Friday, August 6, 2021

World Rainforest Day: Earth’s oldest living ecosystems

Forests hold the planet earth together and it has seen almost everything on the blue planet, be it the Dinosaurs, the ice age, the evolution of Homo Sapiens, and the year 2021.

“Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing”. These are the words of Wangari Maathai (the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize) and she had rightly pointed towards the need to conserve forests. On 22 June, every year, the world celebrates World Rainforest Day.

Forests hold the planet earth together and it has seen almost everything on the blue planet, be it the Dinosaurs, the ice age, the evolution of Homo Sapiens, and the year 2021.

There are different types of forests like Tropical Deciduous Forest, Mediterranean Forests, Coniferous Forest, Rainforests, and others. On World Rainforest Day, we will dig deep into the rainforests and their significance for mother Earth.

What is a Rainforest? 

In simple words, a rainforest is a region with evergreen trees with a high amount of rainfall. Rainforests are one of the oldest living ecosystems on planet Earth, with some flora and fauna surviving in their present form for at least 70 million years. Except for Antarctica, rainforests thrive in all other continents. 

Rainforests cover only 6 percent of Earth’s surface, yet they are diverse and complex as they are home to more than half of the world’s plant and animal species. Rainforests are very important for the planet’s well-being and it helps regulate climate and provides everyday products which are the core of human life. 

Why are rainforests vital for our survival?

A significant cause of climate change is carbon emissions. Today, humanity produces more than 1,400 tons of carbon every minute. To fight climate change, humans need to steeply reduce fossil fuel emissions and draw down the excess CO2 to restore our atmospheres’ balance of greenhouse gases. And here trees come into effect, all plants and trees consume atmospheric carbon through a chemical process known as photosynthesis. 

In this process, the trees consume carbon and release oxygen into the atmosphere with the help of sunlight. So the more forests we have and the more trees the planet will have, it will continue to draw down the atmospheric carbon.

Rainforests maintain the Ecological Well-Being

Rainforests act as the Earth’s thermostat (a device used to establish and maintain a temperature) as they surround approximately 3 billion acres of vegetation on earth and have a significant role in the Ecological well-being of planet Earth.

Rainforests around the globe absorb a huge amount of carbon and produce about 20% of oxygen which drastically reduces greenhouse gases. It is also responsible for absorbing a massive amount of solar radiation which automatically regulates the temperatures around the planet.

The world’s water cycle is also maintained by rainforests as more than 50% of precipitation (all forms in which waterfalls to Earth from the atmosphere) which the rainforest receives is returned to the atmosphere by evapotranspiration (loss of water from the Earth’s soil by evaporation into the atmosphere and transpiration by plants). This helps to regulate healthy rainfall across the planet, on which a majority of things depend like agriculture and wildlife.

Amazon Rainforest or Amazonia:  Largest rainforest on the blue planet

The largest rainforest on Earth is spread across eight developing countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. The rainforest is linked with the health of the planet as the Amazon rainforest contains 90-140 billion tons of carbon which stabilizes the local and global climate.

Amazon rainforest stores a substantial percentage of the world’s freshwater. The Amazon basin alone stores one-fifth of the freshwater on Earth. It is home to almost 50% of the animals and plants species and one in ten known species on Earth.  Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest may release a significant amount of carbon, which will have catastrophic consequences around the world.

Threats to Rainforests

The rainforests have been disappearing at an alarming pace, predominantly because of human development over the past few centuries. According to available data,  Once covering 14% of land on Earth, rainforests now make up only 6%. 

Aggressive deforestation, unconditional forest fires, and unsustainable industrial & agricultural development have severely degraded the health of the world’s rainforests which is a serious problem for humankind. 

According to several biologists, rainforests can suffer a loss of 5-10% of their species each decade. Widespread deforestation could cause rainforests’ habitat to vanish completely within the next hundred years. 

Rainforest conservation

 Many individuals, communities, governments, intergovernmental organizations, and conservation groups are stepping up with innovative approaches to protect rainforest habitats across the globe. One such organization is FORREST.

FORREST (Forest Regeneration and Environment Sustainability Trust)

FORREST is an NGO working for environmental protection. The trust was established in 2015. It is driving the conservation of rainforests in India and is spreading awareness among people about the need to conserve forests. The organization focuses on six main areas to accomplish its goals which are : 

  • Habitat restoration
  • Water conservation
  • Education and awareness
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Natural farming
  • Waste management & composting
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