4 vital steps to protect the world’s remaining rainforests

An aerial view of logs illegally cut from Amazon rainforest are seen in sawmills near Humaita, Amazonas State, Brazil August 22, 2019. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino - RC1B4AADB7D0

Nearly half of the world’s rainforests have been destroyed since the 1960s. Image:  REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

.chakra .wef-1c7l3mo{-webkit-transition:all 0.15s ease-out;transition:all 0.15s ease-out;cursor:pointer;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;outline:none;color:inherit;}.chakra .wef-1c7l3mo:hover,.chakra .wef-1c7l3mo[data-hover]{-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.chakra .wef-1c7l3mo:focus,.chakra .wef-1c7l3mo[data-focus]{box-shadow:0 0 0 3px rgba(168,203,251,0.5);} Tharanga Gunawardena

essay on conservation of rainforest

.chakra .wef-9dduvl{margin-top:16px;margin-bottom:16px;line-height:1.388;font-size:1.25rem;}@media screen and (min-width:56.5rem){.chakra .wef-9dduvl{font-size:1.125rem;}} Explore and monitor how .chakra .wef-15eoq1r{margin-top:16px;margin-bottom:16px;line-height:1.388;font-size:1.25rem;color:#F7DB5E;}@media screen and (min-width:56.5rem){.chakra .wef-15eoq1r{font-size:1.125rem;}} Brazil is affecting economies, industries and global issues

A hand holding a looking glass by a lake

.chakra .wef-1nk5u5d{margin-top:16px;margin-bottom:16px;line-height:1.388;color:#2846F8;font-size:1.25rem;}@media screen and (min-width:56.5rem){.chakra .wef-1nk5u5d{font-size:1.125rem;}} Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale

Stay up to date:, how to save the planet.

  • Protecting rainforests is worth more to modern economies than destroying them for commercial gain.
  • Controlling climate change is the most substantial contribution to the world made by rainforests.
  • Governments must ensure laws are enforced to safeguard the last surviving primary rainforests.

Rainforests are disappearing at alarming rates. Since the 1960 s, nearly half of the world’s rainforests have been destroyed. What once covered 14% of the earth, now covers only 6%. Every day, the world loses about 81,000 hectares (200,000 acres) of rainforests. For generations, governments and economists evaluated the monetary value of rainforests by tangible benefits, without fully assessing their socio-economic advantages. However, as one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth, rainforests offer a lot more.

Have you read?

The african rainforest may not survive if we wipe out its chimpanzee population, how 2˚c of warming will push most tropical rainforests above their ‘heat threshold’, costa rica has doubled its tropical rainforests in just a few decades. here’s how.

Where are rainforests found?

Rainforests are categorized as tropical and temperate according to where they are found. Tropical rainforests are located near the equator in regions of South and Central America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, South and South-East Asia and the Pacific Islands. Rainforests are widely known for their layers of flora identified as emergent, canopy, understory, and forest floor.

On the other hand, Temperate rainforests comprise around one-quarter of the earth’s forests in temperate, moist regions with higher altitude and precipitation such as North America, Europe, East Asia, South America, Australia and New Zealand. Albeit different in its appearance, both genres of rainforests attract similar amounts of rainfall with approximately 2,000 millimetres a year.

The Amazon is undoubtedly the world’s largest single rainforest covering 6.7 million kilometres at present, hosting up to 10% of the world’s biodiversity in one single forest. Others include the Congo rainforest in Central Africa, the second largest rainforest, as well as Southeast Asian Rainforests covering Indonesia, Laos and Cambodia. Apart from fragments of rainforests in India, Sinharaja is a rare primary rainforest found in Sri Lanka, extraordinarily rich in its biodiversity. Recognized as a UNESCO heritage site since 1978, Sinharaja is Sri Lanka’s last remaining natural rainforest covering 8,864 hectares and hosting 60% of endemic flora and 50% endemic fauna.

The economic value of rainforests

One of the biggest threats to the rainforests is their destruction for commercial gain. For example, the Amazon and rainforests in Asia are largely threatened by commercial logging, incineration, agriculture and industrial activity such as growing palm oil and livestock. However, their survival is worth more to modern economies than their destruction.

Controlling climate change is the most substantial contribution made by rainforests. According to the United Nations climate scientists, the world spends $300 billion at present to stop the rise in greenhouse gases and buy up to 20 years to mitigate the climate crisis. The very existence of rainforests will help regulate climate change and minimize the amount spent on lowering CO2 emissions. Rainforests absorb approximately 2.4 tonnes of CO2 per year, which accounts for one-third of CO2 generated by fossil fuels annually, while releasing oxygen to the atmosphere, acting as a natural air purifier and controlling toxic emissions.

More than 25% of modern medicines originate from rainforests as well. That is even more astounding considering it consists of only 1% of flora discovered in rainforests so far. As Professors Robert Mendelsohn and Michael Balick argue , tropical plant species could be worth as much as $147 billion to society as a whole, treating critical diseases such as HIV and cancer. The loss of rainforests will cost the pharmaceutical industry billions of dollars.

Rainforests are key sustainers of water bodies around the world. Large tree covers increase precipitation in the air, providing and regulating a healthy rainfall and nourishing all water bodies including fresh water. The depletion of rainforests will not only jeopardize a sufficient water supply to cumulative populations but further risk their contamination.

Halting deforestation is essential to avoiding the worst effects of global climate change.

The destruction of forests creates almost as much greenhouse gas emissions as global road travel, and yet it continues at an alarming rate.

In 2012, we brought together more than 150 partners working in Latin America, West Africa, Central Africa and South-East Asia – to establish the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 : a global public-private partnership to facilitate investment in systemic change.

The Alliance, made up of businesses, governments, civil society, indigenous people, communities and international organizations, helps producers, traders and buyers of commodities often blamed for causing deforestation to achieve deforestation-free supply chains.

The Commodities and Forests Agenda 2020 , summarizes the areas in which the most urgent action is needed to eliminate deforestation from global agricultural supply chains.

The Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 i s gaining ground on tackling deforestation linked to the production of four commodities: palm oil, beef, soy, and pulp and paper.

Get in touch to join our mission to halt to deforestation.

Rainforests are also home to 30 million known species of flora and fauna, which is nearly half of the earth’s wildlife and two-thirds of plant species. The loss of biodiversity incurred by deforestation breaks the equilibrium of all ecosystems. No matter how small or of how little significance a species is, they all have a vital role to play collectively, to sustain life on earth. The loss of biodiversity will decimate economies by affecting pollination and food sources, increasing irregular rainfall and exacerbating climate catastrophes.

Conservation of rainforests

1) Reforestation

The most common action taken in restoring the lost primary forests is by replanting them. In 2017, Conservation International partnered with the Brazil government and community NGOs to plant 73 million trees in the Brazilian Amazon. However, it is imperative that native plants are used for rehabilitating and restoring the degradation without using alien or foreign species, in order to sustain the original ecosystem of the primary forests.

2) Tougher laws

Governments must ensure laws are enacted and law enforcement continues in order to safeguard the last surviving primary rainforests like in Indonesia, Madagascar and even the Amazon. Proper land demarcations, tougher fines for human encroachments, regulating deforestation for industries – such as tea and coffee plantations – and preventing species trafficking will further support protection of the remaining natural rainforests and its critically endangered and endemic biodiversity.

3) Investing in conservation and research

Conservation of rainforests will be pivotal for their survival. Yet most conservation efforts are carried out by non-profit organizations and volunteers who will not succeed without adequate investment. For example, the Rainforest Trust supports local conservation groups such as in Ecuador to acquire 495 more hectares for the Río Canandé Reserve , which encompasses higher concentrations of endemic and threatened species. Similarly, the UN REDD invested in the Democratic Republic of Congo to create an online National Forest Monitoring System to track and map data on logging concessions to prevent unlawful felling.

4) Awareness

Educating young people about the social and environmental value of rainforests and directing them towards sustainable living will be essential to saving the remaining primary rainforests. Rainforest Alliance is one non-profit that uses its seal to mark eco-friendly products and services like eco-tourism that do not harm rainforests further and encourage responsible and sustainable living.

It takes millions of years for rainforests to develop. That is why safeguarding the remaining natural rainforests is more effective than restoring and rewilding them. Understanding their economic value and conserving them will enable greener and more inclusive economies, leading to a better world.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:

The agenda .chakra .wef-n7bacu{margin-top:16px;margin-bottom:16px;line-height:1.388;font-weight:400;} weekly.

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

.chakra .wef-1dtnjt5{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-flex-wrap:wrap;-ms-flex-wrap:wrap;flex-wrap:wrap;} More on Climate Action .chakra .wef-17xejub{-webkit-flex:1;-ms-flex:1;flex:1;justify-self:stretch;-webkit-align-self:stretch;-ms-flex-item-align:stretch;align-self:stretch;} .chakra .wef-nr1rr4{display:-webkit-inline-box;display:-webkit-inline-flex;display:-ms-inline-flexbox;display:inline-flex;white-space:normal;vertical-align:middle;text-transform:uppercase;font-size:0.75rem;border-radius:0.25rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;line-height:1.2;-webkit-letter-spacing:1.25px;-moz-letter-spacing:1.25px;-ms-letter-spacing:1.25px;letter-spacing:1.25px;background:none;padding:0px;color:#B3B3B3;-webkit-box-decoration-break:clone;box-decoration-break:clone;-webkit-box-decoration-break:clone;}@media screen and (min-width:37.5rem){.chakra .wef-nr1rr4{font-size:0.875rem;}}@media screen and (min-width:56.5rem){.chakra .wef-nr1rr4{font-size:1rem;}} See all

essay on conservation of rainforest

From Athens to Dhaka: how chief heat officers are battling the heat

Angeli Mehta

May 8, 2024

essay on conservation of rainforest

Funding the green technology innovation pipeline: Lessons from China

essay on conservation of rainforest

4 ways the climate crisis could be coming for your income

Simon Torkington

essay on conservation of rainforest

Floods in the Arabian Gulf remind us that investing in climate mitigation cannot wait

Neeshad Shafi

May 1, 2024

essay on conservation of rainforest

More people now cycle than drive in central Paris

essay on conservation of rainforest

70% of workers are at risk of climate-related health hazards, says the ILO

Johnny Wood

You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser or activate Google Chrome Frame to improve your experience.

Global Citizen

Thanks for signing up as a global citizen. In order to create your account we need you to provide your email address. You can check out our Privacy Policy to see how we safeguard and use the information you provide us with. If your Facebook account does not have an attached e-mail address, you'll need to add that before you can sign up.

This account has been deactivated.

Please contact us at [email protected] if you would like to re-activate your account.

An estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest — roughly the size of Panama — are lost each year, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. This is a tragedy for many reasons and something as Global Citizens we should take a stand against!

Here are 7 reasons why we should be protecting our rainforests:

1. It is home to literally MILLIONS of different species. Did you know that 70% of Earth's land animals and plants live in rainforests? If rainforests disappear what would happen to them? Imagine if we just got rid of that wet stuff that covers 70% of the earth's surface — where would all the dolphins live?

2. There are potentially millions of animal and plant species that are yet to even be discovered! If deforestation continues at the current rate, not even a quarter of these will be discovered before they are killed off! 137 rainforest species are exterminated completely every single day.

3. Over a quarter of the medicines we use today have their origins in the rainforests — and that’s after only about 1% of rainforest plants have been examined for their medicinal properties! Imagine what else could be there? It’s not crazy to think that our best chance of curing the diseases, such as Malaria and HIV, that plague our world, could lie within the rainforest...

4. The rainforest helps to regulate the worlds water cycle. Trees play an important part in the water cycle, grounding the water in their roots and releasing it into the atmosphere. In the Amazon, more than half the water in the ecosystem is held within the plants. Without the plants, the climate may become dryer and growing food could become impossible for many.

5. Most of our foods come out of the Amazon like bananas, pineapples, nuts, coffee beans and many more. If deforestation continues at the current rate of 46-58 thousand square miles of forest each year—equivalent to 36 football fields every minute — then we could be in danger of cutting off a significant percentage of our food supply.

6. Deforestation drives climate change.  Removing trees deprives the forest of portions of its canopy, which blocks the sun’s rays during the day and holds in heat at night. This disruption leads to more extreme temperatures swings that can be harmful to plants and animals.

Trees also play a critical role in absorbing the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. Fewer forests means larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere—and increased speed and severity of global warming.

7. The biggest reason to save the rainforst is the effect deforestation has on local economies. Increased flooding, lack of quality water, and inability to produce their own food causes many locals migrate to cities that lack the infrastructure for them. Or sadly, the only way they can make money is to work on plantations, worsening the deforestation problem and at times being subjected to inhumane dangerous working conditions. 

Clea Guy-Allen

Defend the Planet

7 Reasons Why We Should Be Protecting Our Rainforests

March 9, 2014

  • Newsletters

Site search

  • Israel-Hamas war
  • Home Planet
  • 2024 election
  • Supreme Court
  • All explainers
  • Future Perfect

Filed under:

How the Save the Rainforest movement gave rise to modern environmentalism

It wasn’t all toucan t-shirts and lizard candy.

Share this story

  • Share this on Facebook
  • Share this on Twitter
  • Share this on Reddit
  • Share All sharing options

Share All sharing options for: How the Save the Rainforest movement gave rise to modern environmentalism

A waterfall in a tropical rainforest.

If you were a kid in America in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the concept of the rainforest probably has a permanent spot in your brain. From about 1986 through 1992, a mass movement centered around saving the rainforest dominated popular culture. Ads for cheeseburgers , the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles , and many, many more products included blue-green tropical imagery and vague environmentalist messages. Movies like Ferngully and TV shows like Captain Planet capitalized on the trend. The chain restaurant Rainforest Cafe launched; the clothing store Banana Republic was jungle-themed . You might have worn an oversized t-shirt with a toucan or a spider monkey on it.

Looking back, the entire “save the rainforest” thing feels frivolous, ineffective, naive. We obviously didn’t save the rainforests; today, tropical rainforests face a host of foes both new and old, ranging from palm oil plantations to slash-and-burn agriculture . But this era of simplistic cartoons and lizard-emblazoned candy was actually the birth of the modern American environmentalist movement. It was unlike any conservation project seen before, and we’re not likely to ever see anything like it again.

Prior to the early 1980s, conservation and environmentalism were extraordinarily limited. There were essentially two branches. You could have the old, Teddy Roosevelt-style land conservation, fairly bipartisan and almost entirely projects by rich, white men designed to rope off their favorite spots in the United States. The Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and Clean Air Act were all passed during Republican administrations (though it’s worth noting that Nixon vetoed both of the latter). The activists I spoke to largely described the pre-1980s conservation movement as elitist and paternalistic, but most importantly domestic.

Environmentalism, as opposed to conservation, was something for bearded weirdos and not something the national media felt at all obligated to examine. “Nobody took you seriously,” says Daniel Katz, the founder of Rainforest Alliance. “You were a hippie radical lefty. You were a tree-hugger. You were seen as a nut! And I wasn’t a nut.” From 1981 to 1984, the New York Times published a single article dealing with the rainforest by that term. It was a review of a seminal book on rainforest conservation, Catherine Caulfield’s In the Rainforest , and it is a truly bonkers document. An actual quote: “Despite her bias toward efforts to save the forests, her account is balanced.”

The term “rainforest” is a vague one; generally it refers simply to a forest that receives a lot of rain. There are rainforests in British Columbia, Norway, and Korea. But the rainforest most often referred to during the 1980s and 1990s was tropical rainforest: the Amazon rainforest, Congo rainforest, big chunks of Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Central America.

Even the word “rainforest” was new at the time. More typical was “jungle,” which conjured Joseph Conrad-type images of savagery and danger. Nobody in the United States or Europe seemed to really care much about the destruction of what was seen as a hostile landscape of blood-sucking insects, man-eating beasts, malaria, and cannibals. (These are, obviously, inaccurate descriptions.) But there was a burgeoning scientific community studying these environments across the globe.

Those scientists began to sound the alarm within their own communities. These tropical forest environments, they said, housed a greater percentage of life for their area than anyplace else on the planet. There were thousands, probably millions, of new species to be discovered. And there were commercial concerns, too, especially for the pharmaceutical industry, as dozens of drugs (quinine, turbocuarine, cortisone) were derived from rainforest plants. And these forests were being destroyed at alarming rates, largely for agriculture, ranching, and logging.

essay on conservation of rainforest

A few books, including Caulfield’s and The Primary Source by Norman Myers, both published in 1985, tried to reeducate the public: That feared jungle is more than you think.

A new crop of environmentalists, many of them previously anti-war activists during the Vietnam War, picked up the cause. They were based in San Francisco and New York, and they weren’t thrilled with the few existing environmental groups. Friends of the Earth was mostly based in the UK; Greenpeace was focused on whales (and some activists had — and have — ethical issues with them, anyway); the World Wildlife Fund was animal activism; the Sierra Club and National Resources Defense Council were all about the United States. There weren’t organizations speaking specifically about the rainforest, so these activists founded their own.

The Rainforest Action Network was founded in 1985 by Randy Hayes and Mike Roselle. Hayes had just come off a 10-year stint filming a documentary with the Hopi Native American tribe. In the Southwest, he was hanging out with the more radical Earth First! group and learned about the plight of the rainforest from them. “For me, my earliest interest in the issue was kind of connected to my interest in indigenous peoples,” says Hayes.

Rainforest Action Network was based in San Francisco at the time, and Hayes made the very good decision to get in touch with a man who might be the unheralded force behind the entire modern environmental movement: Herbert Chao Gunther. Gunther was a former anti-war activist who started the Public Media Center in San Francisco. It was, essentially, a marketing firm that worked exclusively on issues of the environment and social justice. “He convinced me early on that there was no effective campaign without a serious media strategy,” says Hayes.

Gunther says in the early- to mid-1980s, there was a steady stream of activists coming through his door, asking for advice, looking for strategy tips. But he connected with Hayes and with the save-the-rainforest movement, and the two companies worked together for three years, from 1986 through 1988. Gunther’s big idea was an elaborate education campaign. He purchased mailing addresses of subscribers from publications and looked for certain overlaps. A subscription to Mother Jones meant you were a lefty; a subscription to Forbes or Fortune or an American Express membership meant that you had money. And the cause needed both of those things.

If you’re wondering about the privacy concerns here, well, good point, but it doesn’t seem to have come up at all. “Nobody was worried about privacy, back then,” says Gunther.

Gunther’s ad campaigns were totally unlike existing commercial campaigns. Instead of catchy, brief, pithy slogans, Rainforest Action Network included multi-page, multi-thousand-word stories of life in the rainforest. “When you read 1,500 words about the rainforest, you get converted,” says Gunther. Creating activism is, Gunther believed, a very different beast from creating a customer. You had to get inside a nascent activist’s head, take up space in there with imagery and facts about this wondrous place. It helped that few at the time knew very much at all about the rainforest. Rainforest Action Network made the rainforest seem like an Eden, a verdant wonderland, a dream in green and blue and brown.

They also very intentionally did not use the word “jungle.” At the time, there were a few different terms being tossed around as potential replacements for that stigmatized word. “We were interacting with a lot of the seminal scientists of the time,” says Hayes. “‘Tropical Moist Forest’ was what they wanted to call it.” Gunther and RAN landed on “tropical rainforest” as their term of choice. A primary strength of the Save the Rainforest movement was that it was focused on something positive and amazing. The rainforest was magic, and saving it was fun, not grim.

Gunther was RAN’s guide to branding. “He also cautioned me not to connect it too much with animal rights, at first,” says Hayes. “The animal rights movement at the time was kind of the anti-vivisection people. Vegetarianism wasn’t popularly well thought-of, the way it is now. It was a different era.”

A sign affixed to a corporate building by environmental activists reads, “Texaco kills rainforests.”

Gunther’s mentality was aggressive. “If you want to start a movement, make an enemy,” says Gunther. “Get into a fight. People understand fights, because when there’s a fight, you can pick a side.” Hayes had already decided to essentially ignore the government; the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, these activists thought, were not going to be helpful but also did not make for a pointed enemy. The ideal enemy was a corporation. So Gunther and Hayes scoured the news for an enemy, finding a brief mention in a New York Times article about a massive contract Burger King had in Costa Rica, to produce beef. To clear land for the cattle, Burger King had to mow over massive swathes of pristine Costa Rican rainforest. They were a perfect enemy.

RAN ran full page ads in publications ranging from hyper-local hippie weeklies (for their grassroots movement) to BusinessWeek and the Wall Street Journal (to let executives at Burger King know they’d been targeted). They set up a widespread boycott of “rainforest beef”; worked with Earth First! and other organizations; and made Burger King’s Costa Rican connection a national issue.

It worked, sort of. Burger King did, within a year and a half, cancel its $35 million contract with Costa Rican ranchers and suffered a double-digit-percentage downturn in sales. But there were other forces at play. “Rainforest beef” had significantly lower fat content than American beef, and Burger King itself knew that Americans simply didn’t like it very much. The company was embroiled in internal struggles , including unsuccessful marketing campaigns and backlash from franchise owners. It was a smart business move from a few different angles for Burger King to give in to the protests. But, you know, they still did.

The early success of RAN’s Burger King campaign led to the creation of many more activist groups. Perhaps the best known is Rainforest Alliance, whose founder, Daniel Katz, actually applied for a job at Rainforest Action Network. (Gunther told him to start his own thing.) Rainforest Action Network continued to focus on awareness campaigns, getting big stars (the Grateful Dead, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne) for concerts and splashy media work. Sting even started his own similar group, the Rainforest Foundation . But Rainforest Alliance tried something else: a certification program.

Rainforest Alliance was among the first major ethical food certification programs, even before the 1990 establishment of the National Organic Program. Their goal was to have a program that could alert customers, thanks to a little sticker on the package, that a given product adhered to some basic ethical standards. This was a new and ballsy idea at the time, and directly led to the birth of the Forest Stewardship Council, Fair Trade Certified, and all of the other certifications we know and (sort of) understand today.

The Rainforest Alliance seal with a picture of a tree frog, affixed to one of a bunch of bananas.

Not all of the companies that sprang from the rainforest-saving well were activist groups. Seventh Generation, which sells recycled paper goods like toilet paper and paper towels, was founded in 1988. Unlike Rainforest Alliance and Rainforest Action Network, Seventh Generation is a company that directly sells products, but it was heavily informed by the awareness campaigns of the activist groups. It’s still successful today, a model for how a business can be founded on ideals and still sell stuff.

Some of these programs didn’t entirely work. You might remember Ben & Jerry’s Rainforest Crunch, which featured Brazil nuts. That flavor was supposed to set up a co-op to harvest nuts in a more equitable way for the farmers and donate a percentage of sales to Brazilian nonprofits. But Ben & Jerry’s realized after a few years that they weren’t actually succeeding at any of their goals; the co-op hadn’t made any profit so the company hadn’t donated anything. The co-op also couldn’t produce as many nuts as the company needed. Ben & Jerry’s , to their credit, announced all of this before anybody else figured it out, releasing all of their findings. The same thing happened with The Body Shop , which had sold Brazil-nut-based shampoos and conditioners. “That program ... I mean, so many programs end up having flaws. It’s tricky. So that program went away, but Ben & Jerry’s continued to try to source really well,” says Katz.

The activist organizations started with awareness; before you can make anyone care about the rainforest, you have to actually tell them about the rainforest, and why it’s so cool. This worked perhaps better than any of the activists expected. By 1990, rainforests weren’t just something to be saved, they were an iconic motif to be utilized. Sometimes the products, like those movies and TV shows, had some environmental education aspect to them, though of course their main goal was to make money. Sometimes there were no noble intentions at all. The rainforest was simply cool, and people liked toucans, monkeys, macaws, tree frogs, and bromeliads.

This was, of course, pretty frustrating to the activists who had started the whole thing. “Oh yeah, there was horrendous greenwashing going on,” says Hayes. “It was constantly talked about in our circles.” But this was a huge boom time for the environmental movement, even if a lot of the stuff relating to the rainforest wasn’t really helping much. “We started to get a lot more attention,” says Katz. “And there were a lot of groups and companies that wanted to play off our name and our reputation. It was kind of a wild time.” He even consulted with the makers of Ferngully .

But Rainforest Alliance was pretty annoyed with companies using rainforest imagery to sell their junk, and even proposed what they called a “nature tax.” “Like if you’re a car company and you have a cheetah in the ad, you should have to pay for that,” says Katz. It didn’t take off, but it’s kind of a good idea.

The trend eventually died down, as trends do, in the mid-1990s. Many of the activist groups and companies that had sprung from this period are still around and have looked back on that wild time. Did they succeed in their goals? Did they do as much good as they could have?

Deforestation in the tropical rainforest regions has certainly not stopped; the treatment of farmers in rainforests is still awful. ( Coffee and chocolate , especially, remain largely abhorrent industries.) Environmental struggles don’t really end; it’s not as though you can just pass a bill and then the fight is over. “When we lose a battle, it’s permanent, and when we win, it’s temporary,” says Katz.

