The mightiest river in the world is the Amazon. It runs from west to east, from the sunset to the sunrise, from the Andes to the Atlantic…The gigantic equatorial river-basin is filled with an immense forest, the largest in the world.
– Theodore Roosevelt
Why Are Tropical Rainforests Important?
Tropical rainforests are the oldest and certainly the most complex ecosystems on our planet. They influence wind, rainfall, humidity and temperature patterns, and are a crucial link in the ecological chain of life—recycling water, oxygen, and carbon dioxide, and reducing soil erosion, flooding, and air contamination on a global scale.
Tropical rainforests play other important roles in our daily lives. Estimated to house almost half of the world’s plant, animal, and insect life, the forests are the Earth’s primary gene pool from which foods, medicine, and other products for the industrialized world are derived including coffee, tea, sugar, pepper, spices, bananas, rubber, and oils. Tropical rainforest plants already provide one-quarter of today’s pharmaceuticals and, according to The National Cancer Institute, a full 70% of the plants useful in the treatment of cancer are to be found only in our disappearing rainforest.
How Much Rainforest Remains?
Tropical rainforest is disappearing faster than any other natural community on Earth. If we continue at our current rate of destruction, with population being the dominant factor, 70% of our remaining rainforests will by gone by the year 2050! Ancient forests, some of which have existed intact for seventy million years, since the days of the dinosaurs, will all but vanish.