Tropical Rain Forests

There are many different ecosystems on this planet.

They include tundras, prairies, deserts, grasslands,

forests, alpine environments, ect. One of the most important

and extraordinary ecosystems is the tropical rain forests. A

tropical rain forest is a woodland that usually is in the

tropical zone. It receives heavy annual rainfall, usually at

least 100 inches. It is marked by broad-leaved evergreen

trees forming a continuous canopy. The rain forest is home

to a vastly diverse plant and animal population. Saving the

tropical rain forests is a major concern for the United

States as well as the global community.

There are many types of animals that make the rain

forest their home. Some of them include monkeys, snakes,

birds and millions of insects. There are an estimated fifty

million different species of invertebrates living in the

rain forest. There are new species being discovered all the

time in the rain forest. Just in the last six years 15 new

mammals were discovered in the Philippines. Since 1990 seven

new primates, the order of mammals that includes humans,

have been discovered in Brazil's rain forest. The

discoveries go far beyond animals. Many new species of

plants and fungi are being revealed. These could be used to

make new medicines. Scientists estimate that half of the

worlds species have not even been identified yet. But

everyday an estimated thirty five rain forest species are

becoming extinct. This is significant because these extinct

species can never be used as a medicine. It also disrupts

the ecosystem which could cause harm on other plant or

animal species.

The tropical rain forests are shrinking at an alarming

rate. This year's dry spell in Brazil is resulting in more

fires then ever. According to satellite data burnings are up

twenty eight percent from last year. While people are

setting fires to clear the land, a technique known as slash

and burn, the El Nino weather effect is aggravating those

fires. El Nino has dramatically lowered the humidity in the

Amazon turning loose foliage into kindling. In effort to

control deforestation Brazil's inspectors are fining those

who burn or log illegally. But for every person who is fined

there are hundreds who are never caught. There are only

about three hundred inspectors monitoring the vast Amazon.

In Indonesia the forests are covered by an unhealthy haze

brought on by the uncontrolled fires. According to the World

Wildlife Fund for Nature, deforestation is most rapid in

Asia where nearly eighty eight percent of the forests have

been destroyed. In Pakistan and Thailand four to five

percent of the forest is lost every year. In fifteen years

it could be completely lost, creating semi-desert

conditions.

When forest are cleared without proper planning and

management people living in and around them are deprived of

sources of food, medicine, building material, and water. In

developing countries deforestation particularly affects

women, because they are usually the ones responsible for

providing their families with food and fuel. Women living in

the foothills of the Himalayas often spend a whole day

collecting wood to cook dinner, where as their mothers

collected the same amount in an hour. Deforestation does not

only affect the people who live nearby. If forests continue

to disappear supplies of game, fruit, and nuts dry up. Drug

companies rely heavily on rain forests. Researchers are

currently studying chemicals taken from Australia's black

bean tree to see if they can be used to help treat AIDS.

Extracts from the almost extinct Pacific yew are proving

effective against cancer. So, as the forests vanish so does

the potential of finding a life saving drug.

The destruction of tropical rain forests greatly

affects the global warming situation. The rain forest acts

as a global air conditioner. It cools the planet and

rejuvenates oxygen levels in the atmosphere. Trees use up

carbon dioxide or CO2 in photosynthesis to make their own

food. The growing level of CO2 is a major contributor to

global warming or the greenhouse effect. Since the

Industrial Revolution human activities such as deforestation

and the burning of fossil fuels have caused a dramatic

increase in the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. In the past

one hundred fifty years the level of CO2 in the atmosphere

has risen 27 percent. It is expected to double in the next

hundred years. Consequences of the green house effect will

be severe. Change in sea-level will be the most dramatic

change. Increased variability in weather patterns will

occur. Storms and hurricanes may become more frequent and

severe. Rainfall patterns would likely changes, causing

countries experiencing severe droughts and floods to see an

increase in disasters. Many scientists believe this will

cause an increase in wildfires. The effects are frightening.

New laws and treaties have been signed in order to slow the

process of global warming. Most of them have little effect

however. One such treaty that the Clinton Administration may

sign this month in Kyoto, Japan is quite questionable. It

calls for reduced levels of greenhouse gas emissions and a

timetable for reaching them. It would likely cost five

hundred thousand US jobs every year for a decade, higher

energy costs, and an economic slowdown, however countries

such as China, India, Korea, and Mexico are exempt. Because

these countries are exempt this treaty would do little for

the environment.

The tropical rain forests are vital to the stability of

the earth's environment and the well being of the human

race. The future of the earth's rain forests depends on

management, planning, and careful regulation of tree

cutting. Saving the tropical rain forests is a major concern

for the United States as well as the global community

Works Cited

Philip Hurst. Rainforest Politics. Zed Books

Roy Gallant. Earth's Vanishing Forests. Atheneum

Billy Goodman. The Rainforest (Closer Look At). Copper Beech

Books

Paula Hogan. Vanishing Rain Forests (Environment Alert).

Gareth Stevens

CNN. "Forests Shrinking At Alarming Rate". Oct. 8, 1997

CNN. "In the Amazon, deforestation is on the rise". Nov.

24, 1997

National Geographic Website.

http://www.nationalgeographic.com

Gregg Easterbrook. "Greenhouse Common Sense". US News and

World Report. Nov. 24, 1997

Timothy M. Ito Margaret Loftus. "Cutting and Dealing". US

News and World Report. Mar 10, 1997

Laura Tangley. "New Mammals in Town". " US News and World

Report. Jun. 9, 1997

Smithsonian Website. http://www.si.edu

World Wildlife Fund Website. http://www.wwf.org

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