But a pure how-many-acres-did-we-save metric doesn’t really show the whole picture of what the Save the Rainforest movement achieved. By 1989, Costa Rican deforestation rates had dropped dramatically; by 1998, they had stopped entirely. Costa Rica, the first focus of Gunther and Rainforest Action Network, has become a world model of environmental conservation, actually increasing its forest cover and setting ambitious carbon-neutrality goals. In 1996, following a civil war, Guatemala protected millions of acres of forest thanks to a concession program that has actually halted deforestation there.

There were absolutely concrete improvements made during and as a direct result of these campaigns. But more importantly, there was a sea change. “Conservation” and “environmentalism” were no longer bad words. By 1987 , the New York Times was starting to treat the rainforest in a more modern way, depicting the devastation that would befall the planet if deforestation continued unchecked. Environmental science programs became more and more common in American and European universities, birthing new generations of activists.

The fact that major corporations have sustainability departments, that they bother to even pay lip service to environmental and ethical causes, you could argue that this all comes back to the corporate-antagonizing efforts of Rainforest Action Network. That big companies bother to spend more money to make some of their products certified organic, fair trade, and more — there would be no market for this stuff without Rainforest Alliance, and no mechanism to charge more money for these products without their certification program.

Awareness campaigns are easy to sneer at. “What did they do ?” you think. “Isn’t it just so easy to raise awareness and hard to get concrete stuff done?”

Some of these campaigns absolutely were self-aggrandizing, ineffective, or misinformed, sure. But they were also essential. Save the Rainforest was a movement in which entire countries woke up and started giving a shit about the natural world beyond their own borders. Just because it was sometimes stupid and just because the Amazon is currently on fire doesn’t mean it didn’t work. You just have to adjust your expectations about what was really being saved.

Sign up for The Goods’ newsletter. Twice a week, we’ll send you the best Goods stories exploring what we buy, why we buy it, and why it matters.

Will you support Vox today?

We believe that everyone deserves to understand the world that they live in. That kind of knowledge helps create better citizens, neighbors, friends, parents, and stewards of this planet. Producing deeply researched, explanatory journalism takes resources. You can support this mission by making a financial gift to Vox today. Will you join us?

We accept credit card, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. You can also contribute via

essay on conservation of rainforest

Next Up In Money

Sign up for the newsletter today, explained.

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.

Thanks for signing up!

Check your inbox for a welcome email.

Oops. Something went wrong. Please enter a valid email and try again.

essay on conservation of rainforest

“Climate-friendly” beef could land in a meat aisle near you. Don’t fall for it.

Side-by-side pictures of Drake and Kendrick Lamar onstage, each holding a microphone.

Drake and Kendrick Lamar don’t care about misogyny

essay on conservation of rainforest

Eurovision is supposed to be fun and silly. This year is different.

The Eurovision stage with a scrim that reads “United by Music.”

Eurovision says it’s “apolitical.” History says otherwise.

A dense crowd of protesters seen from above. One sign reads, “bring them home.”

Israel and Hamas aren’t that far apart in ceasefire talks

essay on conservation of rainforest

John Fetterman has beef with no-kill meat

We use cookies to analyse how visitors use our website and to help us provide the best possible experience for users. View our Cookie Policy . ( I accept )

The WWF is run at a local level by the following offices...

  • AsiaPacific
  • Central African Republic
  • Central America
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • European Policy Office
  • Greater Mekong
  • Hong Kong SAR
  • Mediterranean
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Philippines
  • Regional Office Africa
  • South Africa
  • South Pacific
  • Switzerland
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • More on our work
  • Importance of Forests
  • Tropical rainforests

Why are tropical forests so important?

Tropical forests cover just 6% of the planet’s land surface but are some of the richest, most biodiverse places on Earth. They are home to ancient, towering trees and a huge variety of plants, birds, insects and fascinating mammals. A staggering 80% of the world's documented species can be found in tropical rainforests, which makes them a crucial habitat. Their destruction is fuelling the nature crisis. 

These forests have different layers, each with their own important role in sustaining a healthy ecosystem. The scattered gigantic trees form the canopy, where most of the flowering and fruiting takes place which sustains other animals including iconic species like the toucan and sloth. Below this live smaller trees which provide shelter for birds and reptiles, and major predators like the jaguar. Beneath this layer lies the forest floor, which receives very little sunlight but is alive with fungi and insects that play an important role in the wider forest ecosystem. 

These forests are crucial habitats and sources of food for both people and nature. They play an important role in the global water cycle, help tackle climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and provide livelihoods for local communities. 

Two-thirds of global forest cover loss is occurring mainly in the tropics and sub-tropics. Over 43 million hectares, an area roughly the size of Morocco, was lost in these ' deforestation fronts ' between 2004 and 2017. 


What is WWF doing? 

WWF is committed to conserving the world's rainforests, not only because of the incredible wealth of plants and animals, but for the benefit of the people who call these forests their home and depend on them for their food, livelihoods and culture.

We have been working to save rainforests for decades, from the tropical forests of Borneo in Southeast Asia to the intact forests in Central Africa to the lush rainforests of the Amazon in South America.

We work with governments, international organizations and businesses, Indigenous peoples and local communities to protect and sustainably manage tropical forests, halt deforestation and forest degradation and restore forests.

  • Boreal and temperate forests
  • Earth for Life
  • Deforestation- and Conversion-Free Supply Chains & Governance

Posted on 10 Apr 2024

FSC-certified tropical forests help wildlife thrive

Large, threatened mammals such as great apes and forest elephants and other wildlife are better conserved in FSC-certified ...

Posted on 18 Mar 2024

Five positive signs for forests in 2024

These top trends are driving increased understanding of the value of forests, more strategic thinking, greater coordination, more ...

Posted on 13 Feb 2024

Reforestation initiative that helped triple Nepal's tiger population recognized as one of seven UN World Restoration Flagships

The Terai Arc Landscape initiative has already brought back to life a forest area 13 times the size of Kathmandu.

Posted on 08 Dec 2023

WWF statement on the Agricultural Sector Roadmap Progress Report

You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.


Why deforestation matters—and what we can do to stop it

Large scale destruction of trees—deforestation—affects ecosystems, climate, and even increases risk for zoonotic diseases spreading to humans.

As the world seeks to slow the pace of climate change , preserve wildlife, and support more than eight billion people , trees inevitably hold a major part of the answer. Yet the mass destruction of trees—deforestation—continues, sacrificing the long-term benefits of standing trees for short-term gain of fuel, and materials for manufacturing and construction.

We need trees for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that they absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale and the heat-trapping greenhouse gases that human activities emit. As those gases enter the atmosphere, global warming increases, a trend scientists now prefer to call climate change.

There is also the imminent danger of disease caused by deforestation. An estimated 60 percent of emerging infectious diseases come from animals, and a major cause of viruses’ jump from wildlife to humans is habitat loss, often through deforestation.

But we can still save our forests. Aggressive efforts to rewild and reforest are already showing success. Tropical tree cover alone can provide 23 percent of the climate mitigation needed to meet goals set in the Paris Agreement in 2015, according to one estimate .

a melting iceberg

Causes of deforestation

Forests still cover about 30 percent of the world’s land area, but they are disappearing at an alarming rate. Since 1990, the world has lost more than 420 million hectares or about a billion acres of forest, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations —mainly in Africa and South America. About 17 percent of the Amazonian rainforest has been destroyed over the past 50 years, and losses recently have been on the rise . The organization Amazon Conservation reports that destruction rose by 21 percent in 2020 , a loss the size of Israel.

Farming, grazing of livestock, mining, and drilling combined account for more than half of all deforestation . Forestry practices, wildfires and, in small part, urbanization account for the rest. In Malaysia and Indonesia, forests are cut down to make way for producing palm oil , which can be found in everything from shampoo to saltine crackers. In the Amazon, cattle ranching and farms—particularly soy plantations—are key culprits .

For Hungry Minds

Logging operations, which provide the world’s wood and paper products, also fell countless trees each year. Loggers, some of them acting illegally , also build roads to access more and more remote forests—which leads to further deforestation. Forests are also cut as a result of growing urban sprawl as land is developed for homes.

Not all deforestation is intentional. Some is caused by a combination of human and natural factors like wildfires and overgrazing, which may prevent the growth of young trees.

Why it matters

There are some 250 million people who live in forest and savannah areas and depend on them for subsistence and income—many of them among the world’s rural poor.

Eighty percent of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests , and deforestation threatens species including the orangutan , Sumatran tiger , and many species of birds. Removing trees deprives the forest of portions of its canopy, which blocks the sun’s rays during the day and retains heat at night. That disruption leads to more extreme temperature swings that can be harmful to plants and animals.

With wild habitats destroyed and human life ever expanding, the line between animal and human areas blurs, opening the door to zoonotic diseases . In 2014, for example, the Ebola virus killed over 11,000 people in West Africa after fruit bats transmitted the disease to a toddler who was playing near trees where bats were roosting.

( How deforestation is leading to more infectious diseases in humans .)

You May Also Like

essay on conservation of rainforest

What is the ozone layer, and why does it matter?

essay on conservation of rainforest

Will the COP26 global deforestation pledge save forests?

essay on conservation of rainforest

This is the story of the first Earth Day—and why it mattered

Some scientists believe there could be as many as 1.7 million currently “undiscovered” viruses in mammals and birds, of which up to 827,000 could have the ability to infect people, according to a 2018 study .

Deforestation’s effects reach far beyond the people and animals where trees are cut. The South American rainforest, for example, influences regional and perhaps even global water cycles, and it's key to the water supply in Brazilian cities and neighboring countries. The Amazon actually helps furnish water to some of the soy farmers and beef ranchers who are clearing the forest. The loss of clean water and biodiversity from all forests could have many other effects we can’t foresee, touching even your morning cup of coffee .

In terms of climate change, cutting trees both adds carbon dioxide to the air and removes the ability to absorb existing carbon dioxide. If tropical deforestation were a country, according to the World Resources Institute , it would rank third in carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions, behind China and the U.S.

What can be done

The numbers are grim, but many conservationists see reasons for hope . A movement is under way to preserve existing forest ecosystems and restore lost tree cover by first reforesting (replanting trees) and ultimately rewilding (a more comprehensive mission to restore entire ecosystems).

( Which nation could be the first to be rewilded ?)

Organizations and activists are working to fight illegal mining and logging—National Geographic Explorer Topher White, for example, has come up with a way to use recycled cell phones to monitor for chainsaws . In Tanzania, the residents of Kokota have planted more than 2 million trees on their small island over a decade, aiming to repair previous damage. And in Brazil, conservationists are rallying in the face of ominous signals that the government may roll back forest protections.

( Which tree planting projects should you support ?)

Stopping deforestation before it reaches a critical point will play a key role in avoiding the next zoonotic pandemic. A November 2022 study showed that when bats struggle to find suitable habitat, they travel closer to human communities where diseases are more likely to spillover. Inversely, when bats’ native habitats were left intact, they stayed away from humans. This research is the first to show how we can predict and avoid spillovers through monitoring and maintaining wildlife habitats.

For consumers, it makes sense to examine the products and meats you buy, looking for sustainably produced sources when you can. Nonprofit groups such as the Forest Stewardship Council and the Rainforest Alliance certify products they consider sustainable, while the World Wildlife Fund has a palm oil scorecard for consumer brands.

Related Topics


essay on conservation of rainforest

Climbing into the secret world of an ancient Bornean rainforest

essay on conservation of rainforest

Forests are reeling from climate change—but the future isn’t lost

essay on conservation of rainforest

They planted a forest at the edge of the desert. From there it got complicated.

essay on conservation of rainforest

Why forests are our best chance for survival in a warming world

essay on conservation of rainforest

This is the world’s most expensive cow

  • Environment

History & Culture

  • History & Culture
  • Mind, Body, Wonder
  • Paid Content
  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Your US State Privacy Rights
  • Children's Online Privacy Policy
  • Interest-Based Ads
  • About Nielsen Measurement
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information
  • Nat Geo Home
  • Attend a Live Event
  • Book a Trip
  • Inspire Your Kids
  • Shop Nat Geo
  • Visit the D.C. Museum
  • Learn About Our Impact
  • Support Our Mission
  • Advertise With Us
  • Customer Service
  • Renew Subscription
  • Manage Your Subscription
  • Work at Nat Geo
  • Sign Up for Our Newsletters
  • Contribute to Protect the Planet

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society Copyright © 2015-2024 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved

Sun Through The Rainforest

Why are rainforests important?

The rainforest is not just a pretty face.

As well as the vivid beauty that comes with great diversity in plants and animals, rainforests also play a practical role in keeping our planet healthy. By absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing the oxygen that we depend on for our survival. The absorption of this CO2 also helps to stabilize the Earth's climate.

Rainforests also help to maintain the world's water cycle by adding water to the atmosphere through the process of transpiration which creates clouds. Water generated in rainforests travel around the world; scientists think that moisture generated in the forests of Africa ends up falling as rain in the Americas!


Home » Insights » Protecting Wildlife by Conserving Habitat

Protecting Wildlife by Conserving Habitat

Filed Under: Insights   |  Tagged: Forests & Biodiversity Last updated November 1, 2017

While many environmental groups focus on saving iconic species, the Rainforest Alliance is more broadly concerned with conserving or even enriching wildlife habitat—the destruction of which is the gravest threat to nearly all species.

When the Rainforest Alliance established an office in Costa Rica in the late 1980s, our earliest staffers witnessed firsthand the destruction of the rainforest nearby—dense jungle landscape where toucans, sloths, and other rainforest animals made their homes were burned to the ground to make way for farms and livestock pastures. Ever since then, biodiversity protection has been a central part of the Rainforest Alliance mission.

Sign up for useful tips to green your life and protect our planet.

“As a direct result of our training programs and certification systems, more than 1.2 million farmers are now using responsible methods that boost the productivity of existing cropland and protect wildlife habitat.”

Unfortunately, our focus on protecting biodiversity was prescient. Scientists have concluded that we are in the midst of Earth’s sixth mass extinction. The main cause of this devastating loss of species is human activity, which accounts for the destruction of approximately 35.8 million acres (14.5 million ha) of forestland every year—roughly the size of Bangladesh or New York state. The current global extinction rate—50,000 species per year—is 1,000 times or more the natural rate, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature—the highest since dinosaurs disappeared from Earth 65 million years ago. In biodiversity-rich tropical regions, this habitat destruction results in the extinction of an estimated 100 species per day.

Conserving habitat is a central part of the Rainforest Alliance mission.

In recognition of this grim reality, the Rainforest Alliance has integrated the protection of wildlife into the very DNA of our conservation strategy, including the certification systems we helped develop: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard and the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standard. Both standards include detailed criteria designed to protect wildlife habitat and connect forest fragments to support migratory species.

In sustainable forestry , this means strict limits on timber harvesting, special protections for old-growth forests, and the protection or enhancement of local species diversity. The forestry standard also mandates that hunting on certified forestland is tightly controlled.

For agriculture, the standard prohibits the clearing of any forestland for agricultural expansion, as well as requirements for the conservation (or restoration) of on-farm natural habitat. It also includes requirements for shade cover and the number of tree species per hectare for agroforestry crops. Farms that have burned or cleared forest or other high-value ecosystems since 2005 are not eligible for Rainforest Alliance certification; those that have cleared forests or damaged ecosystems between 1999 – 2005 must create conservation areas or restore degraded areas. The SAN standard prohibits hunting and wildlife commerce altogether, except in restricted circumstances for certain cultural/ethnic groups.

Our focus on minimizing deforestation caused by agriculture and timber production is undoubtedly our most significant contribution to biodiversity protection. Agriculture alone drives 80 percent of global deforestation, and the demands of a growing global population are increasing pressure on a shrinking area of arable land. As a direct result of our training programs and certification systems, more than 1.2 million farmers are now using responsible methods that boost the productivity of existing cropland and protect wildlife habitat—such as composting, the planting of native trees among shade-friendly crops, and manual and biological pest control instead of pesticides. Farmers and wildlife also benefit from watershed conservation, buffer zones along streams to prevent erosion, and biological corridors for migratory species.

The jaguar is a rainforest animal. Conserving habitat is a central part of the Rainforest Alliance mission.

No wildlife habitat conservation effort can succeed without taking into account the financial security of rural people. Economic desperation often drives irresponsible timber harvesting, slash-and-burn agriculture, and unregulated tourism, which in turn threaten some of the world’s most iconic species: mountain gorillas in Central Africa, jaguars throughout Latin America, and orangutans and tigers in Indonesia. These human activities also diminish our access to plants that could be developed into life-saving medicines.

Rainforests contain half of the world’s flora and fauna, including an untold number of species yet to be discovered. We have shown that working in collaboration with rural communities to interrupt the cycle of poverty and deforestation is one of the most effective ways to defend these precious ecosystems, and all the wildlife they support.

1987: Land and Water

When we chose our mascot nearly 30 years ago, the red-eyed tree frog leapt out at us. Frogs are highly sensitive to environmental changes in land and water, making them excellent indicators of ecosystem health—and the perfect mascot for an organization fighting to rebalance the Earth. We chose the red-eyed tree frog because it’s commonly found in the neotropics, where the Rainforest Alliance first began working to protect rainforests. Safeguarding the habitat of this special amphibian—and all forest habitat—was enshrined in the very first certification system we created, SmartWood, in 1988, and continues to be an integral part of our work today.

1992: Safe Flight

Just as the Rainforest Alliance began field operations, scientists—including those with our Sustainable Agriculture Network partner in Guatemala—proved what farmers and naturalists already knew: the biodiversity in traditional, forested coffee or cocoa farms was nearly as rich as that in nearby rainforests. Such farms in Latin America were especially important for migratory songbirds that nest in North America and spend the northern winter in the sunny tropics. More than 150 species—including colorful warblers, orioles, tanagers and even hummingbirds—make this incredible journey, often landing in the same farm year after year (assuming that the farm is still forested).

2013: Night Moves

Conserving habitat is a central part of the Rainforest Alliance mission

A landmark study revealed that Colombia’s threatened night monkeys ( Aortus lemurinus ) find safe haven—and good eating—on Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. These nocturnal, tree-dwelling creatures are hard to spot and even harder to study, but after radio-tagging a group of them, researchers found that the monkeys were spending almost as much time foraging on densely shaded coffee farms as they were in the rainforest. The study found that in general, Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee farms located near natural forest extend wildlife corridors, providing habitat for all kinds of animals.

Forests Are Falling At An Alarming Rate.

  •  News feed (XML)
  •  Search
  •  About
  •  Contact

How to Save the Rainforest

By rhett a. butler april 1, 2019, how to save the rainforest.

Today tropical rainforests are disappearing from the face of the globe. Despite growing international concern, rainforests continue to be destroyed at a pace exceeding 80,000 acres (32,000 hectares) per day. Tropical cover now stands at 2 billion hectares (7.7 million sq miles), an area about the size of the United States plus China and representing around 13 percent of the world's land surface. Much of this remaining area has been impacted by human activities and no longer retains its full original biodiversity.

Deforestation of tropical rainforests has a global impact through species extinction, the loss of important ecosystem services and renewable resources, and the reduction of carbon sinks. However, this destruction can be slowed, stopped, and in some cases even reversed. Most people agree that the problem must be remedied, but the means are not as simple as fortifying fences around the remaining rainforests or banning the timber trade. Economic, political, and social pressures will not allow rainforests to persist if they are completely closed off from use and development.

So, what should be done? The solution must be based on what is feasible, not overly idealistic, and depends on developing a conservation approach built on the principle of sustainable use and development of rainforests. Beyond the responsible development of rainforests, efforts to rehabilitate and restore degraded forest lands along with the establishment of protected areas are key to securing rainforests for the long-term benefits they can provide mankind.

Past efforts

The problem with this traditional park approach to preserving wildlands in developing countries is that it fails to generate sufficient economic incentives for respecting and maintaining the forest. Rainforests will only continue to survive as functional ecosystems if they can be shown to provide tangible economic benefits. Local people and the government itself must see financial returns to justify the costs of maintaining parks and forgoing revenue from economic activities within the boundaries of the protected area.

Limited resources

Governments in these countries are in the unenviable position of having to balance the well-being of rural poor with the interests of industry, demands from foreign governments, and requirements from the international aid community. In this climate, it can be easier to simply neglect the continued destruction and degradation of environmental assets than to come up with a long-term plan to ensure that economic development is ecologically sustainable. Success in conserving wildlands in these countries will require reconciling the inevitable conflicts between short-term needs of local people and the long-term nature of the benefits that conservation can generate on a sustainable, ongoing basis.

Forces behind rainforest loss

Rainforests are being cut mostly for economic reasons, though there are political and social motivations as well. A significant portion of deforestation is caused by poor farmers simply trying to eke out a living on marginal lands. Beyond conversion for subsistence agriculture, activities like logging, clearing for cattle pasture and commercial agriculture are sizable contributors to deforestation on a global scale. Agricultural fires typically used for land-clearing often spread outside cultivated areas and into degraded rainforest regions.

Addressing deforestation

Poor farmers : Poor farmers are simply trying to put food on the table for their families. A better approach to addressing the needs of the rural poor may be improving and intensifying currently existing agricultural projects and promoting alternative cultivation techniques—notably permaculture. Permaculture adds a mix of crops to the farmer's palette that both enables the farm to diversify his or her income stream and enhance degraded soils by restoring nutrients. An added benefit of such techniques is that they maintain forest systems, soils, and biological diversity at a far higher level than do conventional agricultural approaches. As long as such fields are adjacent to secondary and old-growth forest, many species will continue to thrive.

One promising area of research looks at ancient societies that lived in the Amazon rainforest before the arrival of Europeans in the 15th century. Apparently these populations were able to enrich the rainforest soil, which is usually quite poor, using charcoal and animal bones. By improving soil quality, large areas of the Amazon that have been deforested could be used to support agriculture. This could help reduce pressure on rainforest areas for agricultural land. Further, the "terra preta" soil could be used to help fight global warming since it sequesters carbon that would otherwise contribute to global warming.

A second important part of aiding poor farmers is helping them gain formal title to their land. Right now, in places where it is difficult to gain ownership rights to land and where land is relatively open and abundant, there is little incentive to maintain or improve holdings. Once local people have a stake in the land they are farming, they will have an interest in using it efficiently instead of moving on to a new area of forest once soils are prematurely exhausted.

The creation of credit facilities for poor farmers to both save their earnings and borrow in times of need is also important to improving their quality of life. Micro-credit facilities can provide significant economic benefits to the local economy while bringing dignity to and promoting entrepreneurship among local people.

Finally, improved access to markets is important in enabling farmers to get their agricultural products. Improved access can be a doubled-edged sword if it means increased road-building, which often spurs further deforestation. Any infrastructure improvements should be carefully planned to minimize the future impact on remaining ecosystems.

Industrial/commercial developers : Thus far it has proved difficult to apply the same permaculture agricultural techniques mentioned above to industrial operations. As currently practiced, large-scale agriculture is typically quite destructive of native ecosystems and does not maintain biodiversity at levels commensurate with adjacent forest areas. Incremental steps like the use of natural pest control and fertilizers can help reduce pollution caused by agricultural operations, while leaving strips of forest as corridors linking sections of forest helps moderate biodiversity losses.

Restoring and rehabilitating ecosystems

There is no use bemoaning past deforestation of large areas. Today the concern is how to best utilize lands already cleared so they support productive activities, now and for future generations. Without improving the well-being of people living in and around forests, we cannot expect rainforests to persist as fully functional systems and continue to cater to our needs.

In addressing environmental problems in rainforest countries, it is important that decision makers not only be concerned with the transformation of existing natural ecosystems, but also the more rational utilization of already cleared and degraded areas. To lessen future forest loss, we must increase and sustain the productivity of farms, pastures, plantations, and scrub land in addition to restoring species and ecosystems to degraded habitats. By reducing wasteful land-use practices, consolidating gains on existing cleared lands, and improving already developed lands, we can diminish the need to clear additional forest.

Research and experience has shown that the restoration of entire ecosystems is most possible in regions where parts or at least remnants of the original forest still remain and there are few human population pressures. Small clearings surrounded by forest recover quickly, and large sections may recover in time, especially if some assistance in the reforestation process is provided (with native seed dispersers like bats and birds doing some of the heavy lifting). After several years, a once-barren field can again support vegetation in the form of pioneer species and secondary growth. Although the secondary forest will be low in diversity and poorly developed, the forest cover will be adequate for some species to return (assuming they still exist). In addition, the newly forested patch can be used for the sustainable harvest of forest products and low-intensity logging and agriculture.

