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The Rain Forest Essay, Research Paper

The Rain Forest

The destruction of the rainforest is a problem that the people of the

world can not continue to ignore. 14 percent of the Earth’s land used to be

covered by rainforests yet this number has dropped significantly to only about 6

percent (http://www.ran.org/ran/info_center/index.html). Rainforests provide

the people of the world with many necessities, some of which would no longer be

available if rainforests did not exist. In the last 50 years, rainforests have

declined at a terrifying speed of 150 acres per minute or 75 million acres per

year (http://www.ran.org/ran/info_center/index.html). People must open their

eyes to the horrible tragedy that will inevitably occur if the citizens of the

world do not realize the seriousness of this problem.

To better understand the importance of the rainforest, one must be

knowledgeable about what a rainforest actually is. The two main types of

rainforests are temperate and tropical. Tropical rainforests are located in

Latin and South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and other areas in which

temperatures stay above 80 degrees Fahrenheit year round. They can be found in

85 countries all over the world, however, 90 percent of them are concentrated

into fifteen countries, each containing over ten million hectares. Tropical

rainforests receive 160 to 400 inches of rain each year. Although these dense,

damp forests cover just 5 percent of the Earth’s surface, they can provide homes

for between 50 and 90 percent of the Earth’s plants and animals


Tropical rainforests consist of three distinct layers referred to as the

forest floor, the understory, and the canopy. The forest floor contains very

poor soil which is mainly due to the trees not allowing for ample sunlight to

reach the ground. Because only one to two percent of the light at the top of

the forest’s canopy manages to reach the floor below, photosynthesis ceases to

exist. On top of the soil lies a thin layer of the remains of millions of dead

trees, plants, and animals which are quickly broken down by the numerous number

of organisms on the floor (Nichol 45). It contains a variety of insects as well

as larger mammals such as gorillas and jaguars. The understory is home to

smaller mammals such as anteaters, lemurs, and tree kangaroos. It also contains

small trees and numerous shrubs. The top layer, the canopy, is made up of the

tops of trees which can grow to be over 200 feet in height. Here, trees receive

the necessary sunlight to undergo photosynthesis which is crucial for the

survival of the forest as a whole. Many tropical birds, monkeys, apes, snakes,

and other animals reside in the canopy


Temperate rainforests are located along the Pacific coast of Canada, the

United States, New Zealand, Tasmania, Chile, Ireland, as well as Scotland and

Norway. Most temperate rainforests are much younger than tropical rainforests

only being less than 10, 000 years old. The temperate rainforests differ from

the tropical in that their soil is full of much more nutrients. Temperate

rainforests are also much more scarce than tropical rainforests


The rainforests of the world are homes to just about every group of

animals known to man and it would be impossible to give recognition to them all.

The only animals that appear to be few in number are large mammals. The largest

animal of the rainforest is thought to be the okapi, “a shy, elusive beast from

west Africa (Nichol 56).” Gorillas, apes, the orang-utan of the Far East,

gibbons, and chimps which can grow to the size of a human are also among the

larger animals in the forest. A wide variety of monkeys including the tiniest

monkeys in the world, the pigmy marmoset, live among the trees in the South

American rainforests (Nichol 61).

One of the rarest primates in the world, the golden lion tamarin, lives

in a very small portion of the rainforest in Brazil. These breathtakingly

beautiful little monkeys resemble golden toys and it is believed that only 150

survive in the wild. Without the rainforest, these precious treasures would be

lost forever (Nichol 61).

Over 100 types of birds including the spix macaw, hoatzin, and a

numerous variety of parrots would be extinct if the rainforests were non-

existent. Many birds of the rainforest appear seasonally, or when the trees

begin to bud. Other rare animals in the rainforest include the Javan rhinos,

capybaras, and the giraffe stag beetle (Nichol 71).

The rainforest has a larger diversity of plants than any other area on

Earth. For example, “a single hectare in Kenya’s Kakamega Forest may host

between 100 and 150 different tree species, compared to only about 10 different

species in a hectare of the forest of North America (

http://www.davesite.com/rainforests/review3.shtml). Many of these plants don’t

appear in any other part of the world. A small portion of these species are the

passion flower, the rambutan, the heliconia flower, and an abundance of hardwood


For hundreds of thousands of years, indigenous people, or Indians, have

called the rainforest home. They are very knowledgeable about the rainforest

and the secrets it holds. They have taught the people of the world how to find

and use wild plants and how to farm small crops on the poor soil of the

rainforest floor. There are said to be more than a thousand of these groups of

people throughout the world, many of which are close to extinction. If these

people become non-existent, the secrets of the rainforests may remain a mystery

forever (http://www.stevensonpress.com/intro.html).

Many of the plants in tropical rainforests are used for medicines by

both people in the forest and hospitals throughout the world. One-fourth of the

drugs that are sold in the United States have products that come from

rainforests (http://www.ran.org/ran/). From something as important as a

treatment to help fight heart disease to an over the counter drug such as

aspirin, every medicine that comes from the rainforest serves a significant

purpose to the people of the world.

