Each and every year, we lose millions of acres of rainforests. These incredibly important places are disappearing as trees are cut down, land is cleared for farming, and roads are constructed. Not only are local communities in the rainforests losing their homelands, but this vital environment that is home to millions of plant and animal species is facing destruction that can never be reversed. Here are 5 things that everyone needs to know about the rainforest:
1) While rainforests cover less than 2 percent of the total surface area of the Earth, they are the home of 50 percent of the planet’s animals and plant life. Today, hundreds of animal species are endangered, and many more are vulnerable to the threat of extinction.
2) Rainforests are an incredible resource for a wide variety of things, including medicinal products derived from plants and herbs. These medicines are used to treat many ailments, including cancer. The U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified numerous plants that are helpful in cancer treatments which are only found in rainforests.
3) The greatest threats to rainforests today are logging practices, mining, ranching, and unsustainable agricultural practices. Trees are being cut down at alarming rates due to increased demand for timber. This means that hundreds of species are losing their homes each and every day, and trees that provide oxygen are lost.
4) At one time, the planet had over 6 million square miles of beautiful tropical rainforests. Due to deforestation, that number now stands at just 2.4 million square miles. Less than half of these precious resources remain worldwide.
5) Rainforests act as the planet’s thermometer, helping to regulate the Earth’s temperature. They are essentially the lungs of the planet, producing oxygen. As rainforests disappear, the global temperature and weather conditions are undoubtedly affected.
As these facts make it clear, rainforests are absolutely vital to our planet’s health. While their destruction impacts local populations directly, it also impacts all of us in many ways. The effects of global warming are being felt more and more each year with extreme weather conditions.
Indigenous people have passed on their knowledge about medicinal plant life in rainforests from generation to generation. As they are forced out of their homes, their population numbers have dwindled. They are losing their very way of life, and along with them, we lose the ability to gain more insight into these medicinal resources.
Once these precious resources are gone, they are gone for good. There is no way to bring back animal species once they are extinct, and at this point, there may be hundreds of species that we have lost and never even knew existed. The millions of plants and animals that call the rainforest home are facing extinction.
The depletion of the world’s rainforests affects everyone, whether we feel those effects directly on a daily basis, or not. Rainforest conservation efforts play a critical role in protection. The more we understand about just how vital our rainforests are, the more we can do to affect a positive change for future generations.