Environment Magazine

What is a Rainforest and Why Are They Important?

Posted on the 23 January 2014 by Rinkesh @ThinkDevGrow

What is a Rainforest?

You’ve probably heard of a rainforest before. They are tall, hot and dense forests found all around the world and serve a significant purpose in the environment. They serve as the Earth’s oldest ecological system. Although a rainforest covers only around 6% of the earth, amazingly they account for ½ of the plants and animals found! In a nutshell a rainforest is a dense jungle. As the name suggests, rainforests are the forests that receive more than 1000 mm of rainfall throughout the year are mostly found around the middle of the earth near the equator like South and Central America, Africa, Asia and Australia.

Rainforest jungle

The Four Layers of the Rainforest

The typical rainforest contains a total of four layers.  The Emergent layer is one of those layers. This layer holds the tallest trees and plenty of beautiful sunlight. Trees in the emergent layer can grow to heights of up to 200 feet with trunks measuring up to 16 foot in width. The Canopy layer is the primary rainforest lawyer. This layer protects the other layers and offers beautiful oval and smooth pointed leaves. There are many animals living in the Canopy layer such as tree frogs, snakes and more.

The Understory layer is also a rainforest layer. This area has very little sunshine and plants are usually those with larger leaves. You will find many animals in this area including leopards and jaguars. The final layer is the forest floor layer. This area of the rainforest is dark and contains very few plants. Decay is common in this level of the rainforest. Anteaters live in the Forest Floor.

The name rainforest exists because these areas are susceptible to heavy rainfalls throughout the year. It is estimated that around 30 million plants and animals reside in the rainforest.

Although you may not put a lot of thought and consideration into the rainforest, perhaps you should. We depend on the rainforest for many of the things that are found inside of our homes. In fact, even some of the foods that we consume are made possible through the rainforest. Medicine, pineapples and chocolate are among the things that come from the rainforest.

Why are Rainforests Important?

The rainforest is important for numerous reasons. Located between the equator 23.5  degrees north and south, rainforests have two seasons, rainy season and dry season. They also contain millions of species of exotic plants and animals. From medicine to chocolate to paper, we depend on the rainforest. So, as you may suspect, this is the first benefit found with the rainforest. Inside of the rainforest are many plants and animals which supply us with so many things, as listed below.

  • Natural medicines
  • Oxygen production
  • Sugar Spices such as coconut, vanilla, turmeric, ginger etc.
  • Rubber
  • Bamboo
  • Pineapples
  • Chocolates that come from cocoa which grow on trees in rainforests

Apart from this, they also:

  • Stabilize world’s climate
  • Are an interesting place to visit
  • Maintain water cycle
  • Provide home to tribal people
  • House more than 1/2 of the world’s plant and animal species
  • Protect environment against soil erosion, floods and droughts

Another awesome benefit found from the rainforest is their ability to help regulate global and regional climate systems, serving as an all-natural heat and water pump. Heat is released into the atmosphere which results in rain. You will also appreciate that the rainforest helps control levels of carbon dioxide in their air. This minimizes global warming and helps control emissions.

Would you be surprised to learn that around 70% of all anti-cancer plants used today are found in the rainforest? This is just one of the many medicinal contributions made from the rainforest.

Tropical Rainforest

Why are Rainforests Disappearing?

Scientific evidence suggests that, unless we make changes right away, rainforests will no longer be a part of our world in another 100 years or so. Why are rainforests becoming so obsolete?

There are a number of causes of rainforests disappearing from the world. One of those is because trees are being destroyed for the logging industry. Introducing non-native plants and animals into the rainforest is also another cause of rainforest depletion.  Tourism and other needs for land is yet another cause of rainforests and their endangered status.

Man made activities are another cause of rainforest destruction. We need roads, pulp for making paper, land for agriculture, wood for timber, extraction of minerals and energy and many more. All these activities require eradication of forest land i.e. deforestation.

Climate change is another problem that is contributing to droughts in many parts of Amazon and Southeast Asia. Drought increase the risk of forest fires. The smoke can cause widespread health problems and increases concatenation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

What Can You Do?

Maintaining our beautiful rainforests is in everyone’s hands. You can easily make a great contribution and ensure they are here for your children, their children and their children to enjoy. Here are a few ways to save the rainforests!

  1. Donate Money to Research Causes and Organizations: Even a small $20 contribution can mean a great deal to these organizations who are working to maintain the rainforest. You will feel good knowing that you did your part, too!
  2. Reduce, Reuse & Recycle: The three R’s of life…make sure that you follow them. Reduce your waste, reuse what you can and recycle all of your plastic, paper and cardboard, as well as glass, aluminum and similar items.
  3. Shop only with companies that are environmentally friendly.
  4. Join in on the fun at rallies, forums, etc. Your voice is very powerful and can make a difference!

Saving the rainforests is something that we all must work together to do. Ensure that you are in on the action.

Image credit: Blackshilo , Tanya Puntii

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