Beauty Under Threat: A Guide to Rainforest Diversity and Deforestation
written by: KennethSleight•edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 9/27/2011
With nearly five million identified species of plants, animals and insects the world's rainforests account for almost fifty percent of the total known life forms on Earth. This is even more remarkable when we take into consideration that they only occupy about six percent of the surface area.
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Rainforests are the home to an amazing assortment of life and are an integral part of the planet’s biosphere. Learn more about the diversity of the rainforest ecosystem with this Bright Hub guide. Not only will we introduce you to the basics but we'll also cover the plants and animals that live here. Then we’ll take into consideration the effects of deforestation on these regions. Our goal is to promote an understanding of the importance of tropical and temperate rainforests to both the species that reside within them and to the Earth as a whole. This understanding is the first step to ensuring that they are not needlessly destroyed by overzealous lumber companies or indigenous farmers.
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Rainforests are found in tropical and subtropical regions on four continents. The distribution of these areas is dependent on more than just the latitude at which they are situated; geographical boundaries play a very important role as well. So, where exactly are these rainforests located? What are the special conditions necessary for a rainforest to exist? What is the difference between a temperate and a tropical rainforest? We’ll cover all of this, and more, in the following selections.
Before you dive in, here are a few sobering facts to whet your appetite.
The Amazon rainforest was once home to more than 200 indigenous tribes and perhaps as many as 10 million Indians. There are currently less than twenty known tribes and around 200,000 Indians in the rainforests today.
As indigenous populations die off so does their knowledge of the flora and fauna of the region, perhaps taking a cure for cancer and other dangerous diseases with them.
Take a tour of the primary producers, consumers and the workings of the rainforest food chain. Once you’ve digested all of that there is a nice selection on endangered species followed by pieces on animals, plants and trees. You’ll be surprised more than once by the unique adaptations of these rainforest dwellers.
But it's not all peace and harmony as there are hundreds of thousands of endangered species living in rainforests, and 50,000 species are believed to be driven to extinction every year because of human interventions. There are many reasons why these animals are being wiped out, and they all have their roots in monetary gain and political power. We never hear about them as they are quietly brushed away out of existence in one of the great tragedies of modern humanity.
Humans are destroying the rainforest at a rate of one and one-half acres every second. But the creatures that live there are only part of the reason to save them. The global impact of the loss of the rainforest is far-reaching and will affect each and every one of us. To understand exactly how this is so we offer two pieces on deforestation and global warming. The importance of stopping the destruction of the rainforest cannot be overstated. The damage we are currently doing is of the type that cannot be undone. Once species are gone, they are gone forever. And once the forests are leveled it will take hundreds of years to bring them back.
Rainforests are home to nearly half of the animals, plants and insect species on the planet. Deforestation is a major threat to these creatures and the rate at which the rainforest is being destroyed is alarming. Consider the Amazon rainforest; according to the space agency NASA, "about half of the original forest has been destroyed in the last 40 years and by 2020, only 2% to 16% of the original rainforest will remain if current rates of destruction continue." At that rate there will be no rainforest left in the Amazon by 2040.