Funding rainforest conservation efforts

Conservation efforts and sustainable development programs are not going to be cost-free. Even countries that already get considerable aid from foreign donors have trouble effectively making such initiatives work in the long term. Since handouts, which in and of themselves can breed dependency, are inherently unsustainable, funding these initiatives may require more creative sources of income to be truly successful. Here are some other funding strategies for consideration:

  • Payments for ecosystem services —Hope for avoiding the worst outcomes in the tropics increasingly rests on the belief that people will soon pay for the services provided by healthy rainforests. These services—which include biodiversity maintenance, rainfall generation, carbon sequestration, and soil stabilization, among others—have traditionally been undervalued by markets, but there are signs that the situation is changing. In recent years the idea of compensating tropical countries for the carbon stored in their forests has gained traction. Known as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), the approach is being pushed by entities ranching from the World Bank, to the U.N., to conservation groups, to states and municipalities. Even Indigenous groups are experimenting with REDD+ projects. At a conceptual level, REDD+ operates as follows: tropical countries receive payments for reducing deforestation and forest degradation rates below a historic, mutually agreed-upon baseline. The payments go toward activities that reduce deforestation, whether its creating alternative livelihoods to slash-and-burn agriculture, subsidizing industrial agricultural expansion on degraded grasslands instead of forests, or providing health care to communities that normally depend on illegal logging to pay for medicine. While the idea sounds simple, in reality it is rather complex due to uncertainties on land rights, concerns that stopping deforestation in one place will only drive it elsewhere, worries about fairness and corruption, and controversies over the origin of the funds. Some believe that carbon offsets — whereby instead of reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions emissions, a polluter (e.g. a power company) pays another entity (e.g. a collective of poor farmers) to reduce its emissions (e.g. halting deforestation for small-scale agriculture) — should fund REDD+. Others balk at this approach and instead REDD+ should be funded by traditionally aid models, under which taxpayers in countries like Australia, Germany, and the United States foot the bill for rainforest conservation in places like Papua New Guinea, Congo, and Ecuador. Some argue for something in between known as hybrid models. Of course carbon is just one of many services afforded by forests. Some analysts believe water generated by rainforests may have an even higher value than carbon. In fact, Brazil has started valuing parts of the Amazon based on the rainfall it generates for agricultural region and the contribution to hydroelectric dams.
  • Commodity roundtables —In a similar vein, pricing carbon emissions into agricultural production could generate funds for conservation while discouraging deforestation. The idea is that agricultural producers who abide by certain standards that reduce carbon emissions — like avoiding deforestation — would see higher prices for their products or receive preferential market access, like reduced tariffs. Meanwhile producers who continue to clear forests would be charged for the associated emissions. The approach is not without precedent — several countries, including Indonesia, have deforestation charges.
  • Ecotourism —Ecotourism can fund efforts both through park entrance fees and employing locals as guides and in the handicraft and service sectors (hotels, restaurants, drivers, boat drivers, porters, cooks). Many lodges in and around protected areas charge a daily fee to visitors which goes toward supporting the forest.
  • Bio-prospecting fees —Rainforest countries can earn revenue by allowing scientists to develop products from a country's native plant and animal species. The pioneer in this area was Costa Rica, which entered into an agreement with the American pharmaceutical company, Merck, to look for plants with potential pharmaceutical applications. Under the agreement, a portion of the proceeds from compounds that do prove commercially valuable will go to the Costa Rican government, which has guaranteed that some of the royalties will be set aside for conservation projects. Similarly, in 2001 Givaudan, a Swiss fragrance and flavor company, sent a team to look for new exotic smells and flavors in Madagascar. Following their survey, Givaudan researchers "reconstituted" 40 aromas that could be used in commercial products. The company has agreed to share a portion of the profits from these products with local communities through conservation and development initiatives. However such approaches have been challenged by questions over intellectual property and compensation for native communities. The market has also proved smaller than originally hoped.
  • Corporate sponsorship —Corporations have been a bit slow in "adopting" parks, but they have the money and a marketing-driven interest in taking a closer look at such schemes. One possible approach was proposed in 2004 Eugene Linden, Thomas Lovejoy, and J. Daniel Phillips in a commentary for Foreign Affairs . In the editorial, they call for dividing tropical rainforests into blocks and then soliciting funding commitments from international environmental groups, development institutions, corporations, and other credible donors. There would be a bidding process, after which an entity would take responsibility for maintaining forest cover and forest health in each block of the entire forest system. This plan could be a road for corporations to become involved in conservation as a public-relations/marketing tool. A given percentage of the proceeds could be put into a trust fund with the payout ear-marked for ongoing conservation and sustainable development programs.

Further steps once funding is in place

  • Expand protected areas —As many areas should be protected as soon as possible. If protected areas can be developed in such a manner to generate income for local communities, an increasing number of parks should theoretically create more economic benefits for a greater share of the population.
  • Increase surveillance of and patrols in protected areas —This can be done at a reduced cost if local communities benefit from the success of the park. If locals have a vested interest (i.e. are compensated via entrance fees, hired as guides, make handicrafts to sell to tourists, and recognize the value of ecosystem services), they will want to watch the park so that the source of their income is not diminished. Community surveillance is the most effective way to patrol a protected area, though it will probably be necessary to have park staff conduct patrols as well. Guides should be trained as well to keep watch for activities that are damaging to the ecosystem and report suspicious activities.
  • Build research facilities for training local scientists and guides —Boosting intellectual capital can introduce a new dynamic to an economy, especially one based on resource extraction. Unlocking the value of forests provides a great opportunity for a country to capitalize on its natural assets. For example, rainforests are home to many plants with potential medicinal value, yet it is usually American or European companies that develop drugs based on these natural compounds. Why can't it be local scientists unlocking the value of these natural treasures and local companies turning them into commercial products? Beyond medicine, there are opportunities to improve crop yields, reduce fertilizer and pesticide use, and mitigate soil erosion.
  • Establish programs that promote sustainable use —Programs that promote sustainable use are key to elevating the standard of living for people living around protected areas. Not all members of a community will see the direct benefits from employment in the service or production sector, and many people will still rely on traditional use of the natural resources around them. These resources must be used in a more effective manner to maximize productivity and minimize the impact on the environment.
  • Compensate displaced people —The establishment of protected areas has often displaced local people, making them enemies of conservation and depriving them of their basis human rights. Therefore it is critical that new protected areas involve a process of "free prior informed consent" (FPIC) with stakeholders that could be affected. In cases where local communities decide to move, it is important that they are fairly compensated for abandoning their existing livelihood and homes. While direct cash payouts is an option, a better strategy may be to provide these displaced people with long-term income possibilities through training in improved agricultural techniques or alternative crops.
  • Promote ecotourism —Ecotourism is perhaps the best long-term approach for sustaining some tropical economies. Planners should seek to minimize the environmental impact and maximize the benefits for local communities.
  • Ensure economic success does not result in increased deforestation —As rural populations begin to reap benefits from conservation-related activities, it is important that they not reinvest this income in activities that result in further deforestation. Traditionally, in many villages, the more money someone made, the more money was put back into land clearing. Rural banks and savings institutions are virtually unknown in many parts of the developing world. Such facilities, which would enable both saving and lending, could rapidly change the lives of millions through increased entrepreneurship and the ability to put away money for the future.
  • Encourage entrepreneurship —Encouraging entrepreneurship through such a micro-credit strategy could pay significant dividends for a country's economy as a whole. Studies in developing countries have found that entrepreneurial skills among the poor are actually quite high when people are given access to capital . Stimulating entrepreneurship through small, low-cost loans is possibly a better approach than handouts, which may do little more than breed dependency and reduce human dignity.

Looking toward the future, tough choices

Simply banning the timber trade or establishing reserves will not be enough to salvage the world's remaining tropical rainforests. In order for the forest to be preserved, the underlying social, economic, and political reasons for deforestation must be recognized and addressed. Once the issues are brought into the light, the decision can be made about what should be done. If it is decided that rainforests must be saved, then the creation of multi-use reserves that promote sustainable development and education of local people would be a good place to start. Currently about 6 percent of the world's remaining forests are protected, meaning that over 90 percent are still open for the taking. However, even this 6 percent is not safe if the proper steps towards sustainable development are not taken. If possible, reforestation and restoration projects should be encouraged if we, humanity, hope to come out of this situation without serious, long-term consequences .

Sustainable Agriculture in Rainforests

In seeking a "solution" to deforestation of tropical rainforests—whether it be through debt-for-nature-swaps, extractive reserves, selective logging, ecotourism, or another strategy—the ultimate fate of forests rests in the hands of local people. While some would argue that rainforests can be "saved" by restricting economic growth, it is necessary to realize that parks and reserves will not persist unless local communities are persuaded that it is in their material interest to conserve.


For thousands of years tropical rainforests have been managed to sustain productive agriculture and at times to support dense human populations. It is estimated that more land was under cultivation in the Amazon on the eve of the arrival of Columbus than is today. Studies suggest that perhaps 12 percent of Amazonian terra firme (upland) forests are "anthropogenic in nature, resulting from prolonged management by prehistoric populations." The fact that certain forms of agriculture are possible is a vital consideration for the sustainable, economic development of tropical rainforests.

Rainforests have a long history of disturbance by humans who promoted areas of concentrated diversity of useful species within a diverse landscape . Without undermining the ecological basis of production, Indigenous communities promoted the abundance of certain valuable species by creating conditions favoring their growth and development. They fostered palm forests, groves of Brazil nuts and fruit trees, and vine forests near ancient Amazonian settlements (past settlements are marked by the presence of pottery and anthropogenic "black soils"). These vegetation types have species useful for everyday life.

Today we can incorporate the techniques of Indigenous peoples into agricultural projects in the rainforest to increase the productivity of degraded forest lands and promote sustainable use of forest resources. Through agroforestry and floodplain orchards, outright destruction of rainforests can be avoided, while improving economic efficiency and providing a source of income for rural poor.

Roughly a third to two-fifths of rainforest deforestation is caused by the shifted cultivator, who is usually pushed to marginal lands by lack of other suitable land. In some areas these farmers may be forced into the forests as a result of population growth and by landowners who hold large tracts of farmland. In many countries, wealthy landholders—who have the most political clout—control the most productive lands, leaving the small farmers little choice but to clear a homestead from the forest. For example, in Brazil, 10 percent of the population owns almost 90 percent of the fertile land. In many countries, the politically expedient way of dealing with this skewed land distribution has been to open up "unused" wildlands for poor farmers, rather than confront large landowners.

Some argue that some form of agrarian land reform is the best way to attack forest loss caused by "swidden agriculture." Land reform may turn some productive land over to poor farmers and be accomplished by reducing subsidies granted to large landowners for leaving tracts of their land uncultivated.

An additional, potentially complementary, approach to addressing the needs of the shifted cultivator and agriculturist alike is improving and intensifying currently existing agricultural projects and promoting alternative cultivation techniques—notably agroforestry—based on those used by Indigenous forest dwellers. Many cleared forest areas used for agriculture and now in decline can be salvaged by cultivation techniques that loosely mimic the diversity of the surrounding rainforest. In other words, polycultural fields—patchworks of perennial crops, annual crops, pasture land, secondary growth, and forest—could be the key to increasing agricultural productivity and reducing destruction in many rainforests.

Historically, agriculture in the Amazon rainforest has had a highly dynamic nature whether it be on a grand scale or at a subsistence level. Today a good deal of rainforest agriculture consists of monocultures (single crop fields) of annual crops, which must be replanted on a regular basis to sustain yields. Poor tropical soils quickly wear out under a regime of annuals, and fertilizers must be added or additional forest cleared if growth is to continue.

Many forest dwellers instead focus on perennials—crops which continue to produce for a number of years like citrus, manioc, vanilla, banana, mango, pepper, cacao, coffee, and rubber—as the basis of their agricultural techniques. Instead of continually clearing new sections of forest, these cultivators plant perennials or a mixture of perennials and annuals on their patch of land. Perennials can help restore nutrients to degraded soils, and they remain productive for decades, bringing a steady stream of cash to needy farmers.

A mixture of perennials and annuals often works best for small agricultural plots because such polycultural fields provide a diversified income (prices of many cash crops are notoriously volatile), as well as insurance if one crop fails. The home gardens of many forest dwellers are one form of agriculture well-suited to the rainforest environment. These diverse agroforestry systems provide a wealth of plant species—both local and foreign, since tropical plants like mango, pineapple, manioc, papaya, and orange have almost cosmopolitan distribution today. These species are also useful in everyday life. Home gardens can serve as a living pharmacy and a local hardware store, while providing shade for humans and livestock, foods for the kitchen, and ornamentals. Many home gardens contain remnants from old-growth forest in that useful forest trees (like Brazil nuts) are often left standing when clearing a homestead.

An added bonus of such agroforestry systems is that they maintain forest systems, soils, and biological diversity at a far higher level than do industrial agricultural techniques. As long as such fields are adjacent to secondary and old-growth forest, many species will continue to thrive. Growing crops like coffee, cocoa, bananas, and vanilla in the shade of canopy trees preserves more biodiversity than standard cultivation techniques. In recent years, "rainforest-friendly" coffee has gained popularity and is now heavily promoted in some parts of the United States. Polycultural fields also recover considerably faster than conventional fields when they are abandoned, because forest systems are maintained, including hydrological cycles, nutrient recycling, and seed dispersal.

Additionally, seed banks in the soil persist and crop trees provide shade necessary for canopy tree-seed generation, allowing a relatively smooth transition to secondary forest once the farmer moves on to a new area.

Despite all these positives, sustainable agriculture faces several hurdles in reaching widespread acceptance. Agroforestry and other forms of reduced-impact agriculture are more attuned to the ecological realities than most forms of agriculture in the rainforest, but they must also be attuned to economic realities. For example, many migrants to the rainforest are ignorant of such cultivation methods. Instead—assuming they even know anything of agricultural techniques—they often rely on what works in different climates and soil conditions—methods that typically fail on cleared rainforest lands.

Thus, one major challenge in promoting agroforestry is overcoming the ignorance of people who may have migrated to forest areas from cities about farming techniques that are effective in tropical areas. A second obstacle is the lack of access for many rural poor. Without means to transport their goods to market or even a market for their goods, locals have little chance of turning a profit for their labor. Another issue is a general lack of credit facilities from which poor farmers can borrow in times of need. Overcoming these obstacles—whether through improvement of existing roads, education systems, microfinance, or other means—will bring us much closer to resolving the shifted-cultivator problem.

Agroforestry techniques can be applied on a larger scale using corridors of forest and a mixture of perennials and annuals. While management and harvesting costs generally increase, these negatives could be outweighed by the value of income diversification, soil protection, maintenance of forest functions, and preservation of biodiversity. Sustainable agriculture is one of many means that can offer economic survival to landless poor and industry. Sustainable development through harvesting of the forests' renewable resources has potential for saving rainforests by providing tangible returns in the short run.

Saving Rainforests Through Sustainable Use of Forest Products

There are numerous forest products that can be collected in a renewable fashion on a small scale by local people. Although poor farmers must still overcome their ignorance of sustainable forest products and difficulties of distribution, the harvesting of forest products without destroying the forest can be more profitable in the long term than converting forest land for low intensity cattle pasture or marginal subsistence agriculture.

While studies in the late 1980s and early 1990s may have been overly optimistic about the potential for secondary wood products and non-timber forest products (NTFPs or NWFPs), more recent research suggests that forest products indeed serve as an important supplemental source of income for forest communities. For example, a recent CIFOR study estimated that forest product generate up to 20 percent of rural income and often provides the only means to access the cash economy. NTFPs can also be an important source of food and nutritional security.


Local communities generally do not reap much from drugs derived from rainforest plants by major foreign pharmaceutical companies because of the time and cost associated with drug development. Furthermore, once active ingredients are isolated from a plant, the drug can be synthesized in the lab. However, in some cases the active compounds are so complex or so expensive to synthesize that it is easier to collect from natural forest or cultivate on farms, something which could directly involve small farmers.

More on medicinal plants


Although only 10 percent of natural food colorants comes from rainforest products, rainforest colorings could potentially satisfy a larger proportion of the market. Local people could collect these colorants and sell them in local and urban markets. However, before this practice is feasible, a proper distribution system for these products must develop.

Some rainforest food products can be collected in a sustainable manner for profit. Most of these include fruits, nuts, and flavorings. Tropical American nuts, like cashews and Brazil nuts, account for hundreds of millions of dollars in sales to the U.S. alone. Many of these foods, particularly Brazil nuts, can be collected only from a fully functioning forest, and cannot be raised in plantations. The Brazil nut tree is a canopy species that grows in forests with full canopies.

The crusade of the rubber tappers of Brazil in the 1980s and the assassination of Chico Mendes became an inspiration for the sustainable use of the rainforest and various grass-roots conservation projects around the world. Rubber tappers earn their principal income, which can be more than four times higher than they would earn as factory workers in the city, from the sustainable harvesting of rubber, Brazil nuts, palm hearts, and other forest products. They understand that their livelihood depends on the functioning forest ecosystem, and are committed to the preservation of the forests as productive systems.

Natural rubber harvesters lead a markedly different existence from workers on industrial rubber plantations.


Wood can be sustainably harvested from the rainforest by locals. In some places, systems have been developed to facilitate the utilization of waste wood discarded by the timber industry. The operations can provides jobs for locals without driving deforestation or degradation of rainforests. One example is Tropical Salvage, a Portland, Oregon-based producer of wood products that salvages wood discarded from building sites, unearthed from mudslides and volcanic sites, and dredged from rivers and reservoirs in Indonesia and turns it into premium wood products. Another example is a project run by FUNDECOR in Costa Rica, whereby villagers collect scraps and discarded tree limbs left by commercial loggers. They saw the wood into boards on location, and sell the products to furniture companies.


Rattan, a common rainforest liana, is a valuable non-timber forest product, harvested from the forests of Southeast Asia, that generates US$3 billion annually in a global market. It is probably best known for its use in furniture.

The collection of fragrances for perfumes and flavorings, ornamental seeds and pods, and fibers for weaving and ropes can all offer economic benefits to peasants. However the concept of sustainable harvesting of forest products is important because overexploitation has been a problem in the past. For example the fragrant pau rosa tree of the Amazon has been diminished by overharvesting for the perfume and flavoring industries. Those who collected the fragrance in the past felled the whole tree. Research shows however that the fragrance can be extracted from the leaves and twigs of the tree, and now the collectors of pau rosa have been advised.

There are several obstacles restricting the collection of NWFPs from reaching their fullest potential. One problem is the lack of clear laws regarding user rights and access to forest lands. Because in many countries forest lands are considered common property, it is difficult to monitor collection and determine who has access rights to what resources. Another problem is how to manage NWFP collection in a sustainable way without over-harvesting. To date, most extractive products are generally collected without regard to their sustainability. A third challenge is the lack of adequate distribution systems for bringing goods to market and a general lack of consumer awareness of existing sustainably harvested forest products. Finally, the traditional barter system between local harvesters and merchants—especially prevalent in the Amazon as a throwback to the rubber boom—can be troublesome. Under this system—where manufactured goods and some food items are advanced to harvesters against the future delivery of forest products—many remain perpetually indebted to their creditors.

Despite these concerns some countries have established a system of extractive reserves to set aside areas explicitly for the harvesting of forest products. Some of these have been established with the hope that users will adopt sustainable harvesting techniques under the tutelage and guidance of various NGOs and government organizations.

It is important to realize that while the collection of NWFPs can be lucrative, such practices can only support a limited number of people on a sustainable basis. To raise the standard of living for a broader array of people, extractive reserves would probably have to be regarded as supplementary sources of income to enhance their earnings from other activities.

Rainforest Ecotourism

Ecotourism a leading way for developing countries to generate revenue by preserving their rainforests. Eco-tourists pay to see a country's natural beauty, not the destruction caused by short-run exploitation. Money spent directly in the local economy helps put a monetary value on forest preservation. Local people, along with the government, can see the importance of keeping the forest intact. And many tourists are willing to pay directly for preservation in the forms of park entrance fees and donations.

Ecotourism can provide local people with economic assistance by offering employment opportunities as wildlife guides, park rangers, and service workers in hotels, restaurants, and lodges. With eco-tourism, income is earned from preserving the ecosystem, and forest clearing is discouraged because it is detrimental to income. Similarly, ecotourism can reduce the need for poaching and hunting of forest animals for income. For example, in West Africa, former poachers are hired as park rangers since they have intimate knowledge of local animal wildlife. Ecotourism also provides opportunities for education that might not otherwise be available, both directly in the form of training and indirectly through conservation funds contributed to local schools.

Ecotourism can also boost demand for local handicrafts.

But while ecotourism is promising, tourism can have serious downsides. The risk is that as an ecotourism operation becomes successful, it may transition to mass-market nature-oriented tourism, which can be very damaging to the environment as well as local social conditions if not developed responsibly. A surge in tourist interest can drive hotel construction in sensitive areas; exacerbate conflict between operators, the local government, and communities; contribute to resource depletion (e.g. harvesting hardwoods for tourist handicrafts); and overwhelm a forest areas with a flood of visitors. Examples abound. Some parks in Costa Rica now have too many tourists, while poor oversight of orangutan tourism in parts of Indonesia has led to increased mortality among wild apes (orangutans can be infected by human diseases, which are transmitting when tourists offer food to the primates). Meanwhile an influx in relatively well-heeled foreigners can highlight wealth disparity and contribute to problems like prostitution.

Thus to ensure sustainability, ecotourism requires careful evaluation and planning. Short-term tourism development can doom forests as easily as unsustainable logging. Too many people, inadequate facilities, and poor park management can spell the end for the "eco" in ecotourism. Eco-tourism, when carried out in a sustainable fashion, can be beneficial to local people, the economy, and the environment. It should not be restricted to legally protected areas, but should also be promoted in natural areas that lack protection. The presence of tourists, when properly managed, protects the area from over-exploitive activities.

Saving the Rainforest via Sustainable Development of Large-Scale Forest Products

More than half of rainforest deforestation today is caused by commercial interests: logging, cattle ranching, industrial agriculture, mining, power generation and energy production. With few exceptions, these activities degrade the long-term health of rainforest ecosystems and, in so doing, deplete natural assets.

Historically natural capital loss was rarely accounted. Today that is changing to a degree, but in many countries environmental degradation is still a secondary or tertiary factor in land use decisions. As such, tropical governments often subsidize short-term gains with little thought to the long-term consequences — natural resources are mined without consideration of future harvests.

In promoting raw resource extraction over stewardship of their unique natural assets, governments may be ignoring the best path for future economic growth. Wealth collected from extractive industries—essentially rent earned not from hard work or ingenuity, but from the particular qualities of the land—is not necessarily a solid foundation for an economy. Leveraging natural assets, like traditional knowledge, biodiversity and services afforded by ecosystems, can contribute to the long-term health of an economy, spurring the development of new technology and industries.

The Corporate Sector

Saving rainforests will hinge partly on finding ways for companies to remain profitable without devastating the environment. If we value forests, these industries will need to provide jobs that save the environment and not destroy it. We cannot reasonably expect local people to shun employment with these companies if they are the only form of work available to feed, house, and clothe their families.

There are many challenges facing industries that exploit forest resources, and difficult decisions and compromises will have to be made. These challenges stem from the differing opinions of the value of forest products and the services that forests provide. Developers must find a means to satisfy the growing demand for forest products and resources, while protecting forests and the environmental services they provide.

Saving the Rain Forest with Secondary Forest Products

Large-scale development of secondary forest products could be one path toward boosting local and national income without destroying forests. Some forest products can be domesticated and cultivated on highly degraded and formerly forested lands. Many of these products are better suited to the tropical environment and can produce greater economic returns than imported temperate species.

As discussed earlier, small farmers can be incorporated into the national economy and large-scale agricultural production through small agroforestry plots that feed into the wider market.

There are a wide range of rainforest products that can be harvested at lower cost to the environment than widely harvested crops brought in from elsewhere. The keys are to developing these products at scale, bringing them to market, and then marketing them, while always working to ensure that damage to the environment is minimized.

Many of the foods we eat today have their origins in the rainforest, including the avocado, banana, Brazil nuts, cassava/manioc, cashews, chocolate/cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, coconut, coffee, cola, corn/maize, eggplant, fig, ginger, grapefruit, guava, herbal tea ingredients, jalapeno, lemon, mango, orange, papaya, peanut, pepper, pineapple, potato, rice, squash, sugar cane, tomato, and vanilla. But there are still many more that have yet to be developed to their fullest potential: of the 3,000 rainforest fruits, only 200 are regularly used.

Of the estimated 25,000 to 30,000 species of plants that have edible parts, only about 7,000 have been cultivated or collected. Of these, only 20 species provide 90 percent of the food needs, while rice, wheat, and maize make up more than 50 percent of caloric intake. Tropical agriculture with conventional crops has often proven to be a failure because tropical forest lands are rife with pests, disease, poor soils, drought, and inconsistent rainfall. Tropical agriculture based on these few crops rarely eases poverty for local people — most benefits accrue to large landowners and corporation.

What is needed is experimentation with other plants, especially those that would be better situated to cultivation in the tropics. For example, the Buruti palm of the Amazon produces a vitamin-rich fruit with a bread-like pith, while two plants from West Africa produce compounds thousands of times sweeter than sucrose and could be used as natural sweeteners.

There are already examples of breakthrough plants. Witness the surge in popularity for açai berries derived from an Amazon palm tree. While expansion has had some negative social and environmental impacts, açai can be cultivated in a way that is minimally damaging. Meanwhile sago palm in Southeast Asia is used widely as a starch in sweets and grows better when cultivated in a mixed forest habitat rather than a single-species plantation.

Animal-based foods

Similarly, rainforest animals have great potential as semi-domesticated food animals for the tropics. These are better suited to the tropical climate and tropical ecosystems than domestic animals brought from more temperate climates that can be destructive of the rainforest lands and species. Using native animals means lower environmental impact, greater diversity of animal-based foods, and greater efficiency of production than cattle ranching.

