Why Are The Rainforests Disappearing?
The rainforests are one of our most precious natural habitats, providing homes for thousands of unique plant and animal species, as well as a fair proportion of the oxygen that we breathe. It is also a source of many life-saving medicines, including 70% of the plant-based ingredients in cancer drugs, and it helps to prevent climate change by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen and plant matter via the process of photosynthesis. Unfortunately, this priceless resource is disappearing at an alarming rate.
Between 2000 and 2005, more than 50,000 square miles of Brazilian rainforest were lost due to deforestation. The rainforest is a highly complex, self-sustaining natural habitat that has taken millions of years to develop. Much of the deforestation is caused by cattle farmers, who cut down large areas of rainforest to make way for cattle farms, providing cheap beef for the North American, Chinese, and Russian markets. It has been estimated that 200 square feet of rainforest is permanently destroyed for every pound of beef produced on rainforest land.
Rainforests are a self-supporting ecosystem, in which the evaporating moisture from the forest is the source of most of the clouds that form above the forest and provide it with life-giving water. When you clear a large section of rainforest, the ground dries up within just a few years, turning once-fertile land into a crusty desert. This means that the cattle farmers can only use this land for a short time before they have to cut down another section of rainforest to provide grazing land for their cattle. This style of farming is known as ‘slash and burn’, and is believed to be responsible for half of all rainforest destruction.
The second biggest cause of deforestation is logging. Rare woods such as teak and mahogany grow in the rainforest, and can command a high price on the international furniture market. Often loggers will cut down a large area of rainforest for just a few logs of these sought-after timbers, with the rest of the trees being used for wood-chipping and charcoal. The roads that are created in order to transport the timber cause further damage to this fragile ecosystem.
Other threats to the rainforest include mining, agriculture, dams, oil exploration and global warming. A recent report from the WWF predicts that deforestation could wipe out or cause severe damage to almost two thirds of the Amazon rainforest within twenty years, unless something drastic is done about it. If you would like to get involved with the fight to save our precious rainforests, you can find out more about rainforest protection at rainforestrescue.sky.com.
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