Why the Rainforest Is So Important

Protecting the Amazon basin, which contains the largest tropical rainforest on the planet, is critical to our planet's climate stability.

Slangerup (I-Newswire) December 9, 2013 - Trees have hidden attributes that play a key role in reducing pollutant levels. Over the last 150 years, humans have been pumping massive amounts of CO2 into the air by burning fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas, which is a major driver for global climate change.

The rainforest serves as one of Earth's largest reservoirs of carbon dioxide, helping regulate global climate change patterns through the sequestration and storage carbon dioxide in above-ground biomass and soil. By absorbing about 20 percent of the atmospheric carbon emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, the world's tropical rainforests can help mitigate climate change substantially. So without tropical rainforests the greenhouse effect would likely be even more pronounced, and climate change may possibly get even worse in the future.

In addition to this, the rainforest also stores water like a huge sponge. It is believed that the Amazonian rainforest alone store over half of the Earth's rainwater. Rainforest trees draw water from the forest floor and release it back into the atmosphere in the form of swirling mists and clouds. Without rainforests continually recycling huge quantities of water, feeding the rivers, lakes and irrigation systems, droughts would become more common, potentially leading to widespread famine and disease.

Causes for deforestation

Deforestation can happen quickly, such as when a fire sweeps through the landscape or the forest is clear-cut to make way for an oil palm plantation. It can also happen over time as a result of ongoing forest degradation as temperatures rise due to the climate changes caused by human activity. The primary reasons for deforestation are:

- Cattle ranching - it is estimated that for each pound of beef produced, 200 square feets of rainforest is destroyed.

- Logging - Vast areas of rainforest are cut in one go, also called clear felling, and the most valuable trees are selected for timber, leaving the others for wood chipping.

- Agriculture - The forests are cut down to make way of vast plantations where products such as bananas, palm oil, pineapple, sugar cane, tea and coffee are grown.

- Mining - The developed nations relentlessly demand minerals such as diamonds, oil, aluminium, copper and gold, which are often found in the ground below rainforests. The rainforests therefore have to be removed in order to extract them.

- Oil companies - Large roads are built through untouched forests in order to build pipelines and extract the oil.

- Dams - Dams built in rainforest areas often have a short life because the submerged forest gradually rots, making the reservoir water acidic, which eventually corrodes the dam turbines. The dams can also become blocked with soil washed down from deforested highlands in heavy rains. This can cause great problems, such as flooding.

Destruction of the Amazon rainforest has increased by almost one-third between 2012-2013, reversing a decade-long trend of better protection for the world's greatest rainforest. The 5.800 km2 in 2012-13 was a 28 percent increase on the record-low in the previous year.

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December 9, 2013

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