Tropical species with potential as sources of meat include Amazon river turtles (Podocnemus sp), which have long been harvested (usually unsustainably) from their native habitat for their tasty meat. These turtles can be easily cultivated in cement ponds located along the floodplains of tropical rivers and raised on aquatic vegetation and fruit. The turtle produces 22,000 pounds of meat per acre (24,659 kg per hectare) more than 400 times the yield of cattle raised in pastures and in a far less costly manner to the environment.

The green iguana of Central and South America has been over-hunted for its chicken-like meat and is endangered in some of its range. The iguana is already being raised commercially in farms in Central America. Iguanas can be ten times as productive in terms of yield as cattle on the same land, reducing the need to clear additional forest areas for pasture. The capybara (the world's largest rodent), chachalacas (like tropical chickens), and paca (cat-sized rodents) are other New World mammals that could provide sources of tropical meat without major disruption to the ecosystem. These are just a sampling (from the New World alone) of tropical species that could productively replace temperate domestic animals in the tropics.


In 2010, wheat grew on 838,700 square miles (217 million hectares) of land around the world. With an average of 2 million stalks per hectare, the total number of individuals exceeds 434 trillion individuals. Clearly wheat is not an endangered species, but because of selective breeding toward genetic uniformity, wheat has lost most of its populations and hence its genetic variability. What is the recourse if a disease breaks out in this gargantuan monoculture? Most likely scientists will scour the few wild places left on Earth for the remaining wild strains of wheat in hopes of finding genetic traits that will offer resistance to the pest.

In addition to food, rainforests serve as reservoirs of genetic diversity. These wild species have traits that have been inadvertently removed by selective breeding, a process which selects traits based primarily on their utility to man. Thus domesticated plants and animals are more susceptible to pests and disease. To protect domestic species from these hazards, they can be bred with wild species that still retain traits protecting them from agricultural pests.

The most famous example of the value of wild gene pools comes from Asia in the 1970s when the rice crop was struck with grassy stunt virus, threatening the rice crop across the continent. The International Rice Institute surveyed some 6,273 varieties of rice for attributes against grassy stunt. Of this array, only one, inhabiting a small Indian valley slated to be cleared and developed, proved to have the desired qualities. It was crossed with the predominant form of rice, creating a resistant hybrid, and was subsequently bred across Asia. Had it not been for this tiny reservoir of diversity, Asia would have faced a deadly human catastrophe. Today the ICCO (the International Cocoa Organization) is seeking out new strains of cocoa in the Orinoco and Amazon rainforests. The ICCO is searching for varieties that will improve the yield and resistance of commercially grown cocoa, which has a very narrow genetic base. For example, the entire cocoa agriculture of Ghana, a major world cocoa producer, is derived from a single pod brought in the 1870s by a visiting blacksmith. Commercial oil palm and rubber face similar risks from narrow genetic bases.

Saving Rainforests with Medicinal Plants

Plants have broader uses than as just food and a genetic reservoir. Increasingly, rainforest plants, and to a lesser extent rainforest animals, are the source of compounds useful for medicinal purposes.

The rainforest has been called the ultimate chemical laboratory with each rainforest species experimenting with various chemical defenses to ensure survival in the harsh world of natural selection. They have been synthesizing these compounds for millions of years to protect against predators, infection, pests, and disease. This makes rainforest species an excellent reservoir of medicines and chemical templates with which researchers can create new drugs.

Rainforest plants have already provided tangible evidence of their potential with remedies for a range of medical problems, from childhood leukemia to toothaches. Seventy percent of the plants identified as having anti-cancer characteristics by the US National Cancer Institute are found only in the tropical rainforest. this table

Despite all their promise, as of the early 2000s fewer than 10 percent of tropical forest plant species (and 0.1 percent of animal species) had been examined for their chemical compounds and medicinal value. Once a plant with the desired qualities is discovered, it is rigorously analyzed for its chemical structure, then goes through clinical trials for effectiveness and safety before getting final approval from the US FDA. Nevertheless, using rainforest species for derivation and synthesis of medicinal compounds, has become a mainstream process. In 1983 there were no U.S. pharmaceutical firms involved in research on such plants; within 15 years there were well over 100 corporations, and U.S. government agencies studying rainforest plants for their medicinal capacities.

One such organization, the U.S. National Cancer Institute, maintains screening of rainforest species for anti-cancer and anti-HIV effects. Because there are so many plant species, researchers concentrate on close relatives of plants already known to produce useful compounds. Another method is to choose plants that display characteristics indicating they have an effect on animals, like deterring insect pests. Many chemicals toxic to insects show bio-activity in humans meaning they may have drug promise.

Indigenous uses of plants can also offer hints of potentially useful plants. For thousands of years, Indigenous groups have extensively used rainforest plants for their health needs. They have experimented with a wide range of plants. The peoples of Southeast Asian forests used 6,500 species, while Northwest Amazonian forest dwellers used at least 1,300 species for medicinal purposes. The success rate for discovering medicinal plants with traditional uses is high because rainforest peoples, notably shamans, have been experimenting with various combinations and dosages for generations. A 1990s study in Samoa found that 86 percent of the plants used by local healers yielded biological activity in humans.

The National Cancer Institute can rapidly screen compounds for activity against 60 cancer types. When the compound shows promise, chemists isolate the molecules responsible for the activity and then compare the molecular structure with that of known chemicals. Sometimes the molecule already has been identified, but is not used medicinally; at other times the molecule will be altered to produce the desired action. If the molecule has potential as a drug, it is tested for certain characteristics including safety, effectiveness, and side effects. If it passes those tests, a corporation or government agency must finance bringing the drug to market—a process that costs more than $800 million and may take a decade or more. Before reaching the public market, the drug must go through rigorous clinical trials. According to the Global Bioscience Development Institute, for every 10,000 to 20,000 compounds screened for possible activity in the basic-research stage, about 250 make it as far as pre-clinical testing. Of those, five drug candidates make it as far as clinical trials, and only one becomes an actual FDA-approved drug. Thus the process of bringing a rainforest drug, or any pharmaceutical product, to market is long and costly.

>Nevertheless, commercial sales from such drugs can generate huge sums: the two chemicals derived from rosy periwinkle bring in revenues of US$160 million per year. Large companies usually benefit the most from such projects while the local peoples and shamans get little in return. For example, virtually no money from the Vincristine (Oncovin) and vinblastine derived from the rosy periwinkle made it back to the country of origin, Madagascar. However, once the drug patent expired, Madagascar was able to begin exporting tons of crude periwinkle annually.

In the past such exploitation, known as biopiracy , was the rule. While drug companies raked in millions in revenue, the community that found the plant producing the drug was left with token baseball hats, beads, or aspirin as compensation. One of the biggest biopiracy coups occurred last century when the British smuggled (at least Brazilians allege) rubber tree seeds out of Brazil to their colony of Malaysia, ending the lucrative Amazonian monopoly on rubber.

In the 1990s a bitter patent battle has erupted between an American entrepreneur and COICA, an organizations representing Indigenous peoples from the Amazon region, over ayahuasca or yagé. Yagé is a celebrated hallucinogenic, derived from a rainforest liana ( Banisteriopsis caapi ) and other plants, which is used ceremonially by Amazonians. The biopiracy incident was initiated in 1986 when American Loren Miller visited Ecuador and took a sample of yagé without permission and then acquired a patent from the U.S. government. Miller subsequently launched the International Plant Medicine Corporation to commercialize yagé for psychiatric and cardiac pharmaceuticals. COICA argued Miller had no right to patent a plant compound that has been used for generations by Indigenous peoples. Complicating the debate was the refusal of the U.S. Senate to ratify the UN Convention on Biodiversity, which has been ratified by more than 100 countries including Ecuador, where the Yagé sample was acquired. The UN agreement includes the recognition of intellectual property rights of Indigenous peoples. The U.S. Patent Office (USPTO) eventually overturned the patent in 1999, only reinstating it in 2001. The patent expired in 2003.

This exploitation without compensation has been the historical trend, although today there is more awareness on the need to consult with Indigenous practitioners and ensure that benefits reach local people. Most tropical countries lack the expertise to identify, develop, and commercialize drugs derived from rainforest plants, so drug research and development will likely continue to be dominated by industrialized countries. However compensation for the country of the product's origin must be addressed if the sources of these products —the tropical rainforest—are to be preserved.

Several pharmaceutical companies have agreed to share revenues with local people. The drug Prostialin, isolated in 1984 from a Samoan rainforest tree, has exhibited strong activity against HIV in tests. With its discovery, the National Cancer Institute has guaranteed that part of the royalties from the sale of the drug will be returned to the Samoans. As a result, Samoa fiftieth national park was established to encourage local healers to use medicinal plants in a sustainable way, in order to pass their knowledge on to the next generation. Similarly, in 1991, Merck and Company invested $1 million in Costa Rica's National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) to assist in a cataloging and screening effort. The institute collects and identifies organisms, sending samples from the most promising species to Merck laboratories for medicinal assay. If the compounds prove useful and the resulting drugs make it to market, the Costa Rican government is guaranteed some of the royalties, which will be set aside for conservation projects.

The rainforest may someday provide the cure for AIDS , pancreatic cancer, antibiotic-resistant staph infections, ebola, lassa fever, or Alzheimer's disease, if given the chance to do so. Unfortunately, as primary forest cover is diminished by 1-2 percent every year, it is projected that 20-25 percent of the world's plant species will be extinct by the year 2015. Perhaps in some remote Andean valley, slated for destruction today, lives a rare orchid which has developed an anti-viral chemical that kills HIV, halts cancer, or slows aging. In addition, the shamans who provide much of the insight into identifying these plants and their uses, are disappearing at an even faster rate as their villages seek a more Western lifestyle. These shamans are generally elders and when they die, their unique knowledge of traditional uses of rainforest plants will die with them.

Some organizations are trying to prevent the loss of medicinal knowledge when Indigenous elders die. The Terra Nova Rainforest Reserve is the first ethnomedicinal forest reserve designed to ensure that medicinal plants will be available for local use. The reserve encourages the use of such plants and has also implemented a program teaching youths about uses of medicinal plants so this knowledge will not die, but be passed on to future generations and researchers.

National botanical gardens, like those of Missouri and New York, are playing an important role in propagating medicinal plants that are either threatened in the wild or so rare that collection cannot satisfy demand. Several gardens have propagated such medicinal plants and freely distributed seedlings to peasants who can integrate them into their traditional food crops. The plants can provide substantially more cash than many traditional crops like bananas, coffee, and cocoa.

Animals as an inspiration for drugs

Animals also provide compounds useful to humans as medicinal drugs. Both leeches and vampire bats have powerful anticoagulants they use in feeding on their prey. From the saliva of the leech comes hirudin, which is now used to dissolve blood clots in humans. The vampire bat has a substance in its saliva that can be used to prevent heart attacks. The slimy secretions of frogs are used to treat infections, mental disorders, and even HIV , while scientists hope that one day blood from the ubiquitous (in the western U.S.) western fence lizard (more popularly known as the "blue-belly") will help prevent or cure Lyme disease. ABT-594 is an experimental painkiller derived from the skin secretions of Epipedobates tricolor, a colorful poison arrow frog, and crocodile blood is being examined for its anti-HIV properties .

Natural rainforest pesticides

Plants have been synthesizing chemicals for millions of years to protect them from predation by insects and infection from disease. Thus rainforest plants have developed a complete array of natural pesticides. These pesticides can be isolated, and some can be synthesized in the laboratory by pharmaceutical companies. These natural pesticides are effective for protecting cultivated crops from destruction by pests and disease, without the adverse effects of chemical pesticides like DDT.

New research shows that using natural predators like wasps and flies combined with limited use of pesticides is more effective in eradicating pests in the tropics than regular spraying with synthetic pesticides. Chinese scientists have even engineered wasps to deliver lethal viruses to insect pests.

Sustainable Logging in the Rainforest

In many tropical countries forests are government-owned and ownership by parties other than the state is often prohibited. Timber is usually harvested under concession agreements awarded to private logging firms which, without securing ownership rights to the land, are often reluctant to make investments in long-term forest management. Thus it is little surprise that a recent study by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) found that more than 90 percent of tropical forests are managed poorly or not at all.

Many tropical countries have sound forestry laws on the books but lack the capacity or political will to enforce them. In the absence of regulation, loggers may ignore the negative environmental impacts of their actions, since they derive little or no financial benefit from mitigating them. Typical management problems include: improperly conducted pre- and post-harvesting inventories, re-logging at more frequent intervals than required, cutting outside concession boundaries, and ineffective control and supervision by forest ministries.

In some countries, a significant proportion of logging is done illegally. Low capital costs for small-scale logging makes it easy for fly-by-night operators to harvest valuable timber from poorly monitored or protected forests and smuggle across borders or launder it through legal operations. The World Bank estimates illegal logging generates $10-15 billion annually for organized crime.

Beyond deforestation, one problem with illegal logging is it costs governments money. Unable to collect taxes on illegally-cut timber, money that could otherwise be used for better oversight in the forestry sector, sustainable rural development initiatives, or conservation programs is effectively pocketed by illegal loggers and syndicates syndicates.

Forestry need not be so damaging to forests, especially in secondary forests. Some forest managers now put emphasis on maintaining forests as functional ecological systems while providing multiple economic benefits, rather than a focus on short-term profit maximization. Innovative approaches include greater involvement of local communities, diversification of forest products to include NWFPs, and the development of plantation forests on degraded lands and non-forest. While great strides have been made in recent years to develop more sustainable management policies, logging as generally practiced in the tropics has a substantial environmental impact.


Although as much as 80 percent of tropical timber is consumed internally by producing nations, consumption of tropical timber by the U.S. and other industrial countries plays a significant role in tropical deforestation. The U.S., with less than 5 percent of the world's population, is the second largest importer of tropical timber, shelling out more than $5.4 billion annually for 21 million cubic meters of industrial roundwood, sawnwood, veneer, and plywood from the tropics. Additional tropical timber comes to the U.S. as finished products from China. The best actions to reduce the damage caused by logging activities are to impose strict restrictions, even banning, imports of certain tropical hardwoods; developing more sustainable means of extracting rainforest timber; certifying timber with regards to its origins and whether it was responsibly harvested; and using alternatives to tropical wood products.

Restricting Timber Trade

Restricting or banning the import of certain tropical woods that cannot reasonably be harvested without considerable damage to the rainforest—like mahogany , ceiba, and ebony—is a highly controversial issue. Usually the restriction of trade in certain species is established by listing the species on CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) but this sometimes has the effect of driving up prices for banned wood, making harvesting even more profitable.

The restriction of trade by listing certain species on CITES is controversial because the practice tends to discriminate against developing countries with limited consequences for developed nations. Environmental advocates have encouraged the governments of industrialized countries to list a number of tropical timber species found in tropical countries. Critics argue who has the right to determine which species are listed? What are the rights of the affected country? What compensation is due to the affected country? Can we reasonably expect developing countries to absorb the economic costs imposed by industrialized countries?

These questions need to be addressed to ensure relative equality in the international market and to make the program viable. In addition, the listing of species on CITES is difficult because of a lack of adequate information on traded timber species. Few know how many individuals of a particular species exist in the wild and how that species is affected by trade. Furthermore, trade of particular species is poorly tracked and many harvested species are difficult to distinguish from one another.

The aim of restricting trade of tropical tree species is to slow deforestation caused by the extraction of certain tree species. The hope is that listing a species will essentially take it off the open market, reducing forest clearing for its specific harvesting. Though illegal logging and smuggling may thrive, total traffic in the species may decline.

The governments of consuming countries are also establishing legal mechanisms for prohibiting illicit timber imports. In 2008 the U.S. revised the Lacey Act to govern the sourcing of timber products. The E.U. passed a similar rule — called FLEG-T — shortly thereafter. Both regulations put the burden of responsibility for ensuring timber legality on importing companies, holding them to the environmental laws of producing countries, even when those countries are unwilling or unable to enforce their rules. Companies found to be sourcing illegally logged timber are potentially subject to fines or worse. Gibson Guitar was the first company found to be violating the Lacey Act when it imported ebony from the rainforests of Madagascar.

The response of tropical governments to slow the depletion of timber resources or increase revenue has typically been to restrict the export of raw logs and encourage the exports of value-added products like sawnwood and furniture. The idea is that instead of exporting raw materials at a low profit, a country can increase national revenue by exporting products that have a higher value and stimulate domestic industry. Many countries including Burma (Myanmar), Indonesia, Gabon, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea have implemented log export moratoriums at various times since the 1990s to foster the development of value-added product industries. Some of these bans are still in effect.

A second national response to widespread logging is to issue a temporary moratorium on all logging operations to create a window for the government to reassert control in the forestry sector. In the 1990s to mid-2000s, Suriname, Guyana, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, and the Democratic Republic of Congo implemented issued such moratoriums in response to the accelerating inflow of foreign timber firms. However, such moratoriums are difficult to uphold, especially with understaffed forestry departments. Felling often continues, and temporary export bans are easily bypassed with widespread smuggling, often in conjunction with political figures or the military.

In 2011 Indonesia established a two-year moratorium on new logging and plantation concessions across 14.5 million hectares of primary forest and peatlands as part of its Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program. The government of Norway jump-started the program with a billion dollar pledge in 2010.

Timber Certification

International trade in forest products is affected by environmental concerns, though trade actions alone cannot ensure the sustainable management of forests. Timber certification operates on the assumption that consumers are willing to pay a premium on products harvested in a sustainable manner, by labeling such products with a "seal of approval." One of the better-known timber certification agencies is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) [ news and information ], an international non-profit membership-based organization which confirms that timber and other forest products are coming from sustainably managed forests. As of January 2006, FSC has certified more than 388.7 million acres (157.3 million ha) of forest in 80 countries. With eco-labeling, consumers know if products come from responsibly managed forest, and will be able to make an informed choice.

In recent years, the number of timber certification schemes has surged, but demand is strong in only a limited number of markets, mostly Europe and to a lesser degree, the United States. Certification and eco-labeling has benefitted from the development of green building standards like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

There are several challenges facing the certification movement including: a limited number of forests that can meet the strict requirements of certification, the lack of an adequate definition of what constitutes sustainable forestry, limited consumer interest in products from sustainably managed forests, ignorance of forest owners on how to meet certification standards, greenwashing by firms that fail to responsibly manage forests, and hostile international relations between forest-product producers and consumer countries. Critics and supporters alike realize that certification, can act as a sort of non-tariff trade discrimination. Those countries (usually tropical countries) which are unable or unwilling to manage forests in a sustainable way can suffer from a shift toward more certification, while consumer countries like the United States and Europe are relatively unaffected. Interests in some tropical countries at times play up certification as an issue of sovereign rights in an attempt to deepen a wedge between environmental and economic concerns.

The FSC is not without controversy. Some environmentalists say its standards are too weak to ensure actual sustainable forest management. Critics from the forestry sector argue that the standards discriminate against small loggers, especially those in poor countries, and the certification process primarily benefits rich-world auditors.

Certification news feed

Ending Subsidies

Perhaps a more effective national response is to end subsidies that stimulate deforestation. By ending subsidies for sawmills and road construction, logging of tropical rainforests will more accurately reflect the true costs of harvesting. For example, in several African countries extraction and production costs outpace revenues so that cash-poor governments end up essentially subsidizing the logging industry using donor funds or other revenue sources (corrupt officials however may benefit from these sorts of activities). In Indonesia, where ex-president Suharto's circle of wealthy friends in the timber and plantation industries used to get large tax breaks, the government kept pulp-wood prices artificially low, using subsidies to ensure that paper mills were profitable. These types of subsidies are not in the national interest, since they benefit only a small group of individuals.

Reduced-Impact Logging and Improved Forest Management

However recovery can be hastened, and ecological damage reduced, by adopting reduced-impact logging practices. These include : 1) cutting climbers and lianas well before felling; 2) directional tree felling to inflict the smallest impact on the surrounding forest; 3) establishing stream buffer zones and watershed protection areas; 4) using improved technologies to reduce damage to the soil caused by log extraction; 5) careful planning to prevent excess roads which give access to transient settlers; 6) reducing wood waste for cut areas (anywhere from 25-50 percent of the wood from a given cleared patch is wasted); 7) limiting the gradient of roads to prevent excess erosion. These steps can limit damage to the surrounding forest, cut erosion of topsoil, enable faster recovery of the forest, and reduce the risk of fire. The biggest drawback to such harvesting methods is the great management expense, because more supervision, planning, and training are required and fewer trees can be removed, reducing output and income. Nonetheless, it seems clear that some short-term sacrifices will have to made to establish new forest management for long-term benefits. The big question is whether it is in the economic interest of timber operators to adopt these methods without prodding from government agencies or specific market demand for "greener" products. Increasing the transparency of business transactions and standardizing the procedures of awarding concessions will also improve forest management. By stimulating open competition through auctions, questionable concessions granted through nepotism or corruption can be reduced. Instead of bribes, concessions could be granted to bidder who make the best offers, both in terms of cash and minimal environmental impact. Governments could also require a "performance bond" worth 10-15 percent of the value of a firm's investment for companies exploiting the forest. The bond is held to guard against environmental degradation and used to repair damage caused by poor logging practices.

Examples of More Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable management implies the maintenance of the productivity of the asset base. Thus, in theory, under sustainable forest management, logging should meet the needs of the present without compromising the continuity of the ecosystem and the goods and services that it provides. There are sustainable methods of harvesting rainforest hardwoods, although these appear to have the most success when conducted on a small-scale, in the form of well-managed community forestry. For example, the Amuesha Indians in the Yanesha Forestry Cooperatives Project of Peru employ a technique sometimes known as strip logging, based loosely on a rotating concept much like their traditional technique of slash-and-burn agriculture. They log a strip of forest 65 feet wide and use their oxen to take trees to a local sawmill. The gap is narrow enough to allow rapid plant colonization and seed dispersal across the clearing, while the soil is relatively undisturbed by the use of animal transport. The surrounding forest rapidly fills in the gap and within 20 years the strip is covered with secondary forest. In the meantime, the Indians take timber from other strips. When the forest has recovered, the Indians can again return to log the secondary forest. The rotating cycle only impacts a relatively small area and is a renewable practice. Commercial logging companies could follow an adaptation of this renewable technique. Though in the short run it is more costly and inefficient, in the log run it helps preserve the rest of the forest and the services and resources it provides. In any case, many ecologists argue that it is important to leave some areas of forest — especially old-growth or primary forest — completely untouched to accommodate those species that cannot tolerate life in disturbed forest.

Using Alternatives to Tropical Timber

There is much potential for using alternatives to tropical rainforest timber, including wood sourced from plantations established on degraded, non-forest land. Studies have show there are 800 million to 1.6 billion hectares of degraded land with little or no forest that could be suitable for timber plantations. With remote sensing technology, watchdog groups and governments need to ensure that forests aren't converted for new plantations.

Another alternative is to shift toward non-wood fibers like bamboo and straw, especially for low-value pulpwood for paper production, which is an important driver of deforestation in many parts of the world, especially Indonesia. Bamboo — members of the grass family — grow rapidly and can also be used in construction and for clothing manufacture.

Reused and Recycled Wood Products

Tropical rainforests are used as sources for pulpwood in paper manufacturing. However, with improved methods of paper recycling and more dependence on plantation forests, less wood need come from natural forests.


Increasingly, timber firms are turning to plantations to provide forest resources. Forest plantations are essentially tree crops planted for the particular purpose of providing a specific source for wood products. Forest plantations are generally composed of a few tree species which have useful attributes like rapid growth, low management requirements, and high product yield.

Plantation forests have the potential to help meet demand for forest products like industrial roundwood, fuelwood, and pulpwood while at the same time providing some of the functions of natural forests including soil stabilization, prevention of erosion, carbon emissions mitigation, and maintaining the water cycle. However plantations established in place of natural forests — especially primary forest or well-developed secondary forest — generally represent a net ecological loss. Furthermore, the establishment of plantations on contested community land can spark social conflict.

Therefore it is critical that forest plantations be limited to highly degraded forest and non-forest lands. Provided they are established in such areas and that local communities are properly consulted, plantations can offer substantial benefits, including generating local livelihoods and acting as buffers around protected areas.

Plantations, or "planted forests" as termed by the FAO, expanded from 178 million hectares in 1990 to 264 million by 2010. More than half the expansion occurred in Asia .

Smallholder plantations are an important source of local income in the tropics. For example, small rubber plantations in Indonesia — sometimes called "jungle rubber" — provide a livelihood for over a million people and generate more than half the country's rubber export revenues. Plantation species, primarily used for oil, food, and rubber production, are increasingly being used as secondary fuelwood sources by local families after harvesting primary products.

Reducing the impact of cattle ranching in the rainforest

The oil industry has a less-than-stellar environmental record in general, but it becomes even worse in tropical rainforest regions, which often contain rich deposits of petroleum. The most notorious examples of rainforest havoc caused by oil firms are Shell Oil in Nigeria and Texaco in Ecuador. The operations run by both companies degraded the environment and affected local and Indigenous people by their activities. The Texaco operation in Ecuador was responsible for spilling some 17 million gallons of oil into the biologically rich tributaries of the upper Amazon, while in the 1980s and 1990s Shell Oil cooperated with the oppressive military dictatorship in Nigeria in the suppression and harassment of local people.

