WHY ARE RAINFORESTS IMPORTANT?

Forest environmental services generate an impact at a global and local scale. Forests are important not only because of the environmental services they provide; they are fundamental for the indigenous people that live from them and for the preservation of Biodiversity.

Rainforest offer the following benefits to humanity:

  • Help to stabilize the world's climate

By absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, rainforests play the important role of locking up atmospheric carbon in their vegetation via photosynthesis. When forests are burned, degraded, or cleared, large amounts of carbon are released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide along with other greenhouse gases (nitrous oxide, methane, and other nitrogen oxides). The burning of forests releases about two billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, or about 22 percent of anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide.Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere contributes to climate change through global warming. Therefore rainforests are important in addressing global warming.

  • Add oxygen to the atmosphere

While the role of rainforests in oxygen generation is often overstated—more oxygen is produced by microorganisms in the world's oceans—tropical rainforests do add oxygen to the atmosphere as a by-product of photosynthesis. Some scientists estimate that 20 percent of the planet's oxygen is produced by rainforests, therefore clearing rainforests diminishes the capacity of the global system to supply oxygen reserves

  • Regulate water cycle

Process of transpiration (where they release water from their leaves during photosynthesis). This moisture contributes to the formation of rain clouds which release the water back on the rainforest. In the Amazon, 50-80% of moisture remains in the ecosystem's water cycle. When the forests are cut down, less moisture goes into the atmosphere and rainfall declines and sometimes leads to drought. One-fifth of the world's fresh water is in the Amazon Basin.

  • Help stabilize local climate

Rainforests also affect local weather conditions by creating rainfall and moderating temperatures.

  • Protect against flood, drought, and erosion

The roots of rainforest trees and vegetation help anchor the soil. When trees are cut down there is no longer anything to protect the ground and soils are quickly washed away with rain. The process of washing away of soil is known as erosion.

  • Provide a home to many plants and animals

Rainforests are home to a large number of the world's plant and animals species. The Amazon rainforest contains the largest collection of living plant and animal species in the world, including many endangered species. The diversity of plant species in the Amazon rainforest is the highest on Earth. It is estimated that a single hectare (2.47 acres) of Amazon rainforest contains about 900 tons of living plants, including more than 750 types of trees and 1500 other plants. The Andean mountain range and the Amazon jungle are home to more than half of the world's species of flora and fauna; in fact, one in five of all the birds in the world live in the rainforests of the Amazon. To date, some 438,000 species of plants of economic and social interest have been registered in the region, and many more have yet to be catalogued or even discovered. As forests are cut down, many species are doomed to extinction because many rainforest species can only survive in their natural habitat.

  • Support indigenous people

Tropical rainforests have been home to indigenous peoples for centuries. They have shaped civilizations and cultures based on the environment in which they live. Complex societies still remain alive in the Amazon and they have the capacity to make great contributions to science through the traditional knowledge and use of plants as food and medicine. Living from nature and lacking the technology to dominate their environment, native peoples have learned to watch their surroundings and understand the intricacies of the rainforest. Over generations these people have learned the importance of living within their environment and have come to rely on the countless renewable benefits that forests can provide.

  • Are a source for medicines and foods

At least 3000 fruits are found in the rainforests; of these only 200 are now in use in the Western World. The Indians of the rainforest use over 2,000. Experts estimate that we are losing 137 plants, animal and insect species every single day due to rainforest deforestation. That equates to 50,000 species a year. As the rainforest species disappear, so do many possible cures for life-threatening diseases. Currently, 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide come from plant-derived sources. While 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, less that 1% of these tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists. Of the 121 pharmaceutical drugs that are plant-derived today, 74 percent were discovered through follow-up research to verify the authenticity of information concerning the medical uses of the plant by indigenous peoples. Nevertheless, to this day, very few rainforest tribes have been subjected to a complete ethno botanical analysis.

  • Are a magical place to visit and make ecotourism

What could be better than gardens created by nature itself? A trip into a rainforest or jungle is to enter the richest habitat on earth. This is an environment where man is tolerated rather than accepted, an eco-system that supports the animal and plant kingdoms in a fragile interdependency.