The Rainforest And You: The Benefits We Get From The Rainforest

                                                                                                                                    by Adrian Adams

Rainforests are forest locations that have very high rainfall measurements each year. The most well known rainforests are tropical
rainforests found in Central America, Southeast Asia, parts of Australia and the Amazon region in Africa.

Rainforests play a very important role in our daily life whether we are aware of it or not. For example, two thirds of the world's animal
and plant species live in the rainforests. Millions of plants, animals and insects are currently living in the rainforests of the world
waiting to be discovered. The majority of natural medicines available on the market today come from tropical rainforests. Between
70 and 80 percent of the world's population depends on plant medicines. Hundreds of prescription drugs are made in some part
from plants found only in the rainforest, also.

More than 20% of the oxygen in the world is produced in the Amazon rainforests alone. The Amazon Basin is also home to at least
one fifth of the world's fresh water resources. There are an estimated 3,000 types of fruit that grow in the rainforests of the world.
In the United States, only 200 different types of the available rainforest fruits are used.

As you can see, much of the world's resources come from our rainforests. Even the U.S. National Cancer Institute confirms that many
of the plants in the rainforest are effective in fighting cancer cells. At least one fourth of the active ingredients in cancer fighting drugs
can be found exclusively in the rainforests of the world. Several companies and organizations are currently researching plants in the
rainforests as possible cures for viruses, cancer and AIDS.

A constant concern revolves around the destruction of the rainforests. Rainforests are destroyed so the trees can be used as timber
and the land used for grazing cattle and for farming. However, due to the composition of the soil in a rainforest, the ground is not suitable
for farming. Rainforests are much more useful to humans and to the earth if left intact. Valuable resources, such as plants, animals,
fresh water and oxygen are destroyed and lost forever by rainforest destruction. The destruction of the rainforest is the leading cause of
animal extinction.

The Amazon River alone is home to more species of fish than can be found in the Atlantic Ocean. Our rainforests are vital to every part
of our life from the air we breathe to the medicine we use for a headache. The rainforests are one part of the earth that we shouldn't take
for granted or let it be destroyed for lack of knowledge.

                  Rainforests: Way More Than Just Monkeys And Parrots

                                                                                                                         by Adrian Adams

Rainforests are the dynamic engine of the Earth's biosphere; they fix carbon from the atmosphere, and the aspiration of plants in the rain
forests produce nearly 10% of the oxygen we need to live (over 70% of the oxygen is generated by algae and plankton on the world's oceans).
They act as filters, pulling pollutants out of the air and fixing minerals into the soil, and help stem the tide of soil erosion; they are dynamic,
and vividly alive, and critical to the life expectancy of our planet.

The biological diversity of tropical rain forests is staggering.  Of the roughly 1.9 million named land species native to planet earth, over two
thirds of them are found in tropical rain forests, ranging from Asia to South America to Africa, and places in between.  95% of the beneficial
plants and plant compounds used for medicine, cosmetics and more are found in tropical rain forests, and this diversity is one of the great
treasures of the world.

And it's being lost, and lost rapidly, due to development and encroachment by urban areas.  30 years ago, rain forests covered 14% of the
land area of the earth.  It's now under 6% and shrinking rapidly.  At the current rate of deforestation, the last rain forest could be cut down by
the 2040s.

There are several layers of impact to the loss of rainforest terrain and biomes.  The first is simply conservation - when the last member of an
animal species dies, that species has gone extinct.  There is a strong emotional appeal to preserving wildlife, preserving wild lands, is very
important to people.  The second is climactic.  Developing rain forest into cattle lands or crop lands leads to desertification, because of the
shift in rainfall patterns and the fact that rainforest ecosystems keep most of the nutrients in plants, rather than the soil.  The last impact is
economic and medical; the rainforests are reservoirs of ecological diversity, and potentially domesticable plants and animals.  Major
research goes into finding plants and plant compounds that are tied to medical advances and present in plants and animals in the rainforest

Rainforest deforestation impacts the planet, local and global economies.  We're going to focus on the local changes, and work from there, up
the chain of events and causality. The typical cycle is that rain forest lands get clear cut and used for crop lands, then cattle grazing lands when
the crops fail, then abandoned (or used for housing if conveniently located), when even grazing lands fail.  This is part of a vicious cycle - most
of the nutrients in a rain forest biome are tied in the living organisms, not the soil itself.  When they're clear cut, and burned, most of the resulting
land is poor for agricultural use, low in phosphorus and nitrates, with soil that will blow away when the first wind storm hits.  Soil exhaustion and
salinization from over irrigation makes things even worse.  This is, in many ways, analogous to strip-mining the soil, much as one would strip
mine for copper or iron ore.

In an active and thriving rain forest, minerals and nutrients cycle quickly.  When the rain forest is chopped down, those nutrients aren't there any
more.  They're shipped off as building materials or simply burned to clear the land.  When grasses are seeded for cattle ranching, the soil is
already starting depleted, and gets more so quickly.  Eventually, the grass gets overgrazed, winds and rains come down and wash the soil into
estuaries, and the process cycles even faster.

Erosion from deforestation is an attendant problem.  The cover provided by the rain forest canopy keeps the tropical sunlight from baking the
moisture out of the soils, and the aspiration of the plants helps capture rain clouds and seed clouds for rain.  After the forest has been cleared,
rainfall drops considerably.The tropical rain forest is a perfect example of a system where the combination of elements creates a whole greater
than the sum of the parts.

There are several programs in place to try to preserve rain forests; the problems come from the fact that, in terms of local economics, it's hard
to convince a farmer that clearing more land to raise more crops and make more money is a losing proposition compared to leaving the rain
forest in place as a refuge for vermin and predators.  Trying to preserve islands of rainforest land hasn't worked; the minimum area for viable
rainforest biomes is around one hundred square miles, and most of the island experiments have been a tenth of that or less.  Now, larger non
governmental organizations are trying to buy up large tracts of rainforest land to keep as nature preserves, or to use as a basis for ecological
tourism as a revenue stream to offset land use taxes, and the economicincentives for clear cutting.

Some efforts are being put in place to teach local farmers to work with the rain forest ecosystem rather than competing with it, using clearings
in the rain forest for garden plots, and attempting to harvest the bounty of the rainforest directly.  These have met a great deal of resistance
because of the difficulties in balancing immediate short term profit with long term sustainability.

About the Author:

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 Ecosystem & The Rainforest  at
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Amazon rainforest. Satellite image from Nasa.