Addressing forest degradation and clearing for pastureland is difficult, but important due to the severe soil leaching and erosion under traditional grazing systems. Rainforest clearing for cattle can be immediately reduced by eliminating tax incentives and land policies that encourage such activities. Productivity can be increased on existing pastureland through better ranch management as well as by introducing agroforestry techniques. Through intercropping—the strategy of planting perennial trees on pastureland—ranchers can diversify their income while reducing soil erosion and maintaining higher soil quality. At the same time these patches retain considerably higher levels of biological diversity than bare fields. Livestock also benefits from the shade and add fertilizer to the base of the trees as they take refuge from the sun.

Other measures include fencing off healthy forest areas and waterways from livestock, curtailing the use of fire in land management, adopting no-till cropping systems, and the use of terracing. Preserving riparian forest and vegetation on hillsides can help maintain ecosystem connectively and reduce soil erosion.

One of the biggest challenges to shifting toward less-damaging and more productive ranching approaches is lack of knowledge among ranchers. Information on best practices can be disseminated by government-run agricultural extension services, training programs, and industry publications, radio and TV shows. Ranchers are more likely to listen to other ranchers.


Ranching across most of the Amazon is a marginal livelihood. Therefore incentives are needed to encourage ranchers of adopt better practices. These may come through improved market access or higher produce prices via a certification system, subsidized loans for embracing more sustainable approaches, or direct payments for maintaining ecosystem services (like carbon payments for preserving forest beyond legal requirements). Since the late 2000s, Aliança da Terra, a Brazilian NGO, has been working on combining all three approaches via a land registry for ranchers.

Cattle ranching news feed

Reducing the environmental impact of oil extraction in the rainforest

The simplest and most reliable way to mitigation damage from oil operations would be to prohibit oil extraction in the tropical rainforest. But that is unlikely given the number of tropical countries that produce oil and the wealth of oil deposits located in forest areas. Thus the focus is on reducing pollution and avoiding spills through better pipeline management, reinjection techniques, and halting methane flaring. Limiting road development and restricting access can help avoid deforestation associated with settlement.

The energy and technology sectors are investing heavily in alternatives to conventional fossil fuels, but early efforts to use crop-based biofuels have had serious environmental consequences.

While some believed biofuels—fuels that are derived from biomass, including recently living organisms like plants or their metabolic byproducts like cow manure— would offer environmental benefits over conventional fossils fuels, the production and use of biofuels derived from palm oil, soy, corn, rapeseed, and sugar cane have in recent years driven up food prices, promoted large-scale deforestation, depleted water supplies, worsened soil erosion, and lead to increased air and water pollution. Still, there is hope that the next generation of biofuels, derived from farm waste, algae, and native grasses and weeds, could eliminate many of the worse effects seen during the current rush into biofuels.

Good old-fashioned oil conservation is effective in reducing demand for oil products. After the first OPEC embargo in 1973, the United States realized the importance of oil efficiency and initiated policies to do away with wasteful practices. By 1985, the U.S. was 25 percent more energy efficient and 32 percent more oil efficient than in 1973. Of course the U.S. was upstaged by the Japanese who in the same period improved their energy efficiency by 31 percent and their oil efficiency by 51 percent. Today the importance of oil to the economy continues to diminish. Despite the 51 percent growth in the American economy between 1990 and 2004, carbon emissions only increased 19% suggesting that those who insist that economic growth and carbon dioxide emissions move in tandem are wrong.

Develop new technology

The developed world can seek alternative methods to oil exploration, by developing new technologies that rely less on processes that are ecologically damaging. For example, compressed natural gas is a cleaner-burning fuel than gasoline, is already used in some cars, and is available in vast quantities. Electric cars are potentially even more environmentally sound.

To encourage investment in research and development of "greener" technologies, governments can help by eliminating subsidies for the oil and gas industry and imposing higher taxes on heavy polluters. While governments will play a role in cleaner-energy development, it is likely that the private sector will provide most of the funding and innovation for new energy projects. Venture capital firms and corporations have put billions into new technologies since the mid-2000s, while corporations are getting on board as well.

As experiences with biofuels have shown, there are often downsides to alternative energy sources. For example, hydroelectric projects have destroyed river systems and flooded vast areas of forests. Thus when undertaking any large-scale energy project — whether it's wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, or something else — it is important to conduct a proper assessment of its impact.

Admittedly, there are many challenges facing sustainable use of tropical rainforests. In arriving at a solution many issues must be addressed, including the resolution of conflicting claims to land considered to be in the public domain; barriers to markets; the assurance of sustainable development without over-exploitation in the face of growing demand for forest products; determination of the best way to use forests; and the consideration of many other factors.

Almost none of these economic possibilities can become realities if the rainforests are completely stripped. Useful products cannot be harvested from species that no longer exist, just as eco-tourists will not visit the vast stretches of wasteland that were once lush forest. Thus some of the primary rainforests must be salvaged for sustainable development to be at all successful.

In reducing the loss of tropical rainforests, we must not only be concerned with the transformation of existing natural ecosystems, but also with the more rational utilization of already cleared and degraded areas. To lessen future forest loss we must increase and sustain the productivity of farms, pastures, plantations, and scrub land in addition to restoring species and ecosystems to degraded habitats. By reducing wasteful land-use practices, consolidating gains on existing cleared lands, and improving already developed lands we can diminish the need to clear additional rainforest.


Increasing productivity of cleared rainforest lands is possible using improved technology to generate higher yielding crops. Taking advantage of improved germ plasm developed through careful selection can produce grasses and crops that will grow on degraded forest soils. While technology may have accelerated the development and impoverishment of tropical rainforests, it will be one of the keys to saving them.

Degraded land news feed


There is still time to save some of the most threatened species and ecosystems that have been pushed so close to extinction that they will perish unless we intervene. We can make a positive difference in preserving a species that mankind has practically destroyed. One of the most heart-warming examples is the story of the Mauritius kestrel . However, saving a single species takes incredible time and resources and can hardly be a practical solution. Instead the concentration must be on saving and restoring entire ecosystems.

The restoration of entire ecosystems is most possible in regions where parts or at least remnants of the original forest still remain and there are few human population pressures. Small clearings surrounded by forest recover quickly and large sections may recover in time, especially if we provide some assistance in the reforestation process. After several years, a once-barren field can again support vegetation in the form of pioneer species and secondary growth. Although the secondary forest will be low in diversity and poorly developed, the forest cover will be adequate for some species to return (assuming they still exist). In addition, the newly forested patch can be used for the sustainable harvest of forest products and low-intensity logging.

Tracts of replanted forest may have ecological returns in addition to economic ones. In the short term, forests absorb large amounts of atmospheric carbon and the more trees that are replanted, the more atmospheric carbon will be sequestered. Replanting and rehabilitating secondary forests around the world has tremendous potential for offsetting greenhouse-gas emissions. One such project, known as INFAPRO, has been established in Malaysia in a cooperative venture between the FACE Foundation (Forest Absorbing Carbon Emissions) and the Innoprise Corporation. The objective of the project is to rehabilitate 61,000 acres (25,000 ha) of logged rainforest over 25 years using dipterocarps, forest fruit, and pioneer trees. The project uses the technique of enrichment planting where seedlings are planted in the understory of degraded forest and given preferential treatment to ensure growth.

Prioritizing Areas for Conservation

The third part to resolving the deforestation problem is setting aside land for conservation. As this site has tried to make clear, conservation will not work without consideration for economic realities. The fate of parks and reserves rests largely in the hands of local people and only by improving their living conditions can saving rainforests through any sort of protected-areas system be addressed. Studies have shown that deforestation and encroachment on parklands generally diminish as the quality of life improves. The previous sections have discussed the means by which we can hope to elevate living conditions of local people. This final section focuses on the mechanisms through which we can preserve some remaining areas of forest. There are two main components: (1) prioritizing, through research and valuation, what areas to conserve, and (2) organizing the conservation effort.


Despite growing interest and intensive study on tropical rainforests, much still is unknown about the species it holds, the complex interactions between these species, the effect of the loss of particular species, and the entire role of the ecosystem. As these forests vanish, in-depth study will be required to maintain the maximum diversity and sustainable yield. In addition, research will be required to determine the optimum size and location of reserves in order to ensure the least loss of species

At the least, further research is necessary to prove the economic value of forests in order to make cases against short-sighted development plans. Research can also provide insights on how to make the sustainable collection of forest products more efficient and uncover new exploitable sources for food, medicine, and other needs.


More than 95 percent of the species on earth remain undescribed at best, unknown in most cases. Of the estimated 5-50 million species only 1.8 have been documented; however of these, many are known only by their scientific name, a few details about their origins, and maybe several facts about their life histories. At the rate that we are describing species, it would take some 4,000 years to describe all that exist in the world today. The larger, more conspicuous species, like birds and mammals, have been mostly documented, although every couple of years a new mammal species is discovered (about a dozen lemur species since 1986, and four new primate species in Brazil since 1990), and an average of two to three bird species are found annually. A worldwide species survey would be beneficial.

The purpose of these surveys is to determine where " hot spots " may exist. These are places with a great diversity of species, many of which are endemic or found nowhere else. Currently there are several general levels of survey including rapid-assessment programs (RAP) and more long-term projects. The rapid-assessment program was created by Conservation International in an effort to investigate poorly known areas that may be "hot spots." The targeted area is usually relatively small in area and may be immediately threatened by development. The examining team focuses on certain well-known groups like mammals, reptiles, and birds, and based on the diversity and endemicism, decides whether the region is unique enough to be saved. If they judge it to be, the RAP makes its recommendations to the government and ideally the area is set aside as a reserve. Other surveys, conducted over much longer periods and larger areas, are designed to learn more about the ecosystem and determine how it should be best used. Often these areas may contain multiple "hot spots" and may not be immediately threatened by development. The model for such projects is Costa Rica's INBio, Institute of Biodiversity, which aims to account for all plants and animals of the country and to use the information to improve the environment and economy. In 1999, an ambitious expedition lead by conservation biologist Michael Fay set off on foot to survey forest from the Central African Republic across Congo to the coast of Gabon. Exactly 455 days and 2,000 km later, Fay completed the most extensive inventory of the Congo Basin ever made. Data from the "metatransect" was used by three African governments to designate conservation priorities and served as the basis for Gabon's new park system .


Besides species surveys, accurate and objective assays are needed to assess the various environmental conditions pertaining to the rainforest. Annual forest cover, deforestation rates, climate change, siltation, urban growth and encroaching development, erosion, pollution, and other trends need be recorded to establish baselines to properly assess the situation. The good news is there are a number of government and private sector Earth observation programs. The best known of these is Landsat, which is run by NASA. Google has helped popularize Landsat images by making them easily accessible via Google Earth.

Remote sensing and conservation news feed

Determining Rainforest Reserve Placement

After taking note of high-diversity areas and species at greatest risk of extinction, park planners must consider other factors before designating a protected area. It is always important to monitor human use of forest lands before the designation of a national park. The presence of trails, the location of current and predicted human settlement, and land and resource use are all consequential in determining whether the forest land is suitable for protection. If local people are unhappy with restricted access to parklands, chances are they will not respect park boundaries. Along these same lines, planners generally attempt to measure the economic potential of natural forest management of the area as an alternative to deforestation. Also of great importance is the spatial distribution and quality of habitat, Clearly, when given a choice between degraded and natural habitat, it is better to protect the higher-quality area. Researchers also look at species distributions when determining what areas to declare off-limits.


Studies of isolated forest reserves have shown (Lovejoy experiment, Barro Colorado Island, and others) that it will not be possible to conserve all or even some of their species diversity, genetic resources, and ecological processes. Therefore approaches to that link protected areas to surrounding lands (buffer zones) are necessary. Land management must not be only planned for the reserve, but also the land surrounding it. If the land around a reserve is stripped or sanctioned for exclusive use by a corporation, locals will have no choice but to seek out game, fuelwood, and more fertile soils in the reserve. Therefore it is essential that protected areas to accommodate the local populations. The best approach for accommodation is to design and manage a range of protected areas, known as a multiple-use reserve.

A multiple-use reserve consists of several zones with varying degree of human occupation. The outermost zones, known as buffer zones, are areas to be used sustainably by the inhabitants. Here they can harvest (ideally in a sustainable manner) fuelwood, animals, and native plants and practice a degree of small-scale agriculture. The outermost zone could be the site of commercial activities like low-impact logging. The area beyond the buffer zone can serve as the site of reforestation projects with seeds and seedlings provided from the reserve. Eventually the outer regions could again support forest and the expanded area could be used for further sustainable practices. The inner zones could be set aside for Indigenous peoples, who could continue their traditional way of life, without interference from outsiders, should they so choose. Also in this zone could be an area for forest-friendly eco-tourism with Indigenous peoples and members of local communities serving as guides. Access to the core area could be restricted to all but research scientists. The core area would only make up a small portion of the total protected area, but be placed so as to protect the forest's "hot-spots."

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has devised eight categories of protected area , in order to protect biodiversity, yet contribute to sustainable development. These follow a structure like the one mentioned above with buffer zones around the park slated for partial development and two small, strictly protected categories (I and II) set aside for research only. Such a core area is exemplified by Manu National Park in the Manu Biosphere Reserve which serves as a reserve base for scientists and as a storehouse for information on the rich biodiversity of the Amazon Basin. In the surrounding buffer zones are areas for tourist activities and local use.

What's the Best Size for a Forest Reserve?

As forests are set aside as reserves, usually in the regions of the highest diversity, the question of reserve size comes into play. Obviously as much land as possible should be protected to some degree, but whether to keep a single large reservoir or several small reserves has been a controversial issue in conservation biology over the past two decades. Bitter fighting between the two camps in the SLOSS debate (single large or several small) has resulted in squandered time, money, resources, and credibility, and has divided groups that should be united in saving the planet's environment. A single large reserve is advantageous because it possesses larger populations of each species and a more stable environment. On the other hand, a single large reserve is subject to devastation by a single catastrophic event like a fire, flood, or disease. Breaking the reserve into separate pieces reduces the risk of complete population loss by a single event, but diminishes the size of the species populations and puts them at a higher risk of extinction. In addition, if the reserve is too small it may experience system decay resulting in the loss of many species. Small reserves are particularly affected by the invasion of alien species . Studies have shown that domestic mammals will venture up to three miles (5 km) into the rainforest, not only introducing disease and alien plant seeds, but also eating eggs, destroying nests, and crushing seedlings. Finally many species require a certain threshold-population size or range to persist.

Large reserves protect a larger area ( Species—Area Math ), including varied habitats, like eco-tones, forest edges, interior clearings, swamps, and ridges, which mean more niches, and hence greater diversity. It is important to preserve such zones, which both provide for and produce biodiversity.

Several studies have demonstrated the effects from a reduction in reserve size, including two famous projects in Latin America: Barro Colorado Island, Panama, and Thomas Lovejoy's experiment in the Brazilian Amazon ( Are Forest Fragments Worth Saving? ).

Barro Colorado Island was once a forested hilltop amid a rich tropical rainforest. When the Panama Canal was constructed, the Chagres river was dammed and the valley was flooded, leaving the hilltop an island of six square miles of forest. Barro Colorado Island was declared a biological reserve in 1923 and since has been the center of intensive research (since 1946 the island has been a research site run by the Smithsonian Institution). Over the last seven decades, researchers have recorded profound changes in the animal population. Large predators like the jaguar, puma, and harpy eagle were the first to go. Without large predators, mammals like pacas, agoutis, peccaries, and coatimundis populations skyrocketed to levels 2-10 times their normal concentration. However, by 1970, 45 birds species had disappeared due to the increased omnivore population, the loss of niches like meadows and forest edges, and the loss of area. Today toll has climbed to 65 bird species lost since the island's formation. Similar results have been recorded on islands created by hydroelectric projects in Thailand (Chiew Larn Hydroelectric Reservoir) and Venezuela (a reservoir created by the Guri dam).

To avoid further conflicts and help mitigate the problems with reserve size, some biologists have suggested a compromise solution, which is to create a series of small reserves connected by corridors of forest. This set-up would allow migration between the sections, but help protect against a mass die-off caused by a single event. Corridors are especially important should global warming occur, since species must be able to migrate as the climate changes. But more research is required to find the optimal reserve size and layout for sustaining the most biodiversity.

Fragmentation news feed

Funding Rainforest Conservation

For most of the past century, governments and industry have failed to recognize that tropical rainforests are worth much more than the attractive hardwood timber they contain. They failed to take account of the intricate role rainforests play in hydrological, biological, geochemical, and climatological functioning on Earth. Because all the benefits provided by forests cannot be directly measured and captured, the market under-provides for, hence undervalues, rainforests. True economic analysis should take these indirect values and this economic distortion into account.

Companies that destroy the rainforest should be required to make bioeconomic and cost-benefit analysis a mandatory part of their land-survey routine. Genuine bioeconomic analysis will survey all relevant opportunity costs and determine the presence of species with value as pharmaceutical, food, and other products useful to humankind. In addition, bioeconomic analysis can predict the potential for eco-tourism and ideally, make some assessment for the services (like climate stabilization, recreation value, soil protection, and clean water) a forest area provides. By accounting for these benefits it will help guard against the uninformed destruction of species. Globally, ecosystems and the services they provide are estimated to be worth $33 trillion, according to research conducted by Robert Costanza in the 1990s. The biodiversity of tropical rainforests can provide material benefits beyond simple value as forest products. For example, in the late 1970s, Malaysia imported weevils from Cameroon to pollinate oil-palm plantations, in 1981 saving $120 million in labor costs from hand pollination. Finding this cost-saving species was straightforward: weevils are the natural pollinators of oil palm, which originated in the rainforests of Central Africa. Once a bioeconomic analysis is complete, the decision can be made on how to best use the forests; whether to protect them using their sustainable yield or to destroy them for immediate return and accept the long-term effects.

Even cost-benefit analysis often underestimates the value of the species and ecosystem by failing to factor in the unknown benefits. Bioeconomic analysis may be able to valuate rainforest lands by eco-tourism potential, known, and even some unknown products, but it can hardly account for the services that the rainforest ecosystem performs or the value of unknown biodiversity. How much is a stable climate worth? What would a country pay for clean water or navigable waterways? At what cost should global warming and polar ice melt be avoided? How about functioning hydroelectric projects, working fisheries, and avoiding cycles of flood and drought? These are some items on a long list of services which rainforests provide humanity.

Dismantling rainforests for timber, pasture land, pulp for paper, and palm oil is not maximizing their potential yield: it is like smashing an ancient Roman vase to reach the quarter that fell inside. Razing rainforests for just these simple commodities is a colossal waste of their resources.

Funding rainforest conservation

Now that we have prioritized what forest areas should be set aside for reserves , we must focus on implementation and management of these protected areas. Clearly all three steps will require a broad spectrum of participants, from local farmers to CEOs of multinational corporations to high-ranking government officials. Without cooperation, any protected-areas system is destined to fail.

Reserves are expensive to establish and maintain, as is forest management. In the 1990s, the U.N. FAO estimated that the forestry sector was funded only 27 percent of what it requires, while the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (1992) estimated the cost of protecting tropical forests through sustainable development at $30 billion per year (a number that has roughly doubled today). The countries in which reserves and forest management are most needed often have neither the money nor the interest in funding these projects. Other priorities — ranging from growing the economy to improving health care access to providing education — win out over forests. Yet innovative models are showing that forest conservation need not be separate from other initiatives. In fact protecting forests can go hand-in-hand with economic growth and poverty alleviation.


Debt Exchange

One method of financing conservation projects in developing countries is debt-for-nature programs where conservation and other international organizations purchase a portion of a developing country's commercial debt at a discount, or else persuade creditor banks to donate some of debt. Foreign debt can be purchased at 50 to 90 percent of its actual value and sometimes far less. For example the non-profit organization Conservation International purchased $650,000 worth of Bolivian debt for only $100,000 when it initiated the first debt-exchange program in 1987. In exchange for being relieved of the obligation to repay a portion of international debt, the country agrees to set aside funds to promote conservation by encouraging sustainable development, expanding environmental education programs, purchasing land, and improving land management. Within a decade of the first agreement, debt-for-nature agreements totaling nearly US$1 billion had been arranged in sixteen countries including the tropically forested countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Madagascar, Philippines, Venezuela, and Zambia.

In 1998, Congress approved a bill that authorized more funding for debt-for-nature swaps. Under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, the U.S. reduces or forgives debt owed the U.S. by developing countries in exchange for establishing forestry funds to be used for conservation and promoting economic reform. The act mandates that projects be carried out at the local level by NGOs, community organizations, and Indigenous organizations. By 2011, debt-for-nature swaps under the TFCA had generated more than $250 million for forest conservation.

According to an analysis by the World Bank, while debt-for-nature agreements will never substantially reduce external debts of poor countries—which are far too large for such schemes— they can dramatically increase the amount of funds spent by the debtor country on environmental protection.

Possible Funding Strategies for the Future

There are other means that may prove useful in financing reserves, although they have not been developed to their fullest potential. Most of these are based on the concept that all nations should contribute to rainforest preservation since the effects of deforestation will impact everyone. Wealthy countries are expected to provide most of the funding. Some have suggested that money could come by reducing subsidies currently given to certain polluting and environmentally damaging industries, such as the fossil fuels and mining sectors.

Presently the most advanced program for funding rainforest conservation is called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation or REDD+. As a concept, REDD+ aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by paying tropical countries to protect their forests. While many of the details — including sources of finance, safeguards, and implementation protocols — are still being hammered out, a number of REDD+ projects are underway in countries ranging from Brazil to Cambodia. REDD+ has the potential to generate tens of billions of dollars annually for forest protection efforts.

Another approach that has been discussed is a "rainforest bond", which would be issued by a forest country and sold to investors. The bond would generate money upfront for conservation activities and would be paid back using revenue generated from environmental taxes, reduced impact logging, and payments for ecosystem services — including carbon sequestration and watershed services. Rainforest bonds have been advanced by Prince Charles' Rainforest Project as a mechanism for funding the early stages of the REDD+ program.

Organizing Rainforest Conservation Efforts

To best meet the complex requirements for rainforest conservation, it is imperative that we balance conservation efforts between the local, national, and international sectors. Empowerment over forests and their resources should begin on the local level of individual communities with municipal governments overseeing parks. State agencies—with guidance and assistance from intergovernmental institutions and non-government organizations (NGOs)— need to help formulate broader conservation strategies and provide expertise in protecting and managing protected areas. Partnerships between participants are necessary to fuse scientific, economic, and social information and formulate an overall plan for the use and conservation of tropical rainforests.

Today many government agencies responsible for biodiversity conservation in the developing world find themselves financially strained. In addition, in an era of increasing democratization, these organizations are under mounting pressure from locals demanding access to the large tracts of otherwise productive land held in socially exclusive reserves. To best address these financial and social pressures, other organizations—foreign governments, intergovernmental institutions, NGOs, and "green" groups—must step up and provide expertise and financial assistance. However, government agencies cannot expect to be bailed out completely. They will need to become more accountable to the needs of local people and to establish measurable objectives, which can be evaluated on a regular basis. In short, these agencies must increase their productivity and become accountable to their shareholders much like publicly traded companies.

Governmental Agencies and Policy

Until recently, most governments have sided with the interests of rapid forest exploitation using subsidies and economic incentives to accelerate the process and earn quick returns. The interests of the local people have been largely ignored, as have the environmental consequences. These methods are economically flawed because they fail to weigh the environmental costs of deforestation ranging from soil erosion to disruption of weather cycles, to drought and floods, to outbreaks of disease. For example, India estimates that it loses 10 percent of its annual income to environmental degradation, a significant portion of which results from deforestation-induced soil erosion. If governments starting treating their forests as depreciable natural capital instead of non-renewable income, they could better determine the costs of deforestation.

Some governments are now listening to scientists, economists, human-rights activists, Indigenous peoples, and environmentalists, and are adopting more responsible approaches of managing forests. Developed, industrialized nations see their chance to help the cause by donating financial support and technical expertise to help initiate new conservation policies.

Industrialized nations

Some governments are willing to make loans and even cancel debts owed by tropical nations in exchange for environmental protection (essentially debt-exchange programs). For example, the U.S. has canceled more than a quarter billion dollars of debt owed by tropical countries to fund forest conservation projects. In the 1990s, Germany cleared Kenya of its $400 million debt when the East African nation agreed to pass environmental legislation.

In the late 1990s, Germany was perhaps the biggest supporter of rainforest conservation among G-8 nations, with Chancellor Helmut Kohl demanding action by other wealthy countries to take action against deforestation. However since the late 2000s, Norway has emerged as the leader on rainforest conservation , pledging 3 billion krone ($500 million) a year to the effort, a sum disproportionate to the small Scandinavian country's size.

But assistance goes beyond financial. Industrialized nations have conservation expertise and technology that can improve reserve management and monitoring.

How Tropical Nations Can Save Rainforests

Tropical nations are increasingly demonstrating leadership in safeguarding rainforests for future generations.

