Thursday, 19 March 2009

Tropical Rain Forests Why We All Have A Big Stake In Them

What is the real value of tropical forests? By now, you may have heard a lot about the two most important and commonly recognized services that tropical rain forests provide to the humanity:
  • They regulate global climate patterns and help mitigate negative effects of climate change, specifically, global climate warming, (Service 1), and
  • They serve as storages of global biodiversity, specifically plant and animal diversity (Service 2). 

Those are the two main factors that have been widely put forward as the arguments which are strong enough for us people to try to do our utmost to “save the rain forests” from their continuous destruction.

Rain Forest Service 1 – Regulating Climate Patterns 

There is a strong interdependent relationship between the climate and the tropical rain forests. 

On the one hand , favourable local climatic conditions determine the existence of rain forests in principle in a certain location.

For example, true tropical rain forests can only exist in geographical locations with “continuous supply” of rainfall and sunshine. Such locations are mostly found in the geographical areas around the equator. 

On the other hand , rain forests affect the global climatic conditions by acting as pollution filters / “carbon sinks” / “lungs of the earth”. 

Rain forest trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce oxygen back into the atmosphere, by way of photosynthesis. (3) 

In very simple terms, such carbon absorption by rain forests helps reduce the amount of CO2 that could otherwise be released into the Earth’s atmosphere and cause global warming. (4) 

Rain Forest Service 2 – Biodiversity 

Biodiversity (biological diversity) is defined as a number and variety of plant and animal species in a certain habitat. 

We know that tropical rain forests have the highest levels of biodiversity, as compared to any other place in the world. 

For example, from one of the UN Chronicle issues we learn that a 2,500-acre area of a typical tropical rain forest is home to some 1,500 species of flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 400 species of birds and 150 different species of butterflies. (5) 

In another example, check out some facts about the Ecuador rainforest, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. 
Rain forests are home to a large number of endangered animals, such as the mountain gorilla, which are crucial components of tropical biodiversity. 

But why is it so important for us to preserve biodiversity as much as we only can? 

From the utilitarian point of view, the common answer to that question is: 

If we continue to lose biodiversity, we are going to lose out on potential discoveries of new foodstuffs, medicines, industrial raw materials. 

This is not to mention the fact that it would be nice for the human race to allow other life forms, that comprise biodiversity as such, to live peacefully, just because they already exist.

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