---Trees play a key role in the local water cycle by helping to keep a balance between the water on land and water in the atmosphere. But when deforestation or degradation occurs, that balance can be thrown off, resulting in changes in precipitation and river flow. (3)Increased soil erosion---Without trees to anchor fertile soil, erosion can occur and sweep the land into river.

(4)Disrupted livelihoods---1.25 billion people around the world rely on forests for shelter, livelihoods, water, fuel, and food security. And 750 million people (approximately one-fifth of total rural population) live in forests. This includes 60 million indigenous people. But deforestation disrupts the lives of these people sometimes with devastating consequences. In the Greater Mekong in Southeast Asia, where land tenure systems are weak, deforestation has contributed to social conflict and migration. In Brazil, poor people have been lured from their villages to remote soy plantations where they may be abused and forced at gunpoint to work under inhumane conditions.

(5)Reduced biodiversity---About 80% 0f the world’s documented landscape species can be found in forests. When species loss their forest home, they are often unable to survive in the small fragments of forested land left behind. They become more accessible to hunters and poachers, their numbers begin to reduce and some eventually go extinct.

By analyzing the importance and uncountable benefits of rainforests, we are now aware with the worth of rainforests. They are providing benefits to humans for sustain their lives and help in sustaining environment as well. But, on the other hand humans are responsible for their destruction and degradation as well. Rainforests are degraded at rapid rate worldwide. We should take steps to conserve rainforest. This can only be done through awareness and collaboration. We should introduce green technologies or nature-based solutions to get rid of degradation, such as forest landscape restoration (FLR). This can help countries to reverse the effects of forest degradation and deforestation and regain the ecological, social, climatic and economic benefits of forests. Government should be realize the importance of forest, for example the goods and services they are being provided worldwide. Government and other private sectors should invest much on rainforests.

“And finally a secret I am going to speak out, you can help to save forests. As much as we’re part of the problem, we’re also part of the solution to saving rainforest”

 “Be Rainforest Makers”

About the Author: Maryam Adrees, a student of Environment at GCWUS. She is enthusiastic to write for environment and its resources.


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