The push to compensate tropical countries for the carbon stored in their forests was borne out of an effort by the Coalition of Rainforest Nations during climate talks in Montreal in 2005. That eventually led to development of the REDD+ program.

Outside of REDD+, Brazil and Costa Rica are widely seen as leaders in rainforest conservation. After losing most of its forests to cattle ranchers and industrial agricultural, Costa Rica in the 1990s stepped up efforts to save its forests, bolstering its national park system and introducing a payments for ecosystem services program. Costa Rica has since transitioned from a country that loses forests to one that gains forest cover.

But even more impressive has been Brazil's push since 2004 to reduce deforestation in the Amazon. Supported by an advanced satellite-based deforestation monitoring system, Brazil in the late 2000s began to crack down on illegal deforesters while enacting policies to encourage less damaging agriculture and logging in the world's largest rainforest. The efforts appear to have paid off, with the rate of annual deforestation plunging nearly 80 percent between 2004 and 2012. Although other factors are believed to have contributed to the decline, direct government action is estimated to account for at least half the drop.

Deforestation also appears to be on a downward trend in the world's other big tropical deforester: Indonesia. In 2009 Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono commitment to reduce deforestation and peatlands degradation significantly by 2020 with or without international assistance. Norway followed up with a pledge to contribute up to a billion dollars toward cutting deforestation. A year later, Yudhoyono established a two-year moratorium on new concessions across 14.5 million hectares of peatlands and primary forest.

More broadly, there are several strategies for tropical nations to improve forest stewardship. Eliminating subsidies for activities that promote forest clearing and largely benefit wealthy interests would probably have the widest-ranging effect on curbing deforestation in the tropics. For example, ending subsidies for sawmills, road construction, large-scale colonization schemes, and expansive industrial agriculture projects would dramatically slow deforestation. Such large subsidies create a false image of profitability to industries that benefit from exploitation and undervalue the worth of timber supplies and intact ecosystems. Rarely do these firms have to pay the full costs, whether they be environmental, social, or financial. However these industries are entrenched and in many countries are a powerful political force . For example, Indonesian President Yudhoyono's efforts to establish a strong moratorium were effectively undermined by interests in the palm oil, timber, and paper and paper industries. Meanwhile the ruralistas in Brazil — a political bloc consisting of large-scale forest developers — in 2012 pushed through a revision of the country's Forest Code. Environmentalists fear those changes could reverse Brazil's recent progress in reducing deforestation .

Tropical country governments could significantly reduce deforestation by changing land-title procedures so deforestation is not favored over the maintenance of productive forest. Instead of giving tax breaks and subsidies to large-scale forest clearers, governments can levy a deforestation tax that would increase government revenues while reducing environmental degradation. Already several countries have such deforestation charges in place.

Currently, few fines are collected and those that are collected sometimes never make it to the treasury. Salaries are so low in some countries that bribes are widely accepted by forestry officials. Beyond boosting salaries, governments can increase the effectiveness of forestry patrols by offering performance incentives to officials and returning proceeds from fines and seized goods to the forestry departments.

There are serious conflicts of interest within government departments in many developing countries. Environmental officials often lack coordination with officials from other departments like mines, forestry, and agriculture. Integrated policy approaches can help overcome the inefficiencies and failures of overlapping jurisdictions.

Developed countries are tired of the rhetoric from wealthy industrialized countries urging them to preserve forests but not offering up the cash to turn words into action. They argue thatif these forests provide important global benefits then the entire world should contribute to their preservation . Besides, they say, wealthy countries have already destroyed most of their own forests.

Intergovernmental Institutions and Conservation

The bank has traditionally funded "mega-projects" because they are easier to administer than a number of small projects. Because of the size of these projects, World Bank loans to developing countries are usually substantial, sometimes in the billion-dollar range, adding further debt pressure. In 1987 the bank granted loans exceeding US$15 billion to tropical countries. Some developing countries lack heavy-equipment industries, so a portion of the loan is often returned to the contributing countries in the form of payments for industrialized products and materials.

The influence of the World Bank is powerful, and other organizations follow its lead by sponsoring similarly destructive projects. The bank primarily used economic rate of return as its means of selecting projects, and virtually ignored the social and ecological costs. The result has been many socially and environmentally damaging projects like the Brazilian Tucuri Dam, which displaced 25,000 people and submerged 900 square miles of rainforest; the Polonoroeste road-building project, which promoted the colonization of the rainforests of Rondonia, Brazil, by one million peasant farmers; and the Indonesian transmigration program.

However, in recent years, the World Bank and such organizations have designed a number of useful and successful projects that are less damaging, while promoting economic returns as well. Today these institutions staff environmental consultants to raise concerns over the impacts of new projects.

The Global Environmental Facility (GEF), established in 1990 by the World Bank, UN Environmental Program, and UN Development program, has committed billions of dollars to setting up national parks, promoting sustainable forestry, and establishing conservation trust funds in developing countries. In 1994, the World Bank inspection panel was established as a independent body to create a legal mechanism for individuals and organizations whose interests are adversely affected by bank-backed projects. Through it, investigation can be conducted to correct mistakes and ensure that the bank enforces its own policies. The panel was put to the test for the first time in 1995, when Latin America challenged a World Bank project, Planafloro—a loan of US$167 million to Rondonia, Brazil. The challengers cited mismanagement and social/environmental degradation from a previous loan as their reason for submitting their claim. In 1996, the World Bank withheld a loan to Papua New Guinea after it failed to conform with its timber regulations (although the bank has since granted the loan). In 1999 the World Bank weakened the panel, but the same year the Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO) was established to address complaints by people affected by projects funded by the bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). In 2009 a complaint the the CAO led the IFC to halt lending to palm oil companies until safeguards were put into place .

The implementation of these reforms may prevent the bank from sponsoring further Tucuri-scale projects. The World Bank is increasingly funding small community projects that more directly benefit the local economy and are often less environmentally destructive. Because decisions are made on a local level, projects can be better adapted to local conditions.

In 2007 the World Bank launched the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) as a means to kick start the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) mechanism.

Grassroots Movements in Rainforest Conservation

Non-governmental organizations are a driving force behind conservation efforts today. These non-profit groups fund and support all aspects of conservation from initial research to protected-area initiatives to implementation through park management and community-based conservation schemes to alliance building between government agencies and private interests. They support and coordinate grassroots movements, promote communication between all parties, and sponsor education initiatives in both developing and developed countries.

Grassroots Movements

With the recent worldwide trend of governmental decentralization, control of forest resources is increasingly turned over to local governments and non-governmental agencies. One result from decentralization is that forestry decisions can be made on a local level, more in relation to local conditions and the benefit of local peoples. In recent years, numerous local groups have assumed the role of promoting local sustainable use that more directly benefits those living in and around the forests.

Local grassroots movements, where they exist, are often the most successful form of action. These movements are sometimes able to create enough of a disturbance to delay loggers and developers from exploiting forest lands valued by local people. Grassroots movements usually result from new or increased presence of pressures on the forest from commercial interests. These movements put up protests, work to reform local laws and education, and are quite often the site for innovation and experimentation for new ideas in forest conservation.

Provided they have adequate resources, small grassroots projects can have a higher likelihood of success than foreign conservation projects directed from a distance. There is good reason for this success, since local organizations are better able to weave conservation projects into the local fabric of life, and their projects tend to be substantially smaller. These small projects can serve models for the larger national and international projects. Before adopting a conservation or land-management plan, it should be proven on a local level.

In some countries, these small movements were sometimes brutally suppressed by governments, but that is changing as grassroots efforts spread around the globe. In the 1980s the rubber tappers of Brazil became one of the best known movements. They successfully campaigned to win title to forest lands in the form of "extractive reserves" — protected areas where forest products are sustainably harvested by local communities. Another well-known initiative was led by the late Wangari Maathai , who was the first African woman awarded the Nobel Prize for her efforts. Her Greenbelt Movement led to the planting of hundreds of millions of trees around the globe.

The Role of Communication and Education in Saving Rainforests

The conferences that have met to date have brought up important issues, but their decisions tend to lack power and usually go unimplemented. The largest environmental conference took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and was host to some 100 heads of state, the largest gathering of such officials ever.

Since Rio, there have been countless conferences which have discussed environmental issues. In 1995 the World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development (WCFSD) met in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), aiming to raise the level of understanding of rainforests' dual role in preserving natural environment and contributing to sustainable development. The conference recognized the need for policy reform together with renewed efforts to enforce existing regulations to stop deforestation. It promised more local community involvement in forest conservation and management and placed special emphasis on reconciling conflicts between factions with different views on forest use. The conference discussed better definition of land titles for local communities and various financial mechanisms for ensuring more equal distribution of forests' benefits and revenues. This conference serves as an example of what conservation conferences propose and how little things actually change afterwards.

Education is one of the most important ingredients in saving the rainforests. Unfortunately, environmental education is not a high priority in many countries with tropical rainforests.

Education can provide the next generation with lessons not learned in the past: that rainforests are worth saving. With this information, children will be more aware of the problems they may face in the future when they become leaders.

What an Individual Can Do to Help Save the Rainforest

NGOs promote the role of the ordinary individual in conservation efforts. Recent surveys have suggested that the American public is interested in conservation efforts both on a local and an international level. So the will exists; it is only a matter of taking action.

Purchasing and consumption

People in developed countries stimulate the unsustainable harvesting of tropical timbers by demanding such wood products. Try to buy wood products that come from sustainably managed stocks (having a legitimate seal of approval) or non-rainforest woods. Though not as much of a problem now, in the 1980s people in developed countries may have contributed indirectly to rainforest destruction by demanding cheap beef products (the "U.S.-Central American connection") and livestock feed (the "Europe-Southeast Asia connection") in the form of cassava grown on former forest lands. Today palm oil, which is found in a wide range of processed foods and beauty products, is a major driver of deforestation in Southeast Asia. Don't buy products containing palm oil unless you know it has been sourced responsibly. At present, less damaging palm oil is certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Be ecologically aware when you purchase products.

Support sustainably harvested forest products like nuts and natural dyes and the organizations that provide these goods. Without consumer demand, these products will not be produced.

Always try to reduce power and water usage. Americans use more resources per capita than any other large. Much of the electricity we use is fueled by the burning coal and gasoline, which contribute the climate change. Recycle and reuse as many materials as possible.


Many conservation and consumer groups maintain that lack of information is one of the greatest hindrances to eco-friendly consumption. Stay informed and be aware of newly threatened areas and new developments in conservation methods, along with campaigns against forest destroyers. Numerous resources exist on the Internet and in print.

If you have the ability to travel abroad, practice eco-tourism and support eco-friendly travel in areas that are environmentally sensitive. Just because a tour is advertised as "eco-tourism" it does not mean that it is environmentally sound. Ask around and try to find those operators who are legitimate. When traveling, try to be a responsible tourist and respect local customs.

Discourage the killing of endangered animals and rainforest species by refusing to buy products made up of or containing such parts. Gently tell locals that you would rather see the colorful macaws flying in the sky than having their feathers on your souvenir.

Write to your government representatives and let them know how your feel about environmental issues. Express your concern for the future of tropical rainforests.

Join a biodiversity conservation group or rainforest organization and support campaigns and boycotts against companies responsible for reckless deforestation. If you resolve never to purchase goods from one of these firms, the company loses tens of thousands of dollars of potential revenue over the course of a life time.

International Rainforest Conservation Organizations

Today international conservation organizations serve as environmental consultants for governments and large corporations interested in reducing pollution, setting aside protected areas, and conserving biodiversity. These organizations act as mediators between various development interests, policy makers, local peoples, scientists, and activist groups in promoting conservation. These organizations initiate and support a broad range of conservation-related activities, from arranging international conferences to establishing community-based conservation projects to maintaining parks and reserves. Keeping attuned to economic realities, they work to integrate the latest scientific findings into preservation efforts.

Activist Groups

Activist groups, like the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Union of Concerned Scientists , and Greenpeace are publicists and sponsors of rainforest preservation. They are watchdogs of projects that impact the rainforest, and they spread the the word to other organizations, peoples, and governments. They initiate campaigns against large corporations and governments responsible for deforestation and encourage consumers to boycott their products. Pressure against these companies from environmental organizations, coupled with boycotts, will often sway the firm to adopt more ecologically sound methods or abandon plans to clear forest lands for production. While critics argue that successful boycotts in the North only lead to trade diversion to markets that remain open, their campaigns draw public attention to deforestation and increase industry's sensitivity to rainforest issues.

Rainforest Funders

Outside of governments and the general public, substantial amounts of funding for rainforest conservation funding come from private foundations usually started by wealthy individuals.

Indigenous Peoples' Role in Rainforest Conservation

Indigenous people have intimate knowledge and perspectives of the forest ecosystem around them. Instead of looking as them with condescension, scientists, environmentalists, and conservationists must come to view Indigenous people as an asset to forest use and conservation.

Saving Tropical Rainforests

Simply banning the timber trade or establishing reserves will not be enough to salvage the world's remaining tropical rainforests. In order for the forests to be preserved, the underlying social, economic, and political reasons for deforestation must be recognized and addressed. Once the issues are brought into the light, the decision can be made about what should be done. If it is decided that rainforests must be saved, then the creation of multi-use reserves that promote sustainable development and education of local peoples would be a good place to start. Currently about 6 percent of the world's remaining forests are protected, meaning that over 90 percent are still open for the taking. However, even this 6 percent is not safe if the proper steps towards sustainable development are not taken. Where possible, reforestation and restoration projects should be encouraged if we, humanity, hope to emerge from the current environmental situation without serious, long-term consequences.

By the year 2050 the population of Earth will likely stand between 9 and 10 billion people. The population increase in the 1990s alone dwarfed the entire population of the world in 1600. Though live births per woman have dropped significantly in the past 50 years, the sheer number of children now in pre-reproductive age guarantees a substantial increase in population for the next two generations regardless of the birth rate.

This tremendous population increase logically leads to the question of how many people can Earth sustain indefinitely? The exact number is unknown; estimates range from 2-16 billion. With the limited resources (water, soil, clean air) of the planet, the number depends on the quality of life future generations are willing to accept.

With current levels of consumption and waste, it may not be possible for generations of the future to attain the lifestyle of Americans today. As a nation, Americans consume more than any society in history. For the people of developing countries to attain the American standard of living we would need the equivalent of another three planet Earths to accommodate their needs.

The signs that overpopulation is negatively impacting the world's living environment are everywhere. Agricultural production reached record levels in 1998, but per capita production has been falling since 1985. All of the ocean fisheries of the world are exploited beyond their capacity and the annual world fish catch has leveled off after growing five-fold from 1950 to 1990. Ground-water supplies are drying up: Bangkok is pumping so much water out of the ground that the city of seven million is sinking 14 times faster than Venice. Above ground, humanity is appropriating more than 50 percent of accessible water runoff, while we are using 40 percent of the world's net primary production. Worldwide erosion of precious topsoil is seriously impacting agriculture and causing more than $6 billion in damage to hydroelectric installations and irrigation systems every year. More people live in dire poverty than ever before despite gains in the standard of living among those in wealthy countries and some in developing countries. Global climate change threatens to drastically alter weather and rainfall patterns and cause a rise in sea level that could engulf island nations.

Many argue there is a technological fix for every problem facing humanity: to improve agriculture, use genetic engineering to boost crop yields and enable crops to grow on increasingly marginal land; to end world hunger, convert nitrogenased petroleum to food and improve freshwater aquaculture; to solve water woes, tow icebergs from the poles to coastal cities; to save biodiversity, create genetic libraries of species as they disappear; to eliminate Cold War radioactive sludge, engineer waste-eating bacteria; to solve fuel problems, generate endless supplies of clean energy with cold fusion; to solve climate change, engineer the atmosphere and oceans. Governments, venture capitalists, and stock markets will fund these endeavors to support or profit from the effort to starve off environmental and social calamity, proponents say.

Even if these hopeful long-shot schemes are successful, they will be incredibly expensive to implement and maintain. Take the simple case of fuelwood: the UN estimates that the cost of establishing fuelwood plantations to replace harvesting from natural forests is $12 billion per year. The cost of replacing watershed forests, which insure the flow of clean, fresh water to cities, with desalination plants would be in the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars for each large city. The cost of maintaining the forests as intact ecosystems to provide this service, in additions to others, is less than one-tenth of this cost.

There was an attempt to create a replica of Earth systems with the construction of Biosphere II in early 1990 in the desert of Arizona. This $200 million project was an elaborate experiment to see if man could recreate a miniature Earth using technology based on our best understanding of biological systems. The 3.15-acre (1.25-ha) enclosure was stocked with soil, air, water, and fragments of various ecosystems (coral reef, desert, wetland, savanna, pond, scrubland, ocean, and rainforest) including natural flora and fauna. On Sept. 26, 1991, eight scientists sealed themselves into the compound for a two-year stay. Within five months the atmospheric oxygen content of Biosphere II dropped from 21 percent to 14 percent, while carbon-dioxide and nitrous-oxide levels rose dangerously despite a sophisticated recycling system. Oxygen had to be pumped in to sustain Biosphere II. The scientists managed to stay in Biosphere II the full two years; however the other residents were not so lucky. By the time the seal was broken, 19 of 25 vertebrate species were extinct along with all the pollinators. The populations of "weedier" species like vines, cockroaches, and ants had exploded. Despite the failure of the project to sustain the scientists independently of Earth, an important lesson was learned; man has a long way to go before we are able to recreate viable ecosystems.

The evidence suggests we are rapidly approaching a severe environmental and population bottleneck. It is time to consider whether we want to bet on safe passage through this bottleneck despite the ruinously high stakes for humanity and the life we prefer. In the past, magnificent civilizations—the Egyptians, Romans, Easter Islanders, Mayans—have fallen as their populations exceeded the biological carrying capacity of their local environments. Maybe this time around it will be different because of our superior technology. Besides we learn from our mistakes, right?

E.O. Wilson asks if it is worth the wager. He argues that it is best to err on the side of caution; a false positive diagnosis is an inconvenience, but a false negative diagnosis can be catastrophic. Imagine a person who receives a false negative on an AIDS test. The person could spread the virus to numerous others, falsely believing he or she was uninfected. By allowing environmental destruction and rampant population growth to continue, humanity is "effectively saying we are totally certain that future generations can manage without many if not most of the [environmental] benefits we enjoy today."

Saving the forests, oceans, wetlands, deserts, and tundra of the world may require a fundamental change in the way we humans see the world around us. It is our underlying philosophy, one that has been conditioned since birth, that has turned so many of Earth's unique ecosystems into places in peril today.

As much as we may want to believe it, man is not apart from nature. We are not exempt from the laws of nature nor the sole heir of all the precious resources of this planet. Our place in the universe is not to conquer Earth and cultivate the entire planet to suit our needs, while extinguishing those species that do not directly benefit us.

It is not important whether you consider man divinely inspired, or a small cog in the Gaia (Mother Earth) system, or merely a territorial primate species that evolved to the point where it could develop technology to dominate all other species. What is imperative to our species and all other species is biological diversity. This biodiversity crisis that we are facing today transcends religions, though traditional religions, both tribal and institutional, lend support to the preservation of biodiversity.

What makes life on Earth livable for our species is biodiversity—from tigers in Bhutan to gila monsters in the United States to horned beetles in Africa to the goldfish in your home to tube worms in hydrothermal vents in the deep ocean to sea cucumbers living on the coral reefs of Madagascar to the mites on your cheese. By extinguishing hotbeds of biodiversity—rainforests, wetlands, coral reefs, and grasslands—we are destroying a part of ourselves. Biodiversity will recover after humanity is gone, but in the meantime, the continuing loss of our fellow species will make Earth an awfully crowded, but lonely, place.

Past extinctions have shown it takes at least 5 million years to restore biodiversity to the level equal to that before the extinction event event. Our actions today will determine whether Earth will be biologically impoverished for the 500 trillion or more humans that will inhabit the Earth during that future period.

The extinction event that is occurring as you read these words rivals the extinctions caused by natural disasters of global ice ages, planetary collisions, atmospheric poisoning, and variations in solar radiation. The difference is that this extinction was conceived by humans and subject to human decisions. We are the last, best hope for life as we prefer it on this planet.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: Parts of this conclusion draws from E.O. Wilson's Consilience —Random House 1999]


Review questions - part i, review questions - part ii, review questions - part iii, review questions - part iv, review questions - part v, review questions - part vi, review questions - part vii, review questions - part ix, review questions - part xii, review questions - part xiii, review questions - part xiv, review questions - part xv, review questions - part xvi, review questions - part xvii, review questions - part xviii, review questions - part xix, review questions - part xx, review questions - part xxi, review questions - part xxii, review questions - part xxiv, review questions - part xxv, citations - part i, citations - part ii, citations - part iii, citations - part vii, citations - part ix, citations - part xii, citations - part xiii, citations - part xiv, citations - part xv, citations - part xviii, citations - part xix, citations - part xxvi.

  • Show search

Photo of Ataya tract and Cumberland Mountains from Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, Tennessee, United States.

How We Work With Forests

We use science to protect, better manage and restore forests to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, store carbon and benefit people and wildlife.

September 20, 2021 | Last updated September 27, 2023

  • Why Forests Matter


How you can help.

Forests are one of the most important ecoystems on Earth. They provide habitat to 80% of the world’s land-dwelling species. They help keep our water clean by naturally filtering out pollution. They provide sustenance, support jobs and offer refuge and recreation to billions of people around the planet. And they are one of our most critical natural pathways for absorbing and storing excess carbon to fight climate change. For millennia, trees have pulled carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and turned it into their bark, wood and leaves through the oldest carbon-capture technology on Earth: photosynthesis.

The economic benefits of restoring forests are an estimated $84 billion. Other benefits include air quality, food, biodiversity, soil health, jobs, timber, fuel and climate change mitigation.

What are Natural Climate Solutions?

Natural climate solutions are actions to protect, better manage and restore nature to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon. Forests provide much of that carbon-storage opportunity. The latest estimates can be found at naturebase.org .

The Relationship Between Forests and Climate Change

Research about natural climate solutions shows that by avoiding deforestation, restoring forest ecosystems and better managing existing forests, we can contribute significantly to our climate goals. 

The Nature Conservancy works with governments, corporations, Indigenous Peoples and thousands of partners around the world to  protect , sustainably  manage  and  restore  our life-giving forests.

Quote : Ronnie Drever

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of forests. Photosynthesis is the original carbon-capture technology. And, of course, forests also provide many other benefits for people and for nature.

A lush tropical forest in Latin America.

When we protect existing forests, we avoid and reduce deforestation that contributes to climate change and biodiversity loss.

Approximately 41 million trees are cut down every day—far faster than we are currently replanting them. The consequences of deforestation and other types of land degradation are severe, exacerbating climate change, biodiversity loss and declines in ecosystem services that hundreds of millions of people depend on.

In particular, the way we produce common commodities—like beef, soy and palm oil—leads to massive deforestation. This causes habitat and biodiversity loss and contributes about an eighth of global climate emissions, with enormous impacts on the many local and Indigenous communities who rely on these forests.

TNC’s decades of research, partnerships and on-the-ground projects have pointed us to a new path that gets to the root of the issue. By changing the underlying incentives and market models that promote agricultural expansion into existing forests, we can help producers transition to more sustainable practices at a large scale, ultimately eliminating deforestation from commodity production.

Ways We Address Deforestation

Corporate engagement.

We engage directly with companies and industry groups on how and why to make smarter decisions in their sourcing, constructively challenging them to improve their monitoring, traceability and transparency to become fully deforestation-free. Learn more about how we work with companies.

International Policy

We work to inform public policy in both key consumer countries like China and the UK, and in important producer and export countries in South America to change the structures that currently favor agricultural expansion over forest protection. Learn more about our global work.

Innovative Finance

We have partnered with the UN Environment Programme and the Tropical Forest Alliance on an initiative called IFACC - Innovative Finance for the Amazon, Cerrado and Chaco—that helps financial institutions and companies structure and deploy over US$4 billion in commercial capital commitments for conversion-free beef and soy production. Learn more about our impact investing work.

Two people measure the circumference of a tree trunk.

Better Management

TNC supports forest protection, restoration, and sustainable forest management practices, based on sound science and traditional knowledge. Many of the world’s natural forests provide wood and fiber products—like lumber, furniture and paper—critical to people’s lives and livelihoods. While some logging practices harm forests and the people that depend on them, improved and sustainable forest management makes it possible for nature, communities and economies to thrive.

What is Biomass?

Biomass is organic material that comes from plants and animals. It can come from waste or by-products (e.g. municipal waste, agricultural residue, sawdust, small-diameter timber cut to reduce wildfire risk) or dedicated sources (energy crops, timber). Biomass (directly or when processed into wood pellets) can be combusted to make electricity or turned into biofuels (e.g. ethanol, biodiesel, aviation fuel).

In many places protection is our primary strategy. But pushing for an end to all logging is impractical, unnecessary and ultimately ineffective. Improved and sustainable management practices allow forests to stay forests, while storing more carbon and maintaining wood and fiber production over the long term.

