In the overall scheme of things, it is very important to preserve the tropicals rain forests around the world, and not just because cutting down trees is bad. The rain forests are home to some hundreds of plant and animal life, which most assuredly would go extinct without that environment to survive in. Also, about 1/4 of all medicinal ingredients for us comes from the rain forest, and would have a major impact on hospitals’ ability to have treatments for patients. Making way for farmland by cutting down portions of the rain forest is also ineffective, as years of erosion leaves little nutrients in the soil itself. Another important thing to note is a good chunk of the world’s recycled oxygen comes from these areas, along with standard plant life and algae.
Tropical rainforests are also a significant carbon sink: they cover about 6% of the globe, but hold 30% of the earth’s soil carbon resources. This means that if their rich soils didn’t hold on to that carbon, it would be in the atmosphere – which is already warming thanks to our greenhouse gas emissions!
Of course, these forests also create carbon: this is a natural process that occurs as dead material decays. But recent studies also suppose that forests ADD more carbon to the atmosphere than they sequester – they say that because of deforestation and the forests consequently drying out, it is a extra vulnerable to wildfire. This disturbance-prone regime is a huge carbon source. But perhaps this is just a signal for increased conservation efforts against deforestation!
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