One of the best-known medicines that comes from the rainforest is

quinine. For many years, quinine was the only treatment for malaria. Another

plant that aided in the fight against a deadly disease is the Madagascar

periwinkle. It was discovered that two compounds from this plant could be used

in the treatment of leukemia. As a result of this plant, the survival rate of

victims of leukemia has risen form one in five to four in five (Nichol 78-79).

On a global basis, the rainforests are of extreme importance because

they help control the Earth’s climate. The plants in the forest store carbon

dioxide in their roots, stems, branches, and leaves which lessens the greenhouse

effect, consequently, lessening global warming. Also, when rain falls in the

rainforest, the high temperatures make the water evaporate back into the air

which recycles the water. Also, the clouds that cover the rainforests around

the equator reflect the sunlight. This keeps the rainforest from getting too

hot (http://www.stevensonpress.com/intro.html).

Destroying the rainforest could have devastating results. The people

who live in the rainforests would be forced to move into camps or cities. These

people would ultimately die off because of the new diseases that city life would

bring, diseases that are not found in the rainforest. If they ceased to exist,

their culture could be lost forever (http://www.ran.org/ran/).

The destruction of the rainforest could also cause an increase in the

greenhouse effect. The carbon dioxide that the plants of the rainforest had been

storing would be released and cause the temperature of the Earth to rise and the

ice caps to melt. This would cause major flooding around the world.

Yet another important downfall of the cutting down of the rainforest is

the effect on the forest floor. It is a known fact that 80 percent of the

rainforest’s nutrients comes from trees and plants which means the other 20

percent remains in the soil. When the leaves fall to the forest floor, these

nutrients are immediately recycled back into the plants and trees. When a

rainforest is clear-cut, this process is dramatically affected. The sun is not

blocked by the trees which begins to dry up the soil. It is then blown away by

the wind which makes it nearly impossible for the rainforest to grow back


One of the most devastating affects of the cutting down of the

rainforests would be the extinction of a tremendous amount of the plants and

animals that reside there. Also, the remedies that have prevented many deaths

over the years would no longer exist because the plants in which they originated

from would be gone.

Although it should be obvious that the rainforest is better left alone,

some people insist on destroying them. The Forest Alliance of British Columbia

accounted for this by saying, “The global population has more than tripled this

century, and will continue to grow for the next 50 years, particularly in

developing countries. World population is expected to reach ten billion by 2050.

Because the number of people living on the planet increases every year , the

number of forest products needed also increases, forcing temperate and tropical

rainforests to be cut down (http://www.davesite.com/rainforests/review4.shtml).”

Farming in the rainforest is very hard because of the poor soil but is

still done because the land is cheap. Because of the lack of nutrients, farmers

can not use the same piece of land over and over. In following years, many

farmers just move to a new piece of land which destroys the forest little by

little. Ranchers also follow the same process of using a piece of land to raise

cattle and then clearing another large piece of land. “During the 1980s, about

16.9 million hectares of tropical rainforest was cut down and replaced with

farms and grazing land for cattle


Another reason why the rainforests are being destroyed is the logging

industry. Trees from the rainforest are used for building houses, making

furniture, and providing pulp for paper products. Many corporations have

convinced countries that contain rainforests that it would improve their economy

if they would allow logging in the rainforest. Many of these countries’

economies now depend on their support


Many companies such as Occidental Petroleum try to bribe and trick the

natives of the rainforest into giving them their land. This oil company was

unsuccessful in trying to illegally force the people of the rainforest to sign

away rights to the land which would violate the Ecuadorian and international law

protecting indigenous people. This will hopefully set an example for the

companies of the rest of the world who want to cut down the precious rainforest


Although the destruction of the rainforest seems as if it is a problem

that only world leaders can attack, it is definitely something that a person as

an individual can protest. Many people have boycotted fast food restaurants

that serve hamburgers that came from cattle raised on rainforest land. If there

is no demand, then companies will stop raising cattle on land cleared from a

rainforest. Also, an individual could help by not buying furniture products

made from rosewood, mahogany, ebony, or teakwood, materials that are most likely

from the rainforest. In many cases, people have taken it upon themselves to

adopt acres of the rainforest. The 1996 Tropical Rainforest Coalition has

stated that it would cost only forty-five dollars to “adopt” one acre of the

rainforest. This amount of money would fund land acquisition, legal fees, and

security costs which would make sure that the adopted land would be protected


The destruction of the rainforest is a problem that the people of the

world can not continue to ignore. 14 percent of the Earth’s land used to be

covered by rainforests yet this number has dropped significantly to only about 6

percent (http://www.ran.org/ran/info_center/index.html). Rainforests provide

the people of the world with many necessities, some of which would no longer be

available if rainforests did not exist. In the last 50 years, rainforests have

declined at a terrifying speed of 150 acres per minute or 75 million acres per

year (http://www.ran.org/ran/info_center/index.html). People must open their

eyes to the horrible tragedy that will inevitably occur if the citizens of the

world do not realize the seriousness of this problem.



Marisa Rauchway

Honors Earth Science

Mr. Preziosi

February 3, 1997








http://www.stevensonpress.com/intro.html http://www.ran.org/ran

http://www.mtc.com.my/lib/formal/fact4/overview.htm Nichol, John. The

Mighty Rainforest. The Netherlands: David and Charles Printing, 1990.

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