Rain Forest n FACTS

The world's rain forests are a precious natural resource, but as deforestation continues they are being destroyed at an alarming rate. The following lists some critical facts about the Earth's rapidly disappearing rain forests:

• Almost 50 percent of the Earth's species of plants, animals, and microorganisms will be destroyed over the next 25 years because of rain forest destruction.

• One and one-half acres of rain forest are destroyed every second.

• Rain forests covered about 14 percent of the Earth's land surface in the past; today they cover only about 6 percent. Experts predict that in 40 years there may be no more rain forests left on Earth.

• Scientists estimate that 137 plant, animal, and insect species are lost every day due to deforestation, or 50,000 species a year. This represents a tremendous loss in potential life-saving medicines. Today 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide come from plant-derived sources from the rain forest. In the developed countries, one-quarter of the pharmaceuticals are derived from rain forest ingredients; but to date, less than 1 percent of the tropical trees and plants have even been studied to determine what their potential medicinal qualities are. Plants are becoming extinct faster than scientists can discover them.

• More than 20 percent of the Earth's oxygen is produced in the Amazon rain forest.

tion, condenses into clouds, and falls back to Earth again as rain in a repetitive cycle. The evaporation of the water from the Earth's surface also acts to cool the Earth. As climatologists continue to learn about the Earth's climate and the effects of global warming, they are able to build better models. When the tropical rain forests are replaced by agriculture or grazing, many climate models predict that these types of land use changes will perpetuate a hotter, drier climate. Models also

• In just 2.5 acres (1 hectare), there may be up to 1,500 species of plants and 750 species of trees.

• Approximately 80 percent of the developed world's diet originated in the tropical rain forest. The following foods originated from the rain forest:

avocados

figs

potatoes

black pepper

ginger

rice

cayenne

grapefruit

sugarcane

chocolate

guava

tomatoes

cinnamon

lemons

turmeric

cloves

mangos

vanilla

coconuts

nuts

yams

coffee

oranges

corn

pineapples

• The u.S. National Cancer Institute has identified 3,000 plants that are active against cancer cells. nearly three-fourths come from the rain forest.

• In 1983, there were no u.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers involved in research programs to discover new drugs or cures from plants in the rain forest. Today there are more than 100 pharmaceutical companies involved in research along with several branches of the u.S. government, including Merck and the national Cancer Institute. Research projects include topics such as cancer, infections, viruses, Alzheimer's disease, and AIDS.

predict that tropical deforestation will disrupt the rainfall patterns outside the Tropics, causing a decrease in precipitation—even to far-reaching destinations such as China, northern Mexico, and the south-central United States.

Predictions involving deforestation can get complicated in models, however. For instance, if deforestation is done in a "patchwork" pattern, then local isolated areas may actually experience an increase in rainfall by creating "heat islands," which increase the rising and convection of air that causes clouds and rainstorms. If rainstorms are concentrated over cleared areas, the ground can be vulnerable and susceptible to erosion.

The carbon cycle plays an important role in the rain forests. According to NASA, in the Amazon alone, the trees contain more carbon than 10 years' worth of human produced greenhouse gases. When the forests are cleared and burned, the carbon is returned to the atmosphere, enhancing the greenhouse effect. If the land is utilized for grazing, it can also be a continual source of additional carbon. Deforestation changes the local weather. Cloudiness and rainfall can be greater over cleared land than over intact forest.

It is not certain today whether or not the tropical rain forests are a net source or sink of carbon. While the vegetation canopies hold enormous amounts of carbon, trees, plants, and microorganisms in the soil also respire and release CO2 as they break down carbohydrates for energy. In the Amazon alone, enormous amounts of CO2 escape from decaying organic matter in rivers and streams that flood huge areas. When tropical forests remain undisturbed, they remain essentially carbon neutral; but when deforestation occurs, it contributes significantly to the atmosphere.

Rain forest countries need to give serious consideration to future decisions. Currently, Papua New Guinea, Costa Rica, and several other forest-rich developing countries are seeking financing from the global carbon market (such as the United States) to create attractive financial incentives for tropical rain forest conservation. Developed nations helping developing nations is one approach to help getting a handle on the problem, but developed countries also need to cut back on their own emissions.

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Solar Panel Basics

Solar Panel Basics

Global warming is a huge problem which will significantly affect every country in the world. Many people all over the world are trying to do whatever they can to help combat the effects of global warming. One of the ways that people can fight global warming is to reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy sources like oil and petroleum based products.

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