Have you heard the saying that the rainforests are the ‘lungs of the Earth’? Comprising just 6% of the world’s surface but putting out 40% of the planet’s oxygen, it’s clear to see that this saying is not an understatement. Yet why are we so keen on destroying the rainforests? Whether it’s for more land to raise livestock on or to harvest the trees themselves for what they provide, we are undermining the Earth’s ability to fight off global warming. Deforestation of the rainforests accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions (News.mongabay.com - Deforestation accounts for 10 percent of global carbon emissions, argues new study).
In the long run this will have an adverse effect on us, but what about the animals who call the rainforest home? Because there’s another saying: extinction is forever. Once we’ve lost an animal species, we can’t bring it back.
The biodiversity of rainforests is so great that less than 1% of its millions of species have been studied by scientists. When an acre of rainforest is lost, the impact on the number of plant and animal species lost is staggering. Scientists estimate that we are losing more than 137 species of plants and animals every day because of rainforest deforestation. Many of these we will never even know existed.
The Amazon Rainforest – the largest in the world – encompasses 1.7 billion acres across seven countries in South America. The Amazon represents over half of the planet's remaining rainforests and comprises the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest in the world.
Second only to the Amazon in importance is the rainforest of the Indonesian archipelago. The rainforest totals more than 242 million acres across thousands of islands. Statistically, 12 % of the world’s mammal species, 16% of reptile and amphibian species and 17% of birds are found in this rich, biodiverse region.
In the heart of Africa is the Congo rainforest. The Congo Basin makes up a large portion of Africa's biodiversity with over 600 tree species and 10,000 animal species. Six nations - Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon - share the 1.5 million square mile Congo basin.
In upcoming blogs we will look at these three vital rainforests in more detail, along with some animal species at risk. For right now, if you’d like more information on rainforests, you can check out these two links to get started: Rainforst Action Network and Huffingtonpost - Top Five Ways to Protect Rainforests in 2011
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