Rainforests are forests are characterized by high annual rainfall and are home to two-thirds of all the living animal and plant species on the planet. It has been estimated that many hundreds of millions of new species of plants, insects and microorganisms are still undiscovered.
Tropical rain forests are called the "Jewels of the Earth", and the "World's Largest Pharmacy" because of the large amount of natural medicines discovered there.
(Manjoli, the cloud forest)
In contradiction to popular belief, rainforests are not major consumers of carbon dioxide and like all mature forests are approximately carbon neutral. Recent evidence suggests that the majority of rainforests are in fact net carbon emitters. However, rainforests do play a major role in the global carbon cycle as stable carbon pools. Clearance of rainforest leads to increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Rainforests may also play a role in cooling air that passes through them. As such, rainforests are of vital importance within the global climate system.
(Kakachi Rain forest)
Tropical and temperate rain forests have been subjected to heavy logging and agricultural clearance throughout the 20th century, and the area covered by rainforests around the world is rapidly shrinking. Biologists have estimated that large numbers of species are being driven to extinction possibly more than 50,000 a year due to the removal of habitat with destruction of the rainforests.
About half of the mature tropical rain forests, between 750 to 800 million hectares of the original 1.5 to 1.6 billion hectares that once graced the planet have already been felled. The devastation is already acute in South East Asia, the second of the world's great biodiversity hot spots. Most of what remains is in the Amazon basin, where the Amazon rainforest covered more than 600 million hectares, an area nearly two thirds the size of the United States. The forests are being destroyed at an ever-quickening pace. Unless significant measures are taken on a world-wide basis to preserve them, by 2030 there will only be 10% remaining with another 10% in a degraded condition. 80% will have been lost and with them the natural diversity they contain will pass away forever.
Currently one the largest economic values of tropical rainforests comes in the form of tourism. People travel both nationally and internationally to experience rain forests firsthand. The economic benefits of tourism are the most promising way in which rainforests may be preserved. (More to continue in the coming posts)