Rainforests can simply be defined as the areas of highest rainfall on the annual basis in the range of 250 to 450 centimeters with relatively warm climates. They are characterized by a continuous and closed tree canopy with considerable presence of epiphytes and lianas. Primarily grouped into two main categories, tropical and temperate rainforests; they are the earth’s oldest living ecosystems and are critically important for our well-being. Rainforests cover 6% of the total surface of the earth; nonetheless, they provide shelter to more than half of the flora and fauna species of the world. Also called “the lungs of the earth”, their importance becomes more pronounced than ever in the rise of the increasing global threats of climate change. Here are ten reasons elaborating the significance of rainforests:
#1. Rainforests are home to millions of different species
Rainforests support a preponderance of the world’s species of plants and animals inclusive of mammals like the Kermode bear, Bengal tiger, and primates, together with reptiles like snakes, turtles, etc. Moreover, they contain 33% of bird species and 90% of invertebrates in the world. With over 30 million species already thriving in the forest, there are potentially millions of animals and plant species that are still waiting to be discovered.
#2. Rainforests are the Lungs of the Earth
Tropical Rainforests, despite covering less than 7% of the earth’s dry land surface are known as the lungs of the planet as they generate roughly ¼ of the world’s oxygen and draw in carbon dioxide. As the rainforests are very vulnerable to climate change and deforestation, the amount of oxygen produced varies greatly every year. Producing 20% of the world’s oxygen, rainforests play a key role in reducing pollutant levels.
#3. Rainforests provides Medicines
Vegetation of rainforests produces life-saving medicines among which 2/3rd are found to have cancer-fighting properties. Approximately 7000 medical compounds are found in plants of rainforests which are used to treat malaria, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, arthritis, and many other health problems. Globally, some 120 prescription drugs including commercially available anesthetics, hormones, laxatives, etc are derived from rainforest plants.
#4. Rainforests support tribal people
Rainforests provide most basic needs to tribal communities in terms of food, clothing, and medicine. Thousands of local people have lived in harmony with the forests for centuries and obtained their food by hunting wild animals and fishes as well as collecting nuts and fruits. Unlike other habitats where tribal communities still live, rainforests are much more generous since they have an large diversity of flora and fauna to offer. For them, conservation is a way of life because rainforests, despite being very rich in natural resources, are also very fragile, so they are also known as protectors of the Amazon.
#5. Rainforests help regulate the world’s climate
Rainforests increase humidity and rainfall through transpiration and contribute to wind currents. Moreover, shade from the forest canopy results in cooler temperatures compared to areas exposed to the direct sun; therefore, has localized cooling effects. One of the studies shows that Amazon singly is responsible for 70% of rainfall in the southern part of Brazil. In addition, forests absorb more heat than non-forested surfaces which changes local rainfall amounts and affects weather patterns globally.
#6. Prevents soil erosion, siltation, and flooding
The canopy of vegetation present in the rainforest catches and holds much of the rain during heavy downpours, and is eventually disposed of through the process of transpiration and evaporation, while the tree roots bind the soil together; therefore they are known as preventers of the soil erosion. This way, the rainforest helps to regulate the flows of streams and rivers by acting as a giant water reservoir.
#7. Rainforests help maintain the water cycle
The significance of the rainforests lies also in the addition of water back to the atmosphere as plants release water during the process of photosynthesis. The moisture thus generated doesn’t all stay in the rainforests and travels around the globe which in turn leads to the formation of rain clouds and clouds then release the moisture in the form of rain. Furthermore, by regulating precipitation, evaporation, and flows, rainforests can impact the availability of water.
#8. Rainforests hold large ecotourism potential
Some situated on scenic mountains, while others near beautiful beaches and coral reefs; rainforests are found in a variety of landscapes. They provide ample opportunities for photography, relaxation, birding, and adventure hiking. A great diversity of flora and fauna thriving in the rainforests promises more profits per hectare than those areas cleared for cultivation, settlement, and pastures and the economy of the region will certainly flourish.
#9. Rainforests are important for Human wellbeing
Tropical rainforests have immense significance in providing a life support system for the planet as well as to the people who live in them. They provide the majority of the foods consumed by humans including nuts, rice, and coffee as well as raw materials for the industries such as fibers, resins, rubber, and dyes. Moreover, they can also be logged for the production of timbers for furniture export as well as oil, detergents, and confectionary productions.
#10. Cultural diversity
In rainforests, cultural diversity and biological diversity complement one another. The aesthetic and spiritual values described as intangible and complex; reflect the diverse people and nature interaction found around the rainforests. Indigenous people living around the forests have shaped civilization and cultures based on the surroundings they have lived in, regardless of them being difficult to map and value; they play an important role in tourism and recreation aspects and make a lasting contribution to science.