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Biodiversity of the Rainforest

written by: Lara•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 11/13/2008

There is no surviving without our rainforests.

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    Diversity of the Species

    Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is the variety of life and the processes and interactions that sustain it. There are three kinds of biodiversity: ecosystem diversity, genetic diversity, and species diversity. Ecosystem or habitat diversity refers to the variety of places where life exists, as rainforests, oceans, deserts and wetlands. Genetic diversity refers to the variation of genes within a species. When most people refer to biodiversity, however, they are talking about species diversity, or the vast complex of species that make up the living world.

    Rainforests can be found all over the world from as far north as Alaska and Canada to Latin America, Asia and Africa. There are two major types of rainforest: temperate rainforests and tropical rainforests. More than 50 percent of Earth’s species live in tropical rainforests. A typical 4-square-mile patch of tropical rainforest contains up to 1,500 species of flowering plants, as well as 750 tree species, 125 mammal species, 400 bird species, 100 reptile species, 60 amphibians species, and 150 butterfly species.

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    Why are rainforests so important to us?

    Rainforests act as the world's thermostat by regulating temperatures and weather patterns. For our endurance they function as the lungs of the planet transforming carbon monoxide to oxygen. In addition they are critical in maintaining the Earth's limited supply of drinking and fresh water.

    The value of the rainforest has been underestimated in the past. A vast amount of rainforests had been destroyed because of commercial and industrial purposes that were approved by short-sighted governments. Because of deforestation a significant amount of the world's species of plants, animals and microorganisms were extinguished or are presently endangered.

    Before humans created the problems of overpopulation, unnecessary fanatical consumerism, and excessive pollution, the normal rate of extinction was one species every four years. Today species are going extinct at the absurd rate of 30,000 per year (or a higher number - depends on the source). That’s 82 species every day, four species every hour.

    As the rainforest species disappear, so do many possible cures for life-threatening diseases. At least 25 percent of all modern drugs originated in rainforests. Scientists have identified more than 2,000 tropical plants as having anticancer properties, for example.

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    Why should we care?

    This environmental crisis is not just about saving the life of vulnerable plants and animals. This is about saving us. If humans continue this massive unconscious destruction of life and resources, the planet will continue being here, and probably some type of life in this planet will survive all these atrocities, but certainly such won’t be the case for people. We the homo sapiens will not be able to survive as the upper part of the food chain, as Albert Einstein said: “We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive”.