The ecological importance of tropical forests
The survival of tropical rain forests is crucial for man: Apart from their variety of species and beauty, they fulfill a myriad of important functions not only important for their own inhabitants. They function as a pantry, pharmacy, water storage and climate regulator in one. 80 percent of our useful tropical crops come from the rain forest areas, such as bananas, cocoa and rubber. Many animal- and plant species are still to be discovered, and only about 1 percent has even been scientifically analysed. However, more than a quarter of our prescription medications come from this small percentage of species. Thanks to their composition, other species can be used as useful pesticides. Rain forests function as giant sponges, soaking up rain water and sweating it out through leaves. They produce their own clouds and provide precipitation for dry areas far away with their cycle of evaporation. Additionally, tropical rain forests play an important role as “green lung”. They store massive amounts of carbon dioxide, reducing the global warming caused by humans.
Tropical Rain Forests at Risk
The five largest rain forest areas in Asia, Africa, Madagascar, South America and New Guinea are at risk to varying degrees due to a vast variety of human activities. Commercial wood harvesting and its growth is the most important cause, especially in Southeast Asia. The legal and illegal harvest of wood is often the main factor of the disappearance of rain forest. Many species in Southeast Asia are being destroyed since the domestic market is less selective than the export market. The building of new roads and infrastructure require increased wood harvesting, illegal harvesting and destruction, resulting in the increase of wildfires.