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Rainforest Facts and Figures

Rainforests are not only home to millions of people, animals and plants, they are also essential in the fight against climate change. Here are a few more things that you may not have known about rainforests.

Rainforests and their inhabitants

Rainforests once covered 14% of earth's land surface; now they cover a mere 6%

Around 150,000 square kilometres of tropical rainforest, equivalent to the size of England and Wales, is destroyed every year.

Rainforests across the world: Africa has 30%; Australasia 9%; Oriental/ Indo-Malayan 16%; Neo-tropical (South America) 45%

The Congo Basin is the second largest rainforest on the planet after the Amazon and holds 18% of the world’s rainforest.

Rainforests act as giant reservoirs of moisture and warmth, releasing water throughout the year as the perennial streams and rivers that support the lives of billions of people, meeting the needs of 40% of the farmers in the Third World (Rainforest Information Centre, 1991).

Rainforests worldwide are home to an estimated 50 million indigenous forest peoples

Science and Nature

Rainforests are the most diverse ecosystems on the planet containing more species of plants and animals than all the earth's other ecosystems combined - possibly as many as 30-40 million species - two-thirds of all the world’s wildlife species

Tropical Forests are the Earth's oldest ecosystems. Fossil records show that the forests of South-East Asia have survived in their present form for at least 70 million years (Myers, 1992).

A single hectare of tropical rainforest may contain 200 tree species. The same area of temperate forest typically contains only 10 to 15 species (World Rainforest Movement, 1990).

Rainforests contain medicines - an estimated one in four of all purchases from pharmacies in countries such as Britain contain an active ingredient derived from a tropical forest species.

Currently, 121 prescription drugs currently sold worldwide come from plant-derived sources. And while 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, less than 1% of tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists.

Climate Change

Tropical deforestation is the second largest cause of climate change

"The loss of natural forests contributes more to global [carbon] emissions each year than the transport sector. Curbing deforestation is a highly cost-effective way to reduce emissions." (Stern Report 'The Economics of Climate Change')

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