Rainforests are one of the most valuable resources on Earth. These amazing ecosystems are home to an incredible number of plants and animals, many of which are still unknown to scientists. These vast forests also store so much rainwater that they help regulate the entire world’s climate. Unfortunately, people are rapidly destroying these irreplaceable ecosystems.
1. Cattle Ranching
Cattle need a lot of room to graze, so ranchers in Central and South America have burned down huge amounts of rainforest to clear the area. The cleared land is usable for a short time, then the soil erodes away and the ranchers have to move on to a new location.
2. Cash Crops
Slash-and-burn farming is also used for cash crops, including bananas, palm oil, sugar cane and coffee. These large fields usually erode quickly. Slash-and-burn farming may be to blame for half of all deforestation.
3. Displaced Farmers
War, predatory monopolies and other factors have displaced a large number of impoverished people. These people often move out into the forest in search of land to farm. While indigenous peoples traditionally practiced a sustainable form of agriculture, these fragile forests can’t support the large numbers of people.
Some of the rainforest’s valuable resources lay underground in the form of diamonds, copper and other precious metals. Mining companies uproot trees and dig into the earth, causing large amounts of destruction.
5. Oil Exploration
Some parts of the rainforest also contain oil reserves. Mining for oil is destructive, but even the exploration process can involve heavy machinery and a great deal of habitat destruction.
Trees are cut down to make paper, furniture and other goods. While many logging companies claim to use sustainable practices, this is often simply a marketing claim to hide the damage.
7. River Dams
Some countries build hydroelectric dams, which generate electricity for the people. Unfortunately, the dams cause some areas to flood and others to dry up, destroying the forest. Dams can also interfere with natural flood cycles that keep forests healthy.
8. Climate Change
Climate change has caused severe droughts in some rainforests, which kills off some of the forest and makes it harder for already-damaged parts to recover. The scientific community largely blames human activity for these changes.