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Why Rainforests Matter

Trees in the mist. Image courtesy of Katherine Secoy, Global Canopy Programme

Trees in the mist. Image courtesy of Katherine Secoy, Global Canopy Programme

Tropical rainforests provide important ecosystem services to local communities and to the world. They store water, regulate rainfall and contain over half the planet's biodiversity. Most importantly, tropical forests play a crucial role in climate change.

Emissions from tropical deforestation contribute 17% of annual greenhouse gas emissions [1]. Equally important, conserved rainforests continue to sequester almost the same amount of atmospheric carbon each year. As a result, tackling the issue of tropical deforestation will be essential if the world is to achieve the goal of limiting global warming to below two degrees Celsius this century and avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Orangutan Mother & Baby © Jean Paul Ferrero/Ardea.com

Orangutan Mother & aby © Jean Paul Ferrero/Ardea.com

In addition, rainforests support the livelihoods of 1.6 billion of the world's poorest people by providing food, fibre, water and medicines, as well as regulating local environments. Those supported include indigenous peoples with unique and precious cultures.

The rainforests are a complex environment essential to the stability of our planets climate and its ability to support life in its current form. But they are being lost at an alarming rate. Urgent action is required to halt this trend and preserve these forests for the benefit of local communities and for the good of the world.

1 IPCC, AR4 Synthesis Report (2007)

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