Wood can also be used for energy. Producing energy from woody biomass poses some risks. Demand for wood pellets, one form of wood used for energy production, can lead to degradation and loss of valuable healthy forests. In addition, the facilities that produce wood pellets can also impact air quality and cause disproportionate harm to Black, Brown and other overburdened communities.

We do not support timber harvest or bioenergy production that leads to environmental degradation, injustice, or otherwise harms communities. We believe the carbon impacts of forest products and bioenergy should be accurately calculated. We are against treating all bioenergy as carbon neutral or all forest products as climate solutions.

What do we mean by Improved Forest Management?

Improved forest management refers to caring for a forest in a way that improves climate change resilience and reduces or removes carbon dioxide emissions. Here are some examples:

essay on conservation of rainforest

Climate-Smart Forestry

Climate-smart forestry practices are designed to improve forest health, maximize the potential for carbon sequestration and help fight climate change. These practices can include ecological thinning, or selectively cutting trees for the betterment of whole forest. For example, removing smaller diameter trees gives larger trees more room to grow and spacing out harvests across longer intervals of time allows older and larger trees to store more carbon.

In the U.S., the Working Woodlands program and the Family Forest Carbon Program leverage the power of privately owned forests by helping landowners improve the way forests on their properties are managed. In exchange, landowners are paid for the additional carbon their trees capture and store.

Our Carbon Markets Work

Fire Management

TNC has been working with fire in forests since 1962, when we conducted our first controlled burn. Our approach has evolved from primarily focusing on managing our preserves to a holistic model that includes equitable policy and funding, supporting Indigenous fire practitioners as they revitalize traditional fire cultures and elevate Indigenous leadership on fire, growing and diversifying the ranks of those who work with fire, and helping communities develop ways to live more safely with wildfire in forested areas and other landscapes.

In the United States, TNC helps lead the  Fire Learning Network ,  Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network ,  Indigenous Peoples Burning Network , maps conditions through  LANDFIRE , helps train new fire workers in  TREX  programs, and performs controlled burns across tens of thousands of acres each year.

In some forests we are combining ecological thinning with a safe reintroduction of fire to  improve forest health and habitat .

Our Work With Fire

Urban Forestry

Trees in urban neighborhoods improve air quality and mental health, lower air temperatures, decrease flooding, and provide habitat for wildlife. The Nature Conservancy is working around the United States to increase and improve tree cover and health for people and urban nature.

The Nature Conservancy is working with urban foresters, local organizations, and residents of many neighborhoods around the US  to improve outcomes for residents and students in tree-related education and workforce development programs through tree planting and care. We know that mature shade trees provide the most benefits for our communities—so the Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities Initiative helps protect these most important urban trees from damage, disease, pests, and other threats. We partner with the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station and the University of Georgia, along with civic ecologists and conservation professionals, to monitor and maintain mature urban trees.

Our Cities Work

Indigenous-led Stewardship

Many Indigenous communities around the world already manage forests in ways that draw from their traditions and values. In many cases, these practices sequester more carbon and result in improved economic outcomes for communites compared to other forestry practices. 

For example, in Canada many communities are already taking different values into account, ranging from biodiversity to water resilience, and food security to local economies. Not only does this approach benefit local communities and provinces, but it benefits the whole of Canada and the wider world, contributing to the global fight against climate change. 

Watch a Video

Reducing Impacts of Pests & Pathogens

Every year, insects and diseases damage an average of 50+ million forest acres in the USA—and another 40 million acres in Canada—critically harming up to 15% of forest cover. While some of these forest insects and diseases are native to their ecosystems and their actions are part of the natural cycles of forested areas, others are non-native invasive species that damage and kill trees at uncontrolled and accelerated rates. 

Implementing improved forest management practices—such as ecological thinning, prescribed fire, and the use of biological controls for the reduction of forest pest populations—can increase the resilience of forests to pests and pathogens. Other actions taken at a global scale, such as strengthening the international trade requirements for the prevention of invasive species hiding in cargo and packaging, serve to prevent new damaging pests from entering new forests.

Slowing Forest Pests

Liana Cutting

Climate change and other human disturbances are causing woody vine infestations to intensify, especially in forests subject to selective logging. While lianas are fundamental components of most tropical and some temperate forest ecosystems, they decrease tree survival and growth rates, thereby decreasing timber yields in managed forests and reducing carbon storage wherever they are abundant. Dozens of previous experimental studies document that in response to liana removal, tree growth rates often double.

Research shows that strategic liana cutting, primarily in selectively logged forests, can substantially increase timber production and provide forest managers with access to voluntary carbon markets. By using science to guide the targeted reduction of lianas in selected areas, both biodiversity and carbon sequestration goals can be better met.

Read a Study

Person carries pine seedlings through a burned forest.

Planting trees is a tried-and-true way to fight climate change.

Reforestation—or the practice of restoring tree cover to an area that was once forested, either by planting trees or allowing trees to regrow—is a tried-and-true natural climate solution.

Research led by The Nature Conservancy has shown that  in the United States, planting trees  on frequently flooded lands, open urban spaces, degraded pastures and other formerly forested, under-utilized areas has the potential to capture up to 535 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

Quote : Susan Cook-Patton

Planting a tree, or simply letting seedlings grow in our own backyards, represents something we can do now to reignite our hope for a better future.

Reforestation Hub

Reforestation Hub is a web-based tool produced by TNC and American Forests.

But there is more to reforestation than planting millions of trees. We need the  right  trees and the  right  places. The Reforestation Hub, a free, online tool developed by TNC and American Forests, is a starting point for understanding this opportunity. Tools like this will help ensure reforestation is as effective as possible.

The Science of Restoring Forests

Tree planting is a promising natural solution to climate change and comes with enormous benefits beyond climate mitigation, such as biodiversity, habitat connectivity, improved community livelihoods, and improved freshwater and air quality. TNC and partners advance important science to help ensure efforts to restore forests are effective and equitable.

npj Urban Sustainability |

An ambitious, nationwide program of urban tree-planting could reduce health imbalances between neighborhoods and help communities adapt to a changing climate. See how trees can reduce heat-related health risks in cities.

Nature Communications |

Provides a global analysis of where restoration of tree cover is most effective at cooling the global climate system—considering not just the cooling from carbon storage but also the warming from decreased albedo. See how albedo impacts tree planting.

Restoration Ecology |

Planting forests with diverse species can help ensure their success. Learn why diversity matters in forests.

Letting forests regrow naturally has the potential to absorb up to 8.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year through 2050, while still maintaining native grasslands and current levels of food production. Learn how forest regrowth can contribute to climate goals.

TNC works with governments, corporations, Indigenous Peoples and thousands of partners around the world to protect, restore and sustainably manage forests.

Examples of our work in forests around the world

You play an important role in improving the health of forests, in your own neighborhood and across the globe. Here's how you can help.

A person with seedlings in his arms.

Plant a Billion Trees

Donate to help us plant and care for trees in critical forests around the world in Brazil, China, Colombia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mexico and the United States. Plant your tree now.

A measuring tape around a tree trunk.

Family Forest Carbon Program

Owners of small forests in the U.S. can leverage the carbon-storing power of their trees in the fight against climate change and earn revenue by enrolling in this program. Learn how to get your family forest involved.

Ash covers the bottom of a large, round metal fire pit. A large piece of firewood lays on the ground in front of the fire pit.

Don't Move Firewood

Moving firewood across long distances can potentially transport invasive species that cause damage to forests. You can make a difference by using local or heat-treated firewood whenever you need wood for your campsite, cabin or home heating. Learn how you can stop the spread of forest pests and pathogens.

Stay up to date with nature

Get news and updates about our conservation work every month.

Please provide a valid email address

You’ve already signed up with this email address. To review your email preferences, please visit nature.org/emailpreferences

We may have detected a typo. Please enter a valid email address (formatted as [email protected]). Did you mean to type ?

We are sorry, but there was a problem processing the reCAPTCHA response. Please contact us at [email protected] or try again later.

A few rows of tree saplings in nursery buckets wait on a grass field before being planted.

More Forest Stories

People sit in the shade of trees in a park facing the New York City skyline.

6 Ways Trees Benefit All of Us

From a city park to a vast forest, trees deliver for us when we help them thrive. Here are 6 ways.

Aerial photo of forests in the Emerald Edge of British Columbia.

Living Carbon: Stories of Nature’s Climate Solutions

In this series, we showcase innovative carbon projects in Africa, the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, Chile's Valdivian Forest, and the Emerald Edge of North America's Pacific Coast.

Photo of a person visible from knees down, with hands planting a pine seedling.

Reforesting the U.S.

The Reforestation Hub identifies up to 148 million acres of total opportunity for reforestation, which could capture up to 535 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

By Susan Cook-Patton

Conserving Earth

Earth’s natural resources include air, water, soil, minerals, plants, and animals. Conservation is the practice of caring for these resources so all living things can benefit from them now and in the future.

Biology, Ecology, Earth Science, Geography, Geology, Conservation

Loading ...

Earth ’s natural resources include air , water , soil , minerals , fuels , plants, and animals. Conservation is the practice of caring for these resources so all living things can benefit from them now and in the future. All the things we need to survive , such as food , water, air, and shelter , come from natural resources. Some of these resources, like small plants, can be replaced quickly after they are used. Others, like large trees, take a long time to replace. These are renewable resources . Other resources, such as fossil fuels , cannot be replaced at all. Once they are used up, they are gone f orever . These are nonrenewable resources . People often waste natural resources. Animals are overhunted . Forests are cleared, exposing land to wind and water damage. Fertile soil is exhausted and lost to erosion because of poor farming practices. Fuel supplies are depleted . Water and air are polluted . If resources are carelessly managed, many will be used up. If used wisely and efficiently , however, renewable resources will last much longer. Through conservation, people can reduce waste and manage natural resources wisely. The population of human beings has grown enormously in the past two centuries. Billions of people use up resources quickly as they eat food, build houses, produce goods, and burn fuel for transportation and electricity . The continuation of life as we know it depends on the careful use of natural resources. The need to conserve resources often conflicts with other needs. For some people, a wooded area may be a good place to put a farm. A timber company may want to harvest the area’s trees for construction materials. A business may want to build a factory or shopping mall on the land. All these needs are valid, but sometimes the plants and animals that live in the area are forgotten. The benefits of development need to be weighed against the harm to animals that may be forced to find new habitats , the depletion of resources we may want in the future (such as water or timber), or damage to resources we use today. Development and conservation can coexist in harmony. When we use the environment in ways that ensure we have resources for the future, it is called sustainable development . There are many different resources we need to conserve in order to live sustainably. Forests A forest is a large area covered with trees grouped so their foliage shades the ground. Every continent except Antarctica has forests, from the evergreen -filled boreal forests of the north to mangrove forests in tropical wetlands . Forests are home to more than two-thirds of all known land species . Tropical rainforests are especially rich in biodiversity . Forests provide habitats for animals and plants. They store carbon , helping reduce global warming . They protect soil by reducing runoff . They add nutrients to the soil through leaf litter . They provide people with lumber and firewood. Deforestation is the process of clearing away forests by cutting them down or burning them. People clear forests to use the wood, or to make way for farming or development. Each year, Earth loses about 14.6 million hectares (36 million acres) of forest to deforestation—an area about the size of the U.S. state of New York. Deforestation destroys wildlife habitats and increases soil erosion. It also releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere , contributing to global warming. Deforestation accounts for 15 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation also harms the people who rely on forests for their survival, hunting and gathering, harvesting forest products, or using the timber for firewood. About half of all the forests on Earth are in the tropics —an area that circles the globe near the Equator . Although tropical forests cover fewer than 6 percent of the world’s land area, they are home to about 80 percent of the world’s documented species. For example, more than 500 different species of trees live in the forests on the small U.S. island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea. Tropical forests give us many valuable products, including woods like mahogany and teak , rubber , fruits, nuts, and flowers. Many of the medicines we use today come from plants found only in tropical rainforests. These include quinine , a malaria drug; curare , an anesthetic used in surgery; and rosy periwinkle , which is used to treat certain types of cancer . Sustainable forestry practices are critical for ensuring we have these resources well into the future. One of these practices is leaving some trees to die and decay naturally in the forest. This “ deadwood ” builds up soil. Other sustainable forestry methods include using low-impact logging practices, harvesting with natural regeneration in mind, and avoiding certain logging techniques , such as removing all the high-value trees or all the largest trees from a forest. Trees can also be conserved if consumers recycle . People in China and Mexico, for example, reuse much of their wastepaper, including writing paper, wrapping paper, and cardboard. If half the world’s paper were recycled, much of the worldwide demand for new paper would be fulfilled, saving many of Earth’s trees. We can also replace some wood products with alternatives like bamboo , which is actually a type of grass. Soil Soil is vital to food production. We need high-quality soil to grow the crops that we eat and feed to livestock . Soil is also important to plants that grow in the wild. Many other types of conservation efforts, such as plant conservation and animal conservation, depend on soil conservation. Poor farming methods, such as repeatedly planting the same crop in the same place, called monoculture , deplete nutrients in the soil. Soil erosion by water and wind increases when farmers plow up and down hills. One soil conservation method is called contour strip cropping . Several crops, such as corn, wheat, and clover , are planted in alternating strips across a slope or across the path of the prevailing wind . Different crops, with different root systems and leaves, help slow erosion.

Harvesting all the trees from a large area, a practice called clearcutting , increases the chances of losing productive topsoil to wind and water erosion. Selective harvesting —the practice of removing individual trees or small groups of trees—leaves other trees standing to anchor the soil. Biodiversity Biodiversity is the variety of living things that populate Earth. The products and benefits we get from nature rely on biodiversity. We need a rich mixture of living things to provide foods, building materials, and medicines, as well as to maintain a clean and healthy landscape . When a species becomes extinct , it is lost to the world forever. Scientists estimate that the current rate of extinction is 1,000 times the natural rate. Through hunting, pollution , habitat destruction, and contribution to global warming, people are speeding up the loss of biodiversity at an alarming rate. It’s hard to know how many species are going extinct because the total number of species is unknown. Scientists discover thousands of new species every year. For example, after looking at just 19 trees in Panama, scientists found 1,200 different species of beetles—80 percent of them unknown to science at the time. Based on various estimates of the number of species on Earth, we could be losing anywhere from 200 to 100,000 species each year. We need to protect biodiversity to ensure we have plentiful and varied food sources. This is true even if we don’t eat a species threatened with extinction because something we do eat may depend on that species for survival. Some predators are useful for keeping the populations of other animals at manageable levels. The extinction of a major predator might mean there are more herbivores looking for food in people’s gardens and farms. Biodiversity is important for more than just food. For instance, we use between 50,000 to 70,000 plant species for medicines worldwide. The Great Barrier Reef , a coral reef off the coast of northeastern Australia, contributes about $6 billion to the nation’s economy through commercial fishing , tourism , and other recreational activities. If the coral reef dies, many of the fish, shellfish , marine mammals , and plants will die, too. Some governments have established parks and preserves to protect wildlife and their habitats. They are also working to abolish hunting and fishing practices that may cause the extinction of some species. Fossil Fuels Fossil fuels are fuels produced from the remains of ancient plants and animals. They include coal , petroleum (oil), and natural gas . People rely on fossil fuels to power vehicles like cars and airplanes, to produce electricity, and to cook and provide heat. In addition, many of the products we use today are made from petroleum. These include plastics , synthetic rubber, fabrics like nylon , medicines, cosmetics , waxes, cleaning products, medical devices, and even bubblegum.

Fossil fuels formed over millions of years. Once we use them up, we cannot replace them. Fossil fuels are a nonrenewable resource. We need to conserve fossil fuels so we don’t run out. However, there are other good reasons to limit our fossil fuel use. These fuels pollute the air when they are burned. Burning fossil fuels also releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Global warming is changing ecosystems . The oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic , which threatens sea life. Sea levels are rising, posing risks to coastal communities. Many areas are experiencing more droughts , while others suffer from flooding . Scientists are exploring alternatives to fossil fuels. They are trying to produce renewable biofuels to power cars and trucks. They are looking to produce electricity using the sun, wind, water, and geothermal energy — Earth’s natural heat. Everyone can help conserve fossil fuels by using them carefully. Turn off lights and other electronics when you are not using them. Purchase energy-efficient appliances and weatherproof your home. Walk, ride a bike, carpool , and use public transportation whenever possible. Minerals Earth’s supply of raw mineral resources is in danger. Many mineral deposits that have been located and mapped have been depleted. As the ores for minerals like aluminum and iron become harder to find and extract , their prices skyrocket . This makes tools and machinery more expensive to purchase and operate. Many mining methods, such as mountaintop removal mining (MTR) , devastate the environment. They destroy soil, plants, and animal habitats. Many mining methods also pollute water and air, as toxic chemicals leak into the surrounding ecosystem. Conservation efforts in areas like Chile and the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States often promote more sustainable mining methods. Less wasteful mining methods and the recycling of materials will help conserve mineral resources. In Japan, for example, car manufacturers recycle many raw materials used in making automobiles. In the United States, nearly one-third of the iron produced comes from recycled automobiles. Electronic devices present a big problem for conservation because technology changes so quickly. For example, consumers typically replace their cell phones every 18 months. Computers, televisions, and mp3 players are other products contributing to “ e-waste .” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that Americans generated more than three million tons of e-waste in 2007. Electronic products contain minerals as well as petroleum-based plastics. Many of them also contain hazardous materials that can leach out of landfills into the soil and water supply. Many governments are passing laws requiring manufacturers to recycle used electronics. Recycling not only keeps materials out of landfills, but it also reduces the energy used to produce new products. For instance, recycling aluminum saves 90 percent of the energy that would be required to mine new aluminum.

Water Water is a renewable resource. We will not run out of water the way we might run out of fossil fuels. The amount of water on Earth always remains the same. However, most of the planet’s water is unavailable for human use. While more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is freshwater . Out of that freshwater, almost 70 percent is permanently frozen in the ice caps covering Antarctica and Greenland. Only about 1 percent of the freshwater on Earth is available for people to use for drinking, bathing, and irrigating crops. People in many regions of the world suffer water shortages . These are caused by depletion of underground water sources known as aquifers , a lack of rainfall due to drought, or pollution of water supplies. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 2.6 billion people lack adequate water sanitation . More than five million people die each year from diseases caused by using polluted water for drinking, cooking, or washing. About one-third of Earth’s population lives in areas that are experiencing water stress . Most of these areas are in developing countries. Polluted water hurts the environment as well as people. For instance, agricultural runoff—the water that runs off of farmland—can contain fertilizers and pesticides . When this water gets into streams , rivers , and oceans, it can harm the organisms that live in or drink from those water sources. People can conserve and protect water supplies in many ways. Individuals can limit water use by fixing leaky faucets, taking shorter showers, planting drought-resistant plants, and buying low-water-use appliances. Governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations can help developing countries build sanitation facilities. Farmers can change some of their practices to reduce polluted runoff. This includes limiting overgrazing , avoiding over-irrigation, and using alternatives to chemical pesticides whenever possible. Conservation Groups Businesses, international organizations , and some governments are involved in conservation efforts. The United Nations (UN) encourages the creation of national parks around the world. The UN also established World Water Day, an event to raise awareness and promote water conservation. Governments enact laws defining how land should be used and which areas should be set aside as parks and wildlife preserves. Governments also enforce laws designed to protect the environment from pollution, such as requiring factories to install pollution-control devices. Finally, governments often provide incentives for conserving resources, using clean technologies, and recycling used goods. Many international organizations are dedicated to conservation. Members support causes such as saving rain forests, protecting threatened animals, and cleaning up the air. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an alliance of governments and private groups founded in 1948. The IUCN works to protect wildlife and habitats. In 1980, the group proposed a world conservation strategy . Many governments have used the IUCN model to develop their own conservation plans. In addition, the IUCN monitors the status of endangered wildlife, threatened national parks and preserves, and other environments around the world. Zoos and botanical gardens also work to protect wildlife. Many zoos raise and breed endangered animals to increase their populations. They conduct research and help educate the public about endangered species . For instance, the San Diego Zoo in the U.S. state of California runs a variety of research programs on topics ranging from disease control in amphibians to heart-healthy diets for gorillas. Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London, England, work to protect plant life around the world. Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank , for example, works with partners in 54 countries to protect biodiversity through seed collection. Kew researchers are also exploring how DNA technology can help restore damaged habitats. Individuals can do many things to help conserve resources. Turning off lights, repairing leaky faucets, and recycling paper, aluminum cans, glass, and plastic are just a few examples. Riding bikes, walking, carpooling, and using public transportation all help conserve fuel and reduce the amount of pollutants released into the environment. Individuals can plant trees to create homes for birds and squirrels. At grocery stores, people can bring their own reusable bags. And people can carry reusable water bottles and coffee mugs rather than using disposable containers. If each of us would conserve in small ways, the result would be a major conservation effort.

Tree Huggers The Chipko Movement, which is dedicated to saving trees, was started by villagers in Uttar Pradesh, India. Chipko means hold fast or embrace. The villagers flung their arms around trees to keep loggers from cutting them down. The villagers won, and Uttar Pradesh banned the felling of trees in the Himalayan foothills. The movement has since expanded to other parts of India.

Thirsty Food People require about 2 to 4 liters of drinking water each day. However, a day's worth of food requires 2,000 to 5,000 liters of water to produce. It takes more water to produce meat than to produce plant-based foods.

Tiger, Tiger Tigers are dangerous animals, but they have more to fear from us than we have to fear from them. Today there are only about 3,200 tigers living in the wild. Three tiger subspecies the Bali, Caspian, and Javan tigers have gone extinct in the past century. Many organizations are working hard to protect the remaining tigers from illegal hunting and habitat loss.

Articles & Profiles

Media credits.

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.


Educator reviewer, last updated.

October 19, 2023

User Permissions

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. They will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to them, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.

If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.

Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service .


Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources

Rainforest Foundation US

10 Things You Can Do to Protect the Rainforest

What can you do to protect the rainforest? It turns out quite a bit, even if you don’t live near one! What we consume, support with time and money, and lend our voices to have far-reaching impacts.

1. Eliminate Deforestation From Your Diet

Many of the foods we eat are grown on lands that have been deforested for grazing and agriculture. For example, beef , soybean , and palm oil are major drivers of deforestation in the Amazon basin. Fortunately, we can limit our contribution to these destructive industries and reduce demand for these products. Choosing sustainably-produced foods and products forces companies to change their practices. Consider reducing your meat intake , or else buy meat from local farms. You don’t have to stop eating meat all at once, and with more people today limiting meat consumption, more meatless choices are widely available! According to one study , annual greenhouse gas emissions would drop by one percent if everyone in the U.S. cut meat consumption by just a quarter.

2. Buy Responsibly Sourced Products

Choosing products that are responsibly sourced or made from recycled materials can go a long way to curbing tropical deforestation. For example, if you seek out jewelry brands that use eco-friendly practices —like recycling gold in their pieces—you’ll be helping push back against gold mining in the Amazon, a leading cause of deforestation and river pollution there . Similarly, logging for threatened woods like mahogany, rosewood, and ebony drives rainforest destruction. Look for alternative, non-tropical hardwood . Use paper products made from recycled pulp, or choose products that have been certified by organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council . On Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, look for sustainably and locally sourced cut flowers. You can also refrain from purchasing products from companies who score poorly in terms of eliminating deforestation from their supply chains. And tell businesses when they’re losing your support: If you feel a company’s business practices are environmentally destructive, send them a letter expressing your concern 

3. Choose Products That Give Back

It’s best to buy less. But when you do buy, choose companies that donate directly to environmental causes. Teadora —which offers a line of skin care products—works with Rainforest Foundation US to protect over 500 square miles of rainforest habitat for endangered species, and to plant more than one million trees in an area that is sacred to the Wapichan people. There are hundreds of companies, specializing in a variety of products, that give back to the environment. Certified B Corporations has narrowed down some of the best, ranging from food and beverages to paper products to cleaning products. Encourage your office or school to do the same, by making a simple switch to a product that gives back! And if you’re a business owner interested in partnering with us and making a difference, reach out to us !

4. Support Indigenous Communities

Indigenous peoples are the best defenders of their territories and science backs this up . Buying artisanal and fair trade products made by Indigenous peoples is an effective way to protect rainforests—but know who to buy from to be sure you are not inadvertently supporting companies that benefit from cultural appropriation . Look into these businesses’ labor practices, and their stance on Indigenous peoples’ rights. Your best bet is to buy directly from I ndigenous-owned companies or from services like Ten Thousand Villages , which sells ethically produced products sourced from Indigenous and low-income communities around the world. And the next time you travel, consider visiting communities through ecotourism. Ecotourism gives you an opportunity to learn about other cultures and, as long as the tour is owned and operated by Indigenous people , directly supports their livelihoods. Educate yourself about the historical erasure of Indigenous peoples to better support these communities, and to make informed choices that help empower Indigenous peoples.

5. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

To stem the climate crisis, action is needed at all levels of society to reduce carbon emissions and promote low-carbon development. While the task seems daunting, there are many things you as an individual can do to reduce your carbon footprint: Drive less, take public transportation, turn down your thermostat (even a couple of degrees makes a big difference!), avoid fast fashion , and avoid unnecessary air travel. Start by calculating your carbon footprint , and consider where you can minimize it. Whatever you cannot reduce, you can mitigate by supporting projects that keep forests standing. Rainforests are extremely efficient at storing carbon, and keeping forests intact is a crucial way to address the climate crisis .

