Threats to the rainforest have increased significantly in the last five decades. Though both natural and human threats are responsible for loss of rainforests, maximum negative impacts are contributed by human intervention.
The total area covered by rainforests was once found to be 14 percent of the Earth’s land surface. Rainforest biomes show the highest diversity, and environment conservation data reveals that more than 50 percent of the original rainforest area is destructed till date. At present, rainforests occupy only 6 percent of the land areas. The most practical solution to conserve these rich habitats is to identify the probable threats, and avoid them as far as possible.
Natural Threats to the Rainforest
The tropical rainforest biome supports the maximum number of plants and animals, approximately 50 percent of the total number of species found in the world. The habitat condition is such that it suits the survival requirements for these organisms. Nevertheless, rainforests have been destroyed by natural events since their existence. Some of these threats are highlighted below:
One of the most destructive environmental menaces to the rainforest is wildfire. In the United States alone, rapidly spreading wildfire burns down more than 1 million acres of forest every year.
The rainforest vegetation requires water and other plant growth factors for their survival. Prolonged dry spells often weaken the plants, making them susceptible to diseases, pest, and fire breakouts.
Devastating cyclones, typhoons, and storms result in extensive damage to the rainforest, which are beyond recovery. For moderately strong storms, forests may recover within a span of few months to many years.
The hot lava and associated pyroclastic materials kill both flora as well as fauna that are surviving in the rainforest. An example is the rainforest of Costa Rica, wherein large areas were damaged due to lava flows in 1999.
Human Threats to the Rainforest
Threats caused by human activities differ from natural menaces. They cause complete damage to woodlands, in case recovery is nearly impossible. During natural events, some parts of the forest ecosystem continue to function, which leads to slow recovery of lost habitats. Listed below are human menaces to the rainforest.
Cutting Trees for Timber
Every minute, thousands of forest trees are cut down for use in buildings, constructions, furniture, flooring, and roofing works. The average damage resultant of logging interests accounts to 10 – 15 percent.
Farming of cattle and other domestic animals is indirectly responsible for loss of rainforests all over the world. As we already know, ranch lands are developed with the help of slash-and-burn method by farmers.
Rise in population is associated with increased need for foods, which in turn is related to the deforestation for agricultural practices. Once a forest is cleared completely, it takes several years to develop normal vegetation.
Air and water pollution are taking a toll on every habitat, including the rainforests. Acid rain causes burning effects on the plant leaves and stems.
The need for bamboos and trees in paper industry is another threat to the rainforest. Millions of plants are cut and turned into pulp for manufacturing paper, so as to meet the growing demands of the public.
For erecting hydroelectric power plants, constructing roads and developmental projects, forest trees are cut down. Also, the expansion of residential areas causes substantial loss of the rainforest.
Mining for coal and fossil fuels involves digging of the soil to a certain depth and extracting the fuels (if present). Consequently, plants are cut down and uprooted, thus killing them. Also, digging and piling up of soil disturbs the elevation of the forest area.
As you see, the most profound threats to the rainforest are caused by humans. If current threats continue at the same pace, these rich biodiversity areas will be diminished within the next 100 years. No doubt, some of the reasons for declining rainforest vegetation are genuine and cannot be avoided. But, there are so many things that every individual can contribute to conserve the rainforests, such as curling trees for timber (instead of cutting them down), planting trees, and reducing exploitation of forests. Introducing public awareness programs to educate people about the importance of these regions of our planet biome will surely help in conserving them.