Tropical rainforests are thought to posses more plants and animals than any other forests on earth. Most tropical rainforests are located around and near the equator, they have existed on earth for hundreds of millions of years. But they are among the most endangered ecosystems globally due to humans. They are an important part of human life and are know as the “lungs of the planet” they have many animals, and many natural medicines come from tropical rainforests. Because of there importance it is vital that we should try to conserve them.
Tropical rainforests are home to some of the most beautiful plants and animals in the world, such as Jaguars and the Rafflesia flower, not only are they home to rare species but also “at least half of the known species of plants and animals in the world are found within tropical rainforests” (Park, 1993, pg.26). So many plants and animals live in tropical rainforests because rainforests are the earth’s oldest living ecosystems. So destroying tropical rainforest will mean that many of these species will become extinct, but these are species we know about “It is estimated that from 10 million to more than 100 million species are still undiscovered” (Garrick, 2008, pg.126).
So if destroyed there could be many undiscovered species that will never be found. The Amazon rainforest has the most variety of species on the planet. It is also home to approximately 8600 species of birds, to put it into comparison you can compare the number of hummingbird species of the Amazon rainforest around 319 to the 27 found in the USA, which shows the how diverse rainforests are.
Because tropical rainforests cover large areas, cutting them down can lead to global warming. This is because when forests are cut down it causes higher concentrations of greenhouse gases. Specifically deforestation causes high level of carbon dioxide, it is released when forests are burned or when they decompose. Carbon sequestration is a natural process where forests take up atmospheric carbon dioxide. Most of the carbon storage is in roots, branches and tree trunks. But when trees are cut down all of the carbon dioxide that is stored is then released into the atmosphere.
The benefits of the storage of carbon is then neutralised by the deforestation, “although the global terrestrial carbon sink remained relatively stable from 1990 to 2007, the effects of tropical forests were virtually neutral because CO2 emissions from deforestation offset their carbon sink” (European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service, 2011).
There are indigenous people and communities that live within some places of tropical rainforests, so a direct consequence of deforestation would be displacing them. So the indigenous people are then forced to flee their homes and lands. Also when people such as gold prospectors come to search for gold deposits, they can bring diseases with them that the indigenous people have never been in contact with so these disease can have deadly consequences. And also in some cases has resulted in violent conflicts between the native people and others who have come to their land.
The soils in tropical rainforests, quiet surprisingly are very thin and poor in nutrients. This happens when “an area is completely deforested for farming, the farmer typically burns the trees and vegetation to create a fertilizing layer of ash. After this slash-and-burn deforestation, the nutrient reservoir is lost, flooding and erosion rates are high, and soils often become unable to support crops in just a few years.” (Lindsey, 2007). Even though soil erosion is a natural process it is sped up by deforestation. Usually trees and plants act as a barrier and slow the water as it runs off, while roots hold the soil and prevent it from washing away. This results in the soil being poor in nutrients which makes it difficult for growing and prevents forests recovery.
The water cycle is another thing that is affected by deforestation, trees extract water from the ground through their roots and then release it into the atmosphere. When the trees are cut down, the water can’t be evaporated, which ends up making the climate drier. This can lead to a reduced amount of water in the soil, which means that the trees have lower water intake. Deforestation can reduce soil cohesion so which can lead to an increased chance of flooding. “Deforestation causes soil erosion, which fills up the reservoir with silt; a silted reservoir cannot hold back as much flood
water” (Rice, 2009, Pg. 98).
Tropical rainforests are very important when it comes to medicines, and are sometimes called “the world’s largest pharmacy”. They can provide medicines for many health problems such as arthritis and hepatitis. Many medicines that we use come from tropical rainforest plants and local people use even more plants as medicines. But even though many plants are used due to their medicinal properties, “only a few thousand species have been evaluated for their prospective medicinal value.” (Maiti and Maiti, 2011, pg119). Also many plants have not even been discovered yet, which could have cures for AIDS and cancer. “Nearly three-quarters of the 3,000 plants identified by the US National Cancer Institute as having anti-cancer properties come from the rainforest”. (Park, 1993, pg.89).
In conclusion, tropical rainforests are a unique ecosystem that must be conserved. Deforestation has taken part in many parts of tropical rainforests, and this has already affected the planet whether in the form of global warming or loss of species. And because damage has already been done it is important efforts are taken to stop any more damage. Also there are so many animals that have not been discovered yet it is important that studies can take place to learn more about the undiscovered species. And a priority should be to find medicinal plants as these could better human life and cure diseases that are currently untreatable, all these things can’t happen if the tropical rainforests aren’t conserved.