Rainforests of Brazil
A "rainforest" is not always a forest in a rainy area.
A rainforest consists of broad-leaved trees that form a canopy,
and it is this dense upper layer of leaves that makes a rainforest
what it is. The canopy protects the vegetation and ecology at ground
level from the sun, and scientists have found that the canopy itself
has an ecosystem almost separate from the one on the ground far
Only 7% of the planet Earth is covered by rainforests. But rainforests
are really significant because they are home to more than half of
the world's land and animal species! Study of the rainforest has
caused scientists to invent the concept of biodiversity to show
the large number of creatures in this habitat and the impact these
species could have on Earth now and in the future.
The Tropical Rain Forest Information Center says, "Many of
these plants and animals of the rain forest
require a special
habitat to live. This makes them very vulnerable to deforestation.
If their habitat is cut down, they may become extinct. Every day
species are disappearing from the tropical rain forests as they
. estimates range from one to 137 species disappearing
worldwide per day (Stork 1996, Rainforest Action Network 1998)."
Brazil is home to the largest rainforest in the world. Over half
of Brazil consists of forested terrain (but not all of this is
rainforest). Because agriculture is so important to Brazil's economy,
it has been difficult to protect the rainforests because farmers
and others see the undeveloped land as profitable. While the presence
of the rainforest benefits the world as a whole, it seems unfair
to Brazilians that they are unable to use their land to earn money
and improve their living conditions.
In recent years, Brazil's government has tried to pass laws and
reward Brazilians who allow the forests to grow in peace. In September
of 1999, Brazil passed the Environmental Crimes Law. This law makes
fines of up to US$260 per cubic meter of destroyed forest. The economy
in Brazil and the wildness of rainforests makes it difficult to
protect them. Since 1978, an area of rainforest the size of North
Carolina has been cut down annually. Deforestation has affected
230,000 square miles of the Brazilian Amazon (compare that figure
to the 261,914 square miles that make up the state of Texas).
More action will be needed to restore the rainforests and protect
them from further harm. But that harm continues even at this moment,
and, while a forest can regrow in 50 years, some of our planet's
biological losses can never be replaced. If the world wants to keep
rainforests it has to help make it worth it for poorer countries
to leave the rainforests alone.