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Rainforests are found in the tropics, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, and are notable for the following features:
- Warm temperatures and humid climate.
- Heavy annual rainfall.
- Canopy structure of the close-spaced trees, formed by the thick interlacing of branches and leaves. The canopy allows little sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor, and as a result the forest floor has sparse vegetative growth.
- Incredible biodiversity; in only about two percent of the earth's surface, these forests sustain over half of the world's wildlife and plant life.
Due to indiscriminate and widespread destruction for logging, land-clearing, farming and other purposes, rainforests are rapidly shrinking, and, unless conservation efforts are stepped up to protect them, there is a danger of these forests disappearing altogether in the coming years. Why, then are rainforests so important? Why save rainforest trees?
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Importance of Rainforests and Their Trees
- These trees are the reason that rainforests are known as the 'lungs of the planet'. Rainforest trees process carbon dioxide and release large amounts of oxygen into the atmosphere and this is important for the planet's continual well-being.
- Rainforests, as the name suggests, bring about rainfall. Tropical rainforest regions have a rainy season almost throughout the year.
- Rainforests provide livelihood and shelter to indigenous tribes.
- Rainforest trees are part of a fragile and interdependent ecosystem. They support a myriad of wildlife and, in turn, need the wildlife for their propagation. Destruction of certain trees could lead to the extinction of the species that depend on them for food and shelter.
- Rainforest trees prevent problems like soil erosion, can help with pollution control, and can help bring down global warming levels.
- Rainforest trees and plants are the source of many fruit, vegetables, spices and nuts that we take for granted as part of our daily diet. These include fruit like coconuts, mangoes, figs, grapefruit, oranges, lemons, bananas, avocados, guavas, pineapples, tomatoes; vegetables like potatoes, squash, yams; spices like cloves, cinnamon, pepper, turmeric, cayenne. Other rainforest products are vanilla, chocolate, cashew nuts and Brazil nuts.
- Alkaloids extracted from rainforest trees and plants are used in the production of many pharmaceuticals, and there are still many more plants and trees that have yet to be studied for their medicinal value. Further research could yield many more valuable medicines and find miracle cures for many currently untreatable diseases. So why save rainforest trees? Well, a simple answer would be, so they can save us in return.
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Ways of Saving Rainforests
Here are some ways in which rainforest trees may be saved -
- Increased public awareness about environmental conservation.
- Restoration of damaged rainforest ecosystems by planting more rainforest trees.
- Inclusion of indigenous people in rainforest conservation.
- Making the protection and propagation of rainforests more economically viable for local populations than logging and clearing of the forests.
- Turn rainforests into revenue-producing sources by encouraging eco-tourism and research for using rainforest products to manufacture medicines, perfumes, food and other products.
- Declare rainforest areas protected parks and have these areas regularly patrolled to guard them against poachers and loggers.