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Rainforest Conservation, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

The rainforests constitute some of the most resource-rich land on the planet, yet some of the residents of various countries are constantly launching attacks on it.  These wooded regions are inhabited by approximately 2/3 of all plant and animal species that reside on land, as well as millions of people who need them for survival; the ancient forests that remain are among the most diverse ecosystems known to science (Greenpeace, 2013.) This paper will discuss the tremendous value of the rainforests, economic, scientific, and educational, the threats to their survival posed by various elements, and the solutions that are available to ensure that these lands remain protected from exploitation and destruction.

The Amazon rainforest extends over more than a billion acres, and includes land in Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, and the eastern Andean region of Ecuador and Peru (Rainforest Facts, 2012.) If the entire region formed a distinct country, it would constitute the ninth largest in the world.  These rainforests provide one of the most significant environmental contributions in the world, because they constantly recycle carbon dioxide into oxygen, producing more than 20% of the world supply of oxygen.  In addition, over 50% of the earth’s 10 million species of plants, animals, and insects reside in these rainforests, which also produce 20% of the world’s fresh water.  The rainforest is also the source of approximately 80% of the diet for the developed world, including fruits such as avocados, coconuts, guavas, pineapples, and mangoes.  In addition, a tremendous variety of vegetables as well as spices originate from the rainforests.

In addition to food and water, approximately one quarter of the pharmaceuticals produced in Western nations originate from plant sources that come from the Amazon rainforest; these plans are rich in metabolites, in particular, alkaloids which protect plants from disease as well as attacks by insects (Rainforest Facts, 2012.) The National Cancer Institute in the United States has extracted many ingredients from rainforest plants in order to formulate many anti-cancer drugs, as well as identifying more than 3000 plans that are potentially active in fighting cancer cells.  The rainforests can be considered to be a virtual pharmacy for the entire globe.

The indigenous people living in the rainforest have been using plants for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, and still hold the secrets about the values of many of their plants for healing purposes by shamans, healers, and the people themselves (Taylor, 2004.) Although these practices have been considered to be purely mythical and magical by scientists until relatively recently, the empirical worth of the knowledge of plants by these people is now known to be tremendous.  It has become crucial for environmental scientists to focus on studying certain species on which to conduct research prior to the time that the species become casualties of deforestation.

The importance of preserving the rainforests is based on the knowledge that biodiversity heightens ecosystem productivity wherein each species, no matter how small, has an important role to play (Shah, 2011.) The preservation of these lands facilitates many natural services for the world community, including ecosystem services like protecting waters, protection and formation of soils, storing and recycling nutrients, the absorption and breakdown of pollution, enforcing climate stability, and allowing recovery from unforeseen events.  In addition, the rainforests provide an array of biological treasures including food, wood products, plants that are used as ornaments, eating stocks, a wide range of varieties in genes, species, and ecosystems.  The social benefits to preserving rainforests are crucial as well, and include providing opportunities for research, education, and tracking the cycles of plants and animals, recreation as well as tourism, and promoting values that are inherent to the indigenous peoples.

By the year 2000, however, only about 73% of the original global biodiversity remained.  The greatest declines have happened in the areas where there are temperate and tropical grasslands and forests; these are the areas where human civilizations first developed (The Economic Value of Biodiversity.) It has become a cause célèbre in recent years, because deforestation and the destruction of forests has been a feature of human civilization since it began.  Thousands of years ago, 40% of the planet was covered by forest, but since the growth of human population and the development of agriculture, the most resource-rich lands were cleared and use for other purposes (Rainforests, 2012.) The demand for lumber to be used as fuel as well as rich soil on land for agriculture rose with the advances of civilization.  The first clearing of rainforests occurred in Brazil and in the Caribbean about 500 years ago, and was intended to pave the way for European sugar plantations.  Controversy developed when deforestation began to increase at a rate much faster than anticipated during the 20th century, because of commercial logging as well as cutting down trees in the rain forests for grazing of farm animals.  Finally, in the 1970s, these practices were seen to be environmentally destructive globally, and saving the rain forests became one of the principle causes adopted by the development of the green lobby during the 1980s.

The fight over the rainforest preservation emerged between developed and developing countries, and the U.N. became involved in the issue, reaching a global consensus in 1992.  The result of the negotiations about the rainforests was called the “Non-Legally Binding Authoritative Statement of Principles for a Global Consensus on the Management, Conservation, and Sustainable Development of all Types of Forests (Rainforest, 2012.) During the same year, a program for sustainable development was negotiated at in “Earth Summit” in Rio De Janeiro, focusing on deforestation.  Since the 1990s, there has been a great deal of progress made towards finding solutions and consensus on preserving rainforests.  The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development created both the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests as well as the Forum on Forests.  Other United Nations programs also followed, and were directed towards establishing and maintaining the management, conservation, and sustainability of forest ecosystems (Rainforests, 2012.)

The importance of the role that is played by the rain forests in promoting and enhancing life on the planet is not disputed.  In addition, there is no argument against the fact that deforestation is destructive for biodiversity as well as the indigenous populations and leads to the creation of deserts and degradation of land because when land is cleared it becomes less fertile.  In addition, the deforestation of the rainforests plays a major role in the greenhouse effect by diminishing the earth’s ability to recycle carbon dioxide.  Arguments regarding deforestation are clearly an economic issue, because lumber and land are viewed as rich resources that are necessary for the support of life in many of the developing countries.  However, the tremendous benefits that are factually attributed to the rainforests clearly make the case that they must be preserved, even if there are financial drawbacks to that process.

Works Cited:

Greenpeace.org. “Should A Us Company Be Allowed to Destroy the African Rain Forest.” 2013. Greenpeace.org. 21 February 2013 <http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/forests/>.

“Rainforest Facts.” 21 December 2012. Raintree . 21 February 2013 <http://www.rain-tree.com/facts.htm#.USWM3PJhiqU>.

“Rainforests.” 2012. Politics.Co. UK. A 21 February 2013 <http://www.politics.co.uk/reference/rainforests>.

Shah, Anup. “Why is Biodiversity Important? Who Cares?” 6 April 2011. Global Issues. 21 February 2013 <http://www.globalissues.org/article/170/why-is-biodiversity-important-who-cares#WhyisBiodiversityImportant>.

Taylor, Leslie. The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs. Garden City: Square One Publishers Inc, 2004.

“The Economic Value of Biodiversity.” CBD International. 21 February 2013 <http://www.cbd.int/incentives/doc/biodiv-economic-value-en.pdf>.

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