Tropical Rain Forests
Rainforests are very dense, warm, wet forests. They are havens for millions of plants and animals.
Rainforests are extremely important in the ecology of the Earth. The plants of the rainforest generate much of the Earth’s oxygen. These plants are also very important to people in other ways; many are used in new drugs that fight disease and illness.
Areas in Africa, Central and South America, and Southeast Asia are dense with green growth,
unusual insects, colorful birds, annd exotic animals. From these rain forests people harvest
beautiful wood, delicious fruits and nuts, and powerful medicines. A single hectare of Amazon rain
forest in Brazil, for example, might support as many as three hundred different types of woody
plants, a great range of biodiversity.
All rain forests share certain characteristics. They grow in very wet, humid places where the
annual rainfall exceeds 1.000 millimeters. Also they have very closed canopy. Because of this, as
little as one or two percent off the sun light reaches the floor. Another characteristic of most
tropical rain forests is poor, thin soil. Only forests in volcanic areas might have somewhat better soil. Rain forests are being eliminated for timber, minerals, agriculture, and human settlement. Ot
Overpopulation and peasant agriculture is often cited as the cause of deforestation. This may be true of some African and Asian countries, but generally countries with the most tropical rain forest are those with the lowest human population densities. It is not population pressure but the inequitable distribution of land ownership that creates the most pressure on tropical forests. In many developing countries the government and a very small percentage of people own the majority of the land.
The main problem talking about tropical rain forests is business. To owners of a large agricultural
businesses, the rain forest is an enemy; itt covers land that they need for fields. Surely, these
business people think, there are plenty of trees. It won’t matter if we cut some down to make a
large field. They may even believe that the rain forest will take over the land again when they stop
farming. To my mind, it can’t be true. Because of farming, these fields become desert. Most
tropical forest land is exhausted after only two years of farming. That’s why the farmers cut mo
and more trees and move to new land.