Tropical rainforests are increasingly at threat from deforestation. Governments are viewing the rainforests as an untapped resource which can aid them in their quest for economic development.
Tropical rainforests also perform a range of vital services to help regulate the environment:
- trees reduce the flood risk as leaves intercept and slow down the rainwater. This reduces the time it takes water to reach and soak into the ground.
- they maintain some of the world’s most fragile soils, protecting them from erosion.
- it provides a habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna, some of which are endangered e.g. orang-utan.
- they provide a source of income for indigenous people through agriculture and tourism.
- they help maintain the water cycle, pumping moisture into the atmosphere, providing the globe with greater defence against extreme weather. They provide most of the world’s rainfall and form a cooling band around the Equator.
- they are the ‘lungs of the planet’ as they absorb carbon dioxide, store carbon and give out oxygen. This photosynthesis means that forests are an important carbon sink (store). Cutting down and burning the tropical rainforests removes this important store and sends vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Deforestation is responsible for 25% of the world’s carbon emissions whereas car, planes and factories only contribute 14%.