Did you know rainforests cover less than six percent of the planet’s area but are essential to life? Or that more than twenty-five percent of the medicines we use originate from rainforest plants? Probably not, because who sits around thinking about the trees in some remote part of the world? But it is important! Imagine if 28,000 species were to become extinct by the year 2050? This is an actual threat facing our collective home. So this year at SaltyLama, we are observing the annual celebration of World Rainforest Day, a day that acts as a warning to protect and conserve this precious natural resource. Here are twenty facts about the rainforest and World Rainforest Day.
1. June 22 is World Rainforest Day. This day serves as a worldwide collaborative effort to raise awareness and encourage action to protect the world’s rainforests from, well, us.
2. World Rainforest Day was marked for the first time June 22, 2017. The Rainforest Partnership, an international nonprofit whose mission is to keep forests standing, came together to form it.
3. The worldwide nonprofit is based in Austin, Texas. It is dedicated to preserving and restoring tropical rainforests that provide us with fresh water, collect more carbon dioxide or other harmful gases, and release oxygen to maintain the climate’s equilibrium.
4. Climate regulation depends on rainforests. The loss of rainforests generates more CO2 than all the world’s vehicles, including planes, trains, and automobiles.
5. They give us our water. More than a fifth of the world’s freshwater is located in rainforests.
6. Rainforests are a type of forest where rainfall is continuous and abundant all year round. Most of our planet’s rainforests are found in the tropics, but they can also be found in temperate zones.
7. They are smaller than you imagine. Although when we think of rain forests, we generally imagine vast regions of land covered in dense vegetation, these ecosystems only cover around six percent of the planet’s surface.
8. They are abundant in life. To cover such a small portion of Earth’s surface area, they harbor a disproportionate number of species; around fifty percent of all biodiversity is found in the world’s rainforests.
9. Not only do rainforests hold invaluable genetic resources and countless evolutionary marvels, but they are “living pharmacies.” This great and mostly unknown diversity is an untapped resource for new medicines and therapies.
10. You rely on them more than you know. This diversity is also the source of many products we use daily, like coffee, cacao, spices, common fruits, and vegetables — and that’s just scratching the surface. Other products, like beef or the palm oil found in shampoo and hygiene and food products, are directly related to rainforest deforestation worldwide.
11. Rainforests can influence global weather. And they are home to half of the world’s terrestrial species.
12. Tropical rainforests have an outsized role in the world. They contain the highest concentration of species, storing more carbon in aggregate than any other terrestrial ecosystem, and supporting most of the planet’s “uncontacted” peoples.
13. They are in danger. Despite their importance, deforestation in tropical forests has remained persistently high since the 1980s. Primary tropical forests have been destroyed at a rate of 3.2 million hectares yearly since 2002.
14. They capture carbon. Rainforests lock up vast amounts of carbon, moderate local temperature, and influence rainfall and weather patterns at regional and planetary scales.
15. The Amazon is the world’s largest and best-known tropical rainforest. This rainforest is three times larger than the Congo Basin, the world’s second-largest rainforest. The Amazon rainforest accounts for just over a third of tree cover across the tropics.
16. The Amazon River, which drains an area nearly the size of the forty-eight contiguous United States, is the world’s biggest river. It carries more than five times the volume of the Congo or twelve times that of the Mississippi.
17. Seventy percent of South America’s GDP is produced in areas that receive rainfall generated by the Amazon rainforest. This includes South America’s agricultural breadbasket and some of its largest cities.
18. They support more than animal life. The Amazon is thought to house more than half the world’s “uncontacted” tribes living in voluntary isolation from the rest of humanity. However, most indigenous peoples in the Amazon live in cities, towns, and villages.
19. The second largest block of tropical rainforest is found in the Congo Basin. It drains an area of 3.7 million square kilometers. The majority of the Congo rainforest lies within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which accounts for sixty percent of Central Africa’s lowland primary forest. Gabon, Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea account for nearly all the rest of the Congo Basin rainforest.
20. Until the early 2010s, deforestation in the Congo Basin was relatively low. War and chronic political instability, poor infrastructure, and lack of large-scale industrial agriculture helped limit forest loss in the region. But in recent times, the situation has changed: deforestation has been trending sharply upward in recent years.
Rainforests are often called the lungs of the planet for their role in absorbing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and increasing local humidity. These massive forests stabilize the climate, house countless plants, and wildlife, and produce nourishing rainfall all around the planet. On World Rainforest Day and every day, we should all pay attention to the delicate balance these natural scales bring to the Earth and take whatever steps we can to protect them.