Classification of Rainforests

Characterized by high annual rainfall, rainforests are home to almost two thirds of the world’s biodiversity. There are essentially two types of rainforests- tropical and temperate. In case of tropical rainforests, the conditions remain warm, wet and humid all through the year. Just so you know the average annual rainfall in these areas varies from 175 cm to 200 cm. If we speak of geographical zones, the countries/continents housing the maximum area of tropical rainforests in the world include the Amazon Rainforest in South America, dense jungle cover in Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and parts of Africa like Congo. Interestingly, a few forest strips in Australia and New Zealand are also categorized so. On the contrary, Temperate Rainforests are found in the Temperate Regions of the globe such as North America, British Columbia, Europe and sparse parts of Eastern Asia like Japan.

Importance of Rainforests

  1. Rainforests are known as the ‘lungs’ as well as ‘sweat glands’ of the world. The process of photosynthesis in rainforests ensures that the level of carbon dioxide is kept in check. This being a greenhouse gas, rainforests plays a very crucial role in the stabilization of the earth’s temperature. This is exactly why rampant deforestation has been adjudged to be amongst the many causes of climate change, global warming and polar ice melting.
  2. A number of indigenous tribes continue to reside in rainforests even today. These include the various tribes of Papa New Guinea, Zaire, Brazil etc and various other parts of Southeast Asia and Africa.
  3. The rainforest cover on present-day earth is the only zone with abundant biodiversity. In the absence of rainforests, a number of species (both flora and fauna) will face extinction. This will lead to imbalanced food chains, a severely disturbed ecological pyramid and an existential crisis in the biosphere.
  4. For the purpose of Soil Conservation, the presence of forest area on earth is very important. The tree roots hold the soil firmly in place while the waste organic matter decomposes and enhances the fertility of the soil. The lesser the forest cover on earth, the resistance of soil against erosion (in the event of storms and flooding) would be severely reduced.
  5. It might come across as a surprise to you, but almost one quarters of modern medicines synthesized by the Global Healthcare Industry have their roots in the rainforests. Confused? These are raw-materials like Quinine (Anti-Malarial Cure), Rauvolfa Shrub (for hypertension and psychiatric disorders) and the Rosy Periwinkle from Madagascar Rainforests (that is used for producing medicines that counter Leukemia), all of which are sourced from our precious rainforests. And yet another riveting fact is that there is a lot more research that remains to be done. In terms of un-tapping the medicinal potential of rainforests, modern medicine has only studied 1% of the raw materials remaining here. So the scope is wide open, and if the very existence of rainforest is compromised with, how will we ever go ahead with finding cures for so many illnesses that are still under research?

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What are the primary reasons for destruction of rainforests?

While one cannot generalize the causal agents and these are highly area-specific, the overall factors that are definitely responsible for the depletion of earth’s rainforest cover are as follows:-

  • Slash-and-Burn Agricultural Methods
  • Rampant Industrialization
  • Logging and Mining Activities
  • Population Explosion and the enhanced need for Residential and Commercial Spaces