Rainforests are valuable habitats. About half of all the species of animals and plants in the world live in rainforests and thousands of rainforest plants contain substances that can be used in medicines. The tribal people of the forests have great knowledge of them. Rainforests are also important because the huge number of plants and trees there provide us with oxygen through a process called photosynthesis and help to regulate the world's climate and atmosphere. This is why they are often referred to as the ‘lungs’ of the earth.
Yet despite their value, an area of rainforest the size of Britain is destroyed every year, and this is called deforestation. One and a half acres are cleared every second, an area about the size of a football pitch. Rainforests now only cover 6% of the world as we cut down the trees for materials such as paper and wood and use the land for farming and crops.
Sometimes they're burnt down to make space to grow soya which is an animal feed and to grow palm oil. Palm oil is a bio-fuel used as an alternative to petrol and diesel and a recent article said that 43% of Britain's top grocery brands may contain palm oil. Everyone can do their bit to help reduce the need for deforestation, just follow our tips below.
We have lots of resources on rainforests. Check out these factsheets for more information - Rainforests, Rainforest Animals, Rainforest Tribes and download our free fact-filled and fun magazine for free - Conservation Education
You can also download our cool online magazine on Rainforests for free.
How to help:
- Good wood Tropical hardwoods such as teak and mahogany are grown in rainforests and take hundreds of years to grow so avoid any products made with these woods. It is better have products made with pine, beech, ash or oak. These trees don’t come from the rainforest and can be more easily replaced as they grow a lot faster.
- Flowers Orchids are popular in florists, but many come from the rainforest. The UK imports millions of flowers every year and despite checks some orchids may have been taken from the wild. Check that any orchids have been grown in Britain or the EU before buying.
- Protected Pet? Some parrots and macaws are unfortunately still being imported into the country to be sold as pets. If you want a parrot as a pet, make sure it has been hatched in Britain.
- Save trees Save trees by recycling your own paper. Paper with a clean side can be made into notepads with a simple staple or you can punch a hole to tie sheets of paper together with a piece of string. These are great for doodles and notes. If you are buying paper, buy recycled paper, whether it is writing paper or toilet paper!
Mongabay is an excellent website with hundreds of resources about rainforests. Here are some of their tips:
Some steps for saving rainforests and, on a broader scale, ecosystems around the world can be abbreviated as TREES:
Teach others about the importance of the environment and how they can help save rainforests.
Restore damaged ecosystems by planting trees on land where forests have been cut down.
Encourage people to live in a way that doesn't hurt the environment
Establish parks to protect rainforests and wildlife
Support companies that operate in ways that minimize damage to the environment