Why Are Rainforests Important?

Now that we have a better idea about what rainforests are, I want to share some of the reasons they’re so important. You probably know a few of these reasons, but I was surprised to learn some of the ways rainforests impact us everyday.

Some of the things you probably know rainforests provide:

  • Coffee
  • Bananas, avocados, lemons, grapefruit, pineapples, mangos, etc.
  • Nuts
  • Spices (cinnamon, chocolate, black pepper, etc.)
  • Rubber
  • Oxygen-they absorb CO2 and release massive amounts of oxygen back into the atmosphere. This means they help keep global warming at bay AND keep us breathing.
  • Home-they provide a habitat for over half of Earth’s wildlife and 2/3 of its plant species. One hectare of rainforest could contain up to 300 species of trees. These trees in turn provide food and shelter for countless animals. There are thousands of undiscovered species of plants and animals. Most of the species found in rainforests can’t survive anywhere else in the world.

Some things you may not know rainforests provide:

  • Water-rainforests regulate our climate! The Amazonian forests store over half of Earth’s rainwater. Rainforests are a huge part of the water cycle-without them recycling water, we would have more droughts, which could also lead to famine and disease.
  • Medicine-over 25% of our medicines originate from tropical forest plants, yet we’ve only tested 1% of these plants. We’ve found plants that can help cure leukemia, high blood pressure, mental illness, and more. There’s so much potential in the other 99% we haven’t even looked at yet.
  • Minerals/Metals-diamonds, gold, aluminum, copper, etc. are found in the ground beneath rainforests
  • Oil
  • Charcoal
  • Home-Not only do they provide a home for plants and animals, humans also live in the rainforest. Indigenous people depend on the rainforest for shelter, food, and medicine. They’re forced from their homes by logging and oil companies. Not only do these companies remove colossal amounts of forest, they bring diseases that the indigenous people have no resistance to, which threatens their survival. If you’re interested in learning more about indigenous peoples, go here.

 

I only remember one class in high school that taught me that rainforests are important, but I don’t think we ever went over just how important they are (or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention). I remember being told that there was a huge deforestation problem and our rainforests were slowly diminishing and we needed to save them, but I don’t think the actual impact of why we needed to save them really sunk in. I didn’t know that they’re so integral to our water cycle or that we get so much important medicine from them. At the time (I think I was 14 or 15), I just shrugged off the whole “we need to save the rainforest!” idea because a part of me didn’t understand their importance, and another part thought that there was no way to save them, at least not if I wanted to keep living the way I lived. The destruction of rainforests is why we have a lot of amazing things, like our furniture and paper for our books. We rely on the rainforest so much we’re destroying these ecosystems.

When I was 15, my thoughts about rainforests were ignorant, and frankly, selfish. I thought, “oh well, there’s no way to stop it” and stopped caring about the fight for rainforests, writing it off as another extremist “green” activist issue. I’m a writer (and a reader)-I like paper way too much to give it up! I didn’t even want to consider it. But now I know better. There are alternatives to cutting down trees for paper (and no, I don’t just mean that we can type things on our computers and read books on our nooks). There are a ton of different ways to get involved and help the rainforest. More people need to realize how much they need the rainforests and then get involved in the fight.

If you had a cup of coffee or ate a banana today, then chances are your life was impacted by a rainforest, just in that tiny way. They’re not just far away lands that you don’t need to worry about. What happens to a rainforest impacts you in some way. They’re vital to the entire world, and therefore to humans, and they need to be protected.

Photo courtesy of pfly.

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