Rainforests are being destroyed at a staggering rate.
According to the National Academy of Science, at least 50 million
acres a year are lost, an area the size of England, Wales and Scotland
combined. These old growth forests are being cleared for “development”.
The major purposes responsible for the destruction of rainforests
are agriculture, cattle-grazing, logging, and drilling by oil companies.
In many less developed countries, rainforests come under pressure
from people suffering grinding poverty and desperate for any land
that they can use for farming or cattle-grazing.
More than 50 percent of all types of living things—as many
as five million species of plants, animals, and insects—live
in tropical rainforests. Rainforest destruction poses a threat to
each and every one of these species. It is estimated that 100 species
become extinct every day due to tropical deforestation. Approximately
5 to 10 percent of tropical forest species will become extinct each
decade during the next half-century. Current rates of species extinction
are comparable to the five greatest mass extinctions in world history.
According to a report by Friends of the Earth, as much as 80 percent
of global deforestation is caused by conversion of forests into
agricultural land. In Brazil, which houses one third of the Earth's
remaining rainforest, the expansion of the agricultural frontier
is the main cause of deforestation. In addition to deforestation,
large-scale agriculture can threaten worker health and safety, cause
soil erosion, and cause contamination and sedimentation of streams.
All the primary rainforests in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and
Haiti have been destroyed already. The Ivory Coast rainforests have
been almost completely logged. The Philippines lost 55% of its forest
between 1960 and 1985; Thailand lost 45% of its forest between 1961
Agricultural products responsible for the conversion of forests
include meat, soy, palm oil, bananas, coca, and cacao, among others.
In many tropical countries, poor peasants who have been forced off
their land, move into rainforests via logging roads and begin small-scale
subsistence farms. Products such as beef from cattle ranching, on
the other hand, are largely produced to fill demand from wealthy
northern countries and urban centers. An estimated fifty-five square
feet of rainforest is cleared to make pasture for every quarter
pound hamburger made from rainforest cattle.
Since the soil of the rainforest is low in nutrients (most rainforest
nutrients are found in the biomass above), after a few years of
growing grass or other crops, the soil cannot sustain life further
and it becomes a barren wasteland. As a result, additional rainforest
is cleared and converted into cattle pasture. Because the United
States is the single largest consumer of Central American beef,
one could say that Americans are literally eating the rainforest
into extinction. One simple way to help save the rainforests is
to eat less beef. If every American reduced their beef consumption
by only half, there would be no need to destroy the rainforest for
cattle pasture. Cattle ranching is a major cause of rainforest destruction
in Central and South America. Ranchers slash and burn rainforests
to grow grass pasture for cattle. Slash and burn is a technique
where forests are deliberately burnt to clear land for farming.
1. Myers, Norman. 1989. Deforestation Rates in Tropical Forests
and Their Climatic Implications. Friends of the Earth, Underwood
In the rainforests, logging, cattle ranching, mining, oil extraction,
hydroelectric dams and subsistence farming are the leading causes
of habitat destruction.
Indirectly, the leading threats to rainforests ecosystems are unbridled
development, funded by international aid-lending institutions such
as the World Bank, and the voracious consumer appetites of industrialized
We're losing 33.8 million acres of tropical forest per year --
More than the total area of New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts,
Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware combined --
2.8 million acres lost per month...93,000 acres/day...3,800 acres/hour...64
Brazil lost 91.4 million acres of tropical forest between 1980-1990
Almost the total area of North and South Dakota combined.
More than 50% of all living things make the rainforest their home
and 100 species are lost everyday due to the destruction of rainforests.
(FYI: the following info is posted on the website, I’ll probably
use it when I talk during the presentation.) http://www.ran.org/info_center/factsheets/04b.html
1. For what purposes are the rainforests being destroyed?
2. How much of the rainforest are we losing every year/day/minute/second?
3. The rainforest is home to how many percent of the living things
Global Rates of Destruction (1)
2.4 acres (1 hectare) per second: equivalent to two U.S. football
149 acres (60 hectares) per minute
214,000 acres (86,000 hectares) per day: an area larger than New
78 million acres (31 million hectares) per year: an area larger
5.4 million acres per year (estimate averaged for period 1979-1990)
6 - 9 million indigenous people inhabited the Brazilian rainforest
in 1500 In 1992, less than 200,000 remain. (3)
Distinguished scientists estimate an average of 137 species of life
forms are driven into extinction every day; or 50,000 each year.
Projected Economic Value of One Hectare in the Peruvian Amazon (5)
$6,820 per year if intact forest is sustainably harvested for fruits,
latex, and timber
$1,000 if clear-cut for commercial timber (not sustainably harvested)
$148 if used as cattle pasture
Tropical Moist Forests: Present status in select countries
COUNTRY (in sq km)
ORIGINAL EXTENT OF FOREST COVER
|PRESENT EXTENT OF PRIMARY FOREST COVER
||CURRENT AMOUNT OF ANNUAL DEFORESTATION (in sq
km /% per year)
|C. America (522,915)
||3,000 (4.0% )
|Cote D'Ivoire (322,463)