6. Email Your Preferred News Outlet

News outlets help determine what issues are top-of-mind for their readers. By focusing on one topic or another, they drive public discourse and inspire the public to take action. You can encourage your preferred media outlet to cover rainforest news by emailing the editor.  Encourage your loved ones to join you in advocating for the protection of rainforests, Indigenous rights, and the climate crisis. When editors know that these issues are significant to their readers, they are more likely to cover them in their articles and reach a broader audience.

7. Inform Yourself and Others

The more people know what is happening to rainforests and the Indigenous communities who protect and rely on them, the more likely they are to support the cause. Learn more about environmental issues and Indigenous peoples’ stories , and tell friends and family why it’s important to you! By sharing on social media, you spread public awareness , and contribute pressure to hold governments and corporations responsible for deforestation—don’t underestimate the power of your voice! Nations and companies around the world are making commitments to protect forests and address the climate crisis. Let’s hold them to their promise. Consider sharing one of Rainforest Foundation US’s posts on social media, or rainforest news from other reputable media outlets. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook , follow us on Instagram , Twitter , and Youtube , and subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates.

8. Get Political

Elected officials largely determine the use of governmental funds, and they have a duty to represent your interests. Call, email, or attend your representatives’ public meetings to remind them that according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change , protecting rainforests and supporting Indigenous community land management are critical solutions to climate change. Ask them to support low-carbon development agendas that fulfill environmental and social safeguards, including respect for Indigenous peoples’ rights. Demand that they prioritize business policies that incentivize responsible sourcing, fair trade practices, and deforestation-free supply chains. This tool makes it easy to find and contact your U.S. federal representatives. And voting in local elections is one of the best ways to make a change!

9. Volunteer Your Time

The contribution of your personal time and energy can make a big difference. Think you can spare one to two hours per week, or even five to ten? Rainforest Foundation US welcomes volunteers with a range of skills and talents to support our mission. From translations, to editing, to video production, your commitment and time can help us advance our vision of a world where the planet’s majestic rainforests thrive in perpetuity. Find out more about our volunteer opportunities .

10. Host a Fundraiser

Launching your own campaign can spread awareness about rainforest protection and climate action in your community, while raising essential financial support for the cause. Interested, but don’t know where to start? We’ve created an easy way to do this, through inviting donations to Rainforest Foundation US for your birthday or other special occasion ( learn where to start here )! Consider organizing a benefit concert, art show, poetry slam, bake sale, or a 5k “run for the rainforest.” The ideas are endless for ways you can make a difference! Your friends and family will feel good that they can support you, and the cause that’s important to you.

Take Action Against Climate Change

Rainforest Foundation US is tackling the world’s biggest challenges: deforestation, the climate crisis, and human rights violations. Your donation moves us one step closer to creating a more sustainable and just future.

Hover over the amounts to see what your donation can achieve:


Will you listen?

Now, through April 30th, your impact will be doubled. A generous donor has committed to matching all donations up to $15,000.

Any amount makes a difference.

Donate Today

Sign up today.

Get updates on our recent work and victories, stories from our Indigenous partners, and learn how you can get involved.

essay on conservation of rainforest

IvyPanda . (2024) 'Ecology Issues: Rainforest Conservation'. 19 February.

IvyPanda . 2024. "Ecology Issues: Rainforest Conservation." February 19, 2024. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ecology-issues-rainforest-conservation/.

1. IvyPanda . "Ecology Issues: Rainforest Conservation." February 19, 2024. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ecology-issues-rainforest-conservation/.


IvyPanda . "Ecology Issues: Rainforest Conservation." February 19, 2024. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ecology-issues-rainforest-conservation/.

  • Amazonian Deforestation, Its Causes and Trends
  • Tropical Rain Forest: What Threats This Ecosystem?
  • Coal Mining and Rainforests: Marginal Concepts
  • Ecology Issues: Creatures of the Deep Sea
  • Hydrothermal Vents and Conservation
  • The Polar Bear in the Northern Hemisphere
  • "Keystone Predators" by Kevin Smith
  • Hydropower: in the Latin America
  • News & Events
  • Eastern and Southern Africa
  • Eastern Europe and Central Asia
  • Mediterranean
  • Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean
  • North America
  • South America
  • West and Central Africa
  • IUCN Academy
  • IUCN Contributions for Nature
  • IUCN Library
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species TM
  • IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas
  • IUCN World Heritage Outlook
  • IUCN Leaders Forum
  • Protected Planet
  • Union Portal (login required)
  • IUCN Engage (login required)
  • Commission portal (login required)

Data, analysis, convening and action.

  • Open Project Portal

The world’s largest and most diverse environmental network.


  • Expert Commissions
  • Secretariat and Director General
  • IUCN Council



IUCN tools, publications and other resources.

Get involved

First-of-its-kind study shows conservation interventions are critical to halting and reversing biodiversity loss

A new study in the scientific journal Science provides the strongest evidence to date that not only is environmental conservation successful, but that scaling conservation interventions up would be transformational for halting and reversing biodiversity loss, a crisis that leads to ecosystem collapse and a planet less able to support life. 

Predator management of two of Florida’s barrier islands resulted in an immediate and substantial improvement in nesting success by loggerhead turtles

Predator management of two of Florida’s barrier islands, Cayo Costa and North Captiva, resulted in an immediate and substantial improvement in nesting success by loggerhead turtles 

Protected areas, including Marine Protected Areas, are one of the key conservation actions included in the meta-analysis

Protected areas, including Marine Protected Areas, are one of the key conservation actions included in the meta-analysis

The findings of this first-ever comprehensive meta-analysis of the impact of conservation action, conceived and funded through the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) by the Global Environment Facility, are crucial as more than 44,000 species are documented as being at risk of extinction, with tremendous consequences for the ecosystems that stabilize the climate and that provide billions of people around the world with clean water, livelihoods, homes, and cultural preservation, among other ecosystem services. Governments recently adopted new global targets to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, making it even more critical to understand whether conservation interventions are working.

“If you look only at the trend of species declines, it would be easy to think that we’re failing to protect biodiversity, but you would not be looking at the full picture,” said Penny Langhammer, lead author of the study and executive vice president of Re:wild . “What we show with this paper is that conservation is, in fact, working to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. It is clear that conservation must be prioritised and receive significant additional resources and political will globally, while we simultaneously address the systemic drivers of biodiversity loss, such as overconsumption and production.”

Although many papers look at individual conservation projects and interventions and their impact compared to no action taken, these papers have never been pulled into a single analysis to see how and whether conservation action is working overall. The co-authors conducted the first-ever meta-analysis of 186 studies, including 665 trials, that looked at the impact of a wide range of conservation interventions globally, and over time, compared to what would have happened without those interventions. The studies covered over a century of conservation action and evaluated actions targeting different levels of biodiversity – species, ecosystems and genetic diversity.

“For more than 75 years, IUCN has advanced the importance of sharing conservation practice globally,” said Dr Grethel Aguilar, IUCN Director General . “This paper has analysed conservation outcomes at a level as rigorous as in applied disciplines like medicine and engineering – showing genuine impact and thus guiding the transformative change needed to safeguard nature at scale around the world. It shows that nature conservation truly works, from the species to the ecosystem levels across all continents. This analysis, led by Re:wild in collaboration with many IUCN Members, Commission experts, and staff, stands to usher in a new era in conservation practice.”

From the establishment and management of protected areas, to the eradication and control of invasive species, to the sustainable management of ecosystems, to habitat loss reduction and restoration, the research finds that conservation actions improve the state of biodiversity or slow its decline the majority of the time (66% of the time) compared to no action taken at all. And when conservation interventions work, the paper’s co-authors found that they are highly effective.

For example:

  • Predator management of two of Florida’s barrier islands, Cayo Costa and North Captiva, resulted in an immediate and substantial improvement in nesting success by loggerhead turtles and least terns, especially compared to other barrier islands where no predator management was applied.
  • In the Congo Basin, deforestation was 74% lower in logging concessions under a Forest Management Plan (FMP) compared to concessions without an FMP.
  • Protected areas and Indigenous lands were shown to significantly reduce both deforestation and fire in the Brazilian Amazon. Deforestation was 1.7 to 20 times higher along the outside of the reserve perimeters compared to inside, and fires occurred four to nine times more frequently.
  • Supportive breeding boosted the natural population of Chinook salmon in the Salmon River basin of central Idaho with minimal negative impacts on the wild population. On average, fish taken into the hatchery produced 4.7 times more adult offspring and 1.3 times more adult grand-offspring than naturally reproducing fish.

" This paper is not only extremely important in providing robust evidence of the impact of conservation actions. It is also extremely timely in informing crucial international policy processes, including the establishment of a 20-year vision for IUCN, the development of an IPBES assessment of biodiversity monitoring, and the delivery of the action targets toward the outcome goals of the new Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework," Thomas Brooks, IUCN chief scientist and co-author of the study,  said.

“Our study shows that when conservation actions work, they really work. In other words, they often lead to outcomes for biodiversity that are not just a little bit better than doing nothing at all, but many times greater,” added  J a ke Bicknell, co-author of the paper and a conservation scientist at the University of Kent . “For instance, putting measures in place to boost the population size of an endangered species has seen their populations increase substantially. This effect has been mirrored across a large proportion of the case studies we've looked at.”

Even in the minority of cases where conservation actions did not succeed in protecting the species or ecosystems that they aimed to protect compared to taking no action, conservationists benefited from the knowledge gained and were able to refine their methods. For example, in India the physical removal of invasive algae caused the spread of the establishment of the algae elsewhere because the process broke the algae into many pieces. Conservationists are now able to implement a different, more successful, strategy to remove the algae.

This might also explain why the co-authors found a correlation between more recent conservation interventions and positive outcomes for biodiversity--conservation may be getting more effective over time. Other reasons for this correlation include an increase in funding and more targeted interventions.

In some other cases where the conservation action did not succeed in protecting the target biodiversity compared to no action at all, other native biodiversity benefitted unintentionally instead. For example, seahorse abundance was lower in protected sites because marine protected areas increase the abundance of seahorse predators, including octopus.

“It would be too easy to lose any sense of optimism in the face of ongoing biodiversity declines,” said study co-author and Associate Professor Joseph Bull, from the University of Oxford’s Department of Biology . “However, our results clearly show that there is room for hope. Conservation interventions seemed to be an improvement on inaction most of the time; and when they were not, the losses were comparatively limited."

According to previous studies, a comprehensive global conservation program would require an investment of between US$178 billion and US$524 billion, focused primarily in countries with particularly high levels of biodiversity. To put this in perspective, in 2022, global fossil fuel handouts--which are destructive to nature--were US$1 trillion. This is twice the highest amount needed annually to protect and restore the planet. Today US$121 billion is invested annually into conservation worldwide, and previous studies have found the cost:benefit ratio of an effective global program for the conservation of the wild is at least 1:100.

“With less than six years remaining to achieve ambitious biodiversity targets by 2030, there is a great sense of urgency for effective conservation action. We can take proven methods to conserve nature, such as protected areas, and scale them up for real conservation impact. This research clearly demonstrates that conservation actions are successful.  We just need to take them to scale,”  Madhu Rao, chair IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, said.

“Anyone involved in the field of conservation will have witnessed the power of nature to regenerate and grow, given a chance to do so. From fishery exclusion zones, to ecological restoration on land, and animal, fungi and plant recovery efforts, there are numerous examples of halting and reversing biodiversity declines. Langhammer and colleagues synthesize knowledge on the impact of conservation action, and demonstrate that evidence-based conservation efforts indeed work in the majority of cases, not just in a few hand-picked examples. Much more money is spent on destroying nature than on protection and recovery. The authors show that tipping the balance in favour of nature is likely to help us deliver the world's ambitious biodiversity conservation targets,”  Jon Paul Rodriguez, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission , added.

The paper also argues that there must be more investment specifically in the effective management of protected areas, which remain the cornerstone for many conservation actions. Consistent with other studies, this study finds that protected areas work very well on the whole. And what other studies have shown is that when protected areas are not working, it is typically the result of a lack of effective management and adequate resourcing. Protected areas will be even more effective at reducing biodiversity loss if they are well-resourced and well-managed.

Moving forward, the study’s co-authors call for more and rigorous studies that look at the impact of conservation action versus inaction for a wider range of conservation interventions, such as those that look at the effectiveness of pollution control, climate change adaptation, and the sustainable use of species, and in more countries.

Additional quotes:

Piero Genovesi, ISPRA, co-author and chair, IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group “Species and ecosystems are facing a dramatic crisis, and the Biodiversity Plan of the United Nations is an urgent global call to action. This paper shows that eradication, control and management of invasive alien species have the largest impact in terms of conservation, and can help reverse the current trends of biodiversity loss, potentially saving hundreds of species from extinction. It is essential that governments and donors support the struggle against invasive alien species if we want to meet the agreed biodiversity targets by 2030.”

Stephen Woodley, co-author, ecologist and vice chair for science and biodiversity, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas “The world hope that conservation action can work to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.  This paper demonstrates that a range of conservation actions are highly effective. We just need to do more of them.”

Stuart Butchart, co-author and chief scientist, BirdLife International “Recognising that the loss and degradation of nature is having consequences for societies worldwide, governments recently adopted a suite of goals and targets for biodiversity conservation. This new analysis is the best evidence to date that conservation interventions make a difference, slowing the loss of species’ populations and habitats and enabling them to recover. It provides strong support for scaling up investments in nature in order to meet the commitments that countries have signed up to.”

Jamie Carr, co-author and researcher in climate change and biodiversity governance, Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity, University of York, UK “This work represents a huge effort on the part of many conservation professionals, all of whom are committed to reversing the loss of the world's biodiversity. It is encouraging to find that the past work of other conservationists has had a positive impact on nature, and I sincerely hope that our findings inspire those working now and in the future to ramp up their efforts."

Mike Hoffmann, co-author and head of wildlife recovery, Zoological Society of London “The major advance of this study is its sheer weight of evidence. We can point to specific examples, such as how captive breeding and reintroductions have facilitated the return of scimitar-horned oryx to the wild in Chad, but these can feel a bit exceptional. This study draws on more than 650 published cases to show that conservation wins are not rare. Conservation mostly works—unfortunately, it is also mostly significantly under-resourced.”

Gernot Segelbacher, co-author, professor and co-chair of Conservation Genetic Specialist Group, University Freiburg “Conservation matters! While we so often hear about species declining or going extinct, this study shows that we can make a difference.”

Related content

content feed image

Carleton was decades ahead of the times. Today we pursue his concepts repackaged in different…

content feed image

Against the backdrop of the ongoing fourth global coral bleaching event, the International Union…

content feed image

Paro, Bhutan - On the occasion of Earth Day 2024, the Royal Government of Bhutan is hosting the…


Sign up for an IUCN newsletter

The Amazon Rainforest: Essay Example

The amazon rainforest: essay introduction, the importance of the amazon rainforest: essay body paragraph, the facts about the amazon rainforest: essay body paragraph.

The Amazon rainforest, the largest rainforest on Earth, encompasses an area roughly the size of the United States (the 48 contiguous states), contains most of the plant and animal species found on the planet and contributes to weather patterns on a global scale.

This natural wonder is disappearing at an alarming rate due to deforestation and with it the animals, plants and eventually humans will disappear as well. This applies to all plants, animals and humans, not just those who inhabit this region of South America.

If the Amazon rainforest disappears, the entire human race will likely suffer the same fate resulting from the climatic changes that would result. This disturbing scenario has been well documented by environmental organizations, governmental studies, independent agency reviews and scientific journals spanning the past three decades from which this discussion will draw.

The Amazon rainforest represents close to half of the world’s rainforest regions. Estimates of its size vary but the general consensus is that the Amazon rainforest covers approximately seven million square kilometers. It represents 40 per cent of the South American continent encroaching on nine of its countries including Brazil, Suriname, Bolivia, Guyana, French Guyana, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela.

The greatest portion (62 per cent) lies within the boundaries of Brazil. This massive area, if a single country, would rank sixth largest in the world and is at least half the size of the entire European continent. (Amazon Life, 1998)

The seemingly boundless rainforest is shrinking at a rapid pace due to deforestation, however, which will soon result in grave consequences for both the region and the planet. “Land-use conversion is occurring at unprecedented scales and in a complex manner.

As in other humid tropical forest regions worldwide, negative consequences include losses of biological and cultural diversity, changes in the regional and potentially global climate, and an increase in social conflicts.” (Kommers, 2007)

Deforestation describes the removal of trees along with other types of vegetation. Since 1970, at least 20 per cent of Amazon rainforest has been lost from deforestation. This figure could be under-representative because it does not include trees that have been felled by selective logging techniques which are less noticeable than clear-cutting yet causes considerable harm.

Ecologists and scientists warn that another 20 per cent will be lost within the next 20 years. If this were to occur, the ecological system that sustains the forest and thus the planet’s weather patterns will start to disintegrate. At present, the Amazon rainforest generates half of the rainfall it consumes but the removal of an additional 20 per cent will impede this phenomenon to the point where much of the remaining forest will die from lack of moisture.

The rising temperature of the Earth, due to global warming, will exacerbate the situation and cause droughts which will lead to massive wildfires in the region. Instead of life-giving oxygen which is now furnished by the lush rainforests, the fires will expel great amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Given this very real and impending scenario, it is difficult to imagine how the human race along with all other life on earth could continue to live. Today, the greenhouse gases emitted from Brazil ranks near the world’s top polluter, the U.S., because of the slash-and-burn techniques used to clear the rainforest. “The danger signs are undeniable.” (Wallace, 2006)

Simply stated, if immediate action is not taken to reverse the present trend of deforestation, the immense Amazon rainforest will soon become a desert region not unlike the Sahara in Africa. Once this process is underway, the effects are irreversible. Some scientists believe the transformation from forest to desert could begin as early as this year.

Studies have determined that the Amazon rainforest, even in its current state, could not withstand three years of drought conditions without beginning the irrevocable path to becoming the Amazon desert.

This result, in and of itself, is tragic enough but the repercussions to the rest of the world would be as catastrophic. “Scientists say that this would spread drought into the northern hemisphere, including Britain, and could massively accelerate global warming with incalculable consequences, spinning out of control, a process that might end in the world becoming uninhabitable.” (Lean, Pearce, 2006)

The Amazon rainforest has been characterized as the ‘lungs of the world.’ It is astonishing that though people know that without trees, they are without oxygen, the trees keep falling at increasingly larger rates. Trees are a resource that can be replenished if cutting is managed properly yet this has been anything but the case in the Amazon.

The collective rainforests of the world act as a climatic sponge storing much of the world’s rainwater, of which the Amazon rainforest accounts for more than half. Trees in the rainforest recycle water drawn from the forest ground.

This, combined with the moisture that evaporates from the leaves is released into the atmosphere from whence it came. If not for this enormous amount of rainwater supplied by rainforests, rivers, lakes and land masses would essentially dry-up spawning droughts of epic proportions. Irrigation farming would be greatly curtailed. Disease, starvation and famine on a worldwide scale will be the direct result of deforestation.

Trees cleanse the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide and providing oxygen. Burning trees in the rainforest increases the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and at the same time reduces the amount of trees needed to absorb it. This contributes to global warming, a phenomenon which is already threatening the survival of the planet. (“Why” 2007)

There are further, often less publicized, repercussions of the Amazon rainforest’s deforestation. As trees are removed from the rainforest, soil erosion becomes an increasing concern. The nutrients needed for the tree’s roots to thrive are contained in a rainforest soil that is surprisingly lacking in nutrients.

The bulk of the nutrients are stored within the massive number of trees whose collective canopies protect the rainforest soil from the torrential downpours that would otherwise wash the soil away eventually allowing the rivers to flood low lying areas. The mass clearing of trees is the obvious threat to soil erosion but selective cutting is too.

The soil does need some nutrients in order to hold the tree’s roots firmly which it gains when trees die and decay on the ground. Fewer numbers of trees to feed the soil will lead to lower quality soil thus fewer trees still, a process that is essentially irreversible. The rain forest is also home to indigenous tribes, many who have become extinct in the past three decades.

Some have estimated that more than 100 entire tribes have been lost in recent years. After living harmoniously with nature for untold thousands of years, deforestation has deprived these indigenous peoples of the land which provided them housing, food and medications. Many were killed by the diseases brought in by the loggers or outright while attempting to protect their homes.

Medicines that originate from rainforest plants are not only important to the indigenous tribes but to the rest of the world population as well. More than a quarter of contemporary medications were derived from rainforest plants but only one percent of these plants have been tapped for their medicinal value.

Therefore, the potential for life-saving medicines yet discovered is tremendous. “Rainforests and the native populations who discovered these medicines could hold the cure of many more diseases if we would only nurture the forests and allow their people to show us.” (“Why” 2007)

Loggers do not wish for the rainforests to vanish, if for no other reason, because their livelihoods depends on it. They claim the world would have to stop using wood for the demand to diminish. The demand, not the supply is destroying the rainforest. In addition, if this unlikely scenario were to happen, commercial ranchers, tribesmen and miners would continue to clear trees at an enormous rate.

The ever-expansive soybean farms and wealth of precious metals in the region assure the continued deforestation with or without the presence of loggers. The various South American governments’ position is similar to the loggers in that they do not wish the rainforest to be destroyed because of the financial hardship it would cause.

This stance is eerily similar to the U.S. position on global warming, that to tackle the problem would not be economically feasible. Both seem to be quite content to sacrifice the future of the planet’s inhabitants for short-term political or economic gains. Environmentalists cite previously mentioned catastrophic global concerns and the tribes’ people lament the destruction of their beautiful and exotic homeland. (Taylor, 2004)

The proliferation of soy bean farming has negatively impacted the Amazon rainforest. The soy farmers hold much influence in South American countries’ governments. Beyond the massive clearing of trees to provide more farmland, the soy farmers continually persuade government officials to expand roadways which allow more of those with both legitimate and illegal commercial concerns access to increasing larger amounts of rainforest areas.

As in logging, the blame can largely be pointed at the demand-side. For example, multinational food chains Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds have been criticized for “underwriting deforestation in the Amazon through its purchase of soy-based animal derived from soybeans grown in the Amazon Basin.” (Deforestation rate, 2006)

Environment Secretary David Miliband proposed offering sections of the Amazon rainforest to be sold to private individuals, associations and businesses for strictly preservation purposes. This would compensate the governments and stop the deforestation, at least in those regions. The Brazilian government quickly dismissed the proposal citing the possible undermining of its autonomy.

Brazil is implementing a monitoring scheme to track illegal logging which it contends will slow the destruction of forests. However, these 150 new government employees will be greatly susceptible to corruptive tactics used by logging companies. (Kage, 2007)

Though selective logging is damaging to the rainforest, this technique is less damaging than clear-cutting. “If the forest is not too heavily disturbed during the logging, rates of re-growth and carbon accumulation can be quite rapid following a clearing.” (Wolfe, 2003) However, this can only be a temporary solution because partially cleared forests are no substitute for untouched forests, ecologically speaking.

Local governments of the Amazon region have been less than helpful in curbing the destruction of the rainforests. In fact, not only has few, if any, resolutions to the problem emanated from local authorities, many have actively thwarted attempts to save it.

Local authorities often act in conjunction with drug cartels (gangs) and ranchers who profit from the clearing of rainforests. Because of the impoverished conditions which rampant throughout the region, corruption also runs rampant. The governments of the region cannot be counted on to improve conditions now or in the future. The only viable method of preserving the rainforests is to appeal to the economic realities of the region.

More prosperous countries should, one, stop buying from companies that exploit the rainforest’s resources and two, employ Miliband’s privatization plan. Saving the Amazon rainforest is a good idea whether or not its destruction would also likely kill most everything on earth.

Even if all the scientists, environmentalists, government and scholarly studies were proved 100 percent wrong and nothing outside a few desolate tribes, some frogs, snakes and birds would notice if the rainforest was transformed into desert, it would still be worth saving at any cost due to its beauty, uniqueness and numbers of species and medicinal potential. Much as the global warming issue, whose destiny is tied to deforestation, even if climate change due to carbon monoxide emissions were proved a myth, reducing air pollution still makes sense.

“Amazon deforestation rate plunges 41 percent.” (October 26, 2006). Mongabay.com.

Kage, Ben. (January 19, 2007). “Brazilian government authorizes controlled logging in Amazon rain forest.” News Target.com.

Kommers, Nate. (2007). “Maps Show Diverse, Widespread Human Pressures on Brazilian Amazon Forests.” Press Release. World Resources Institute .

Lean, Geoffrey & Pearce, Fred. (July 23, 2006). “Amazon rainforest could become a desert.” The Independent.

Taylor, Elizabeth. (June 10, 2004). “Why are the Rainforests being destroyed? Are loggers the real problem?”

ThinkQuest Team. (1998). Amazon Life.

Wallace, Scott. (December 15, 2006). “Brazil’s Dilemma: Allow widespread – and profitable – destruction of the rain forