Rainforests are the dynamic engine of the Earth’s biosphere; they fix carbon from the atmosphere, and the aspiration of plants in the rain forests produce nearly 10% of the oxygen we need to live (over 70% of the oxygen is generated by algae and plankton on the world’s oceans). They act as filters, pulling pollutants out of the air and fixing minerals into the soil, and help stem the tide of soil erosion; they are dynamic, and vividly alive, and critical to the life expectancy of our planet.
The biological diversity of tropical rain forests is staggering. Of the roughly 1.9 million named land species native to planet earth, over two thirds of them are found in tropical rain forests, ranging from Asia to South America to Africa, and places in between. 95% of the beneficial plants and plant compounds used for medicine, cosmetics and more are found in tropical rain forests, and this diversity is one of the great treasures of the world.
And it’s being lost, and lost rapidly, due to development and encroachment by urban areas. 30 years ago, rain forests covered 14% of the land area of the earth. It’s now under 6% and shrinking rapidly. At the current rate of deforestation, the last rain forest could be cut down by the 2040s.
There are several layers of impact to the loss of rainforest terrain and biomes. The first is simply conservation – when the last member of an animal species dies, that species has gone extinct. There is a strong emotional appeal to preserving wildlife, preserving wild lands, is very important to people. The second is climactic. Developing rain forest into cattle lands or crop lands leads to desertification, because of the shift in rainfall patterns and the fact that rainforest ecosystems keep most of the nutrients in plants, rather than the soil. The last impact is economic and medical; the rainforests are reservoirs of ecological diversity, and potentially domesticable plants and animals. Major research goes into finding plants and plant compounds that are tied to medical advances and present in plants and animals in the rainforest.
Copied with permission from: http://plrplr.com/23428/rainforests-way-more-than-just-monkeys-and-parrots-part-1/