In March 2021, the first study of greenhouse gases in the Amazon rainforest warned that the rainforest was releasing more carbon dioxide than it was absorbing. This made headlines around the world – and for good reason. Tropical rainforests are regarded as the ‘lungs of the earth’. They regulate the planet’s oxygen and rainfall. That is why rainforest destruction is putting our way of life at risk.1
A forest is an area with a large number of trees. Broadly, there are three types: temperate, tropical and boreal forests. We call tropical rainforests by this name because they receive large amounts of rainfall throughout the year. Their atmosphere is always hot and humid. There are no seasons.2
This article will explore why rainforests, which are concentrated around the Earth’s equator region, are more precious than regular forests.
Why are rainforests more precious to the Earth than regular forests?
Rainforests are considered more precious than other types of forest because they are key to regulating the world’s oxygen and rainfall. Billions of trees in forests continually recycle carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis, which is vital for life on Earth. The Amazon rainforests are estimated to produce 20 per cent of the Earth’s oxygen alone.3
Rainforests are also vital for regulating rainfall. Rainforest trees absorb water from the ground and release it into the air. That moisture forms clouds, and it ends up as rainfall in other parts of the world.4
Tropical rainforests also contain a remarkable diversity of plant and animal species. Around 50 per cent of all species of plants and animals on Earth are thought to live in tropical rainforests, though they cover only about six per cent of the Earth’s surface.5
Rainforest destruction vs. regular forest destruction
Humans cannot survive without protecting nature. Forests store and soak up carbon, fertilise the soil and water. Forests also act as natural shields against flooding. If we lose them, our food chain, health and climate would be devastated. Tropical rainforest loss is considered particularly damaging to Earth. That is because they contain over half of the Earth’s wildlife and at least two-thirds of its plant species. They are also considered to store over half of the Earth’s rainwater. Over a quarter of modern medicines are estimated to originate from tropical forest plants. This makes forests vital for human health too.6
Whether they are in the tropics or not, the destruction of forests is a problem. Deforestation is continuing around the world at an alarming rate. Forests and land remove nearly a quarter of the CO2 emissions that humans add to the atmosphere. So, by destroying forests, we not only emit carbon. We also lose the role forests play in taking carbon out of the atmosphere.7
The world needs to take swift and strong action to preserve our forests.
- Welch, C. (2021). First-ever study of all Amazon greenhouse gases suggest the forest is worsening climate change. [online] Environment. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/amazon-rainforest-now-appears-to-be-contributing-to-climate-change.
- Society, N.G. (2020). Forest Biome. [online] National Geographic Society. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/forest-biome/.
- Doriya, H. (2019). Save the Lungs of Earth-Amazon Rainforest. [online] World Animal Protection. Available at: https://www.worldanimalprotection.org.in/blogs/save-lungs-earth-amazon-rainforest.
- National Geographic Society (2015). Rainforest. [online] National Geographic Society. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/rain-forest/.
- The Living Rainforest. (n.d.). Rainforests and why they are important. [online] Available at: https://livingrainforest.org/learning-resources/rainforests-and-why-they-are-important.
- Rainforest Concern (2019). Why are rainforests important? [online] Rainforest Concern. Available at: https://www.rainforestconcern.org/forest-facts/why-are-rainforests-important.
- Climate and Land Use Alliance. (2018). Five Reasons the Earth’s Climate Depends on Forests. [online] Climate and Land Use Alliance. Available at: https://www.climateandlandusealliance.org/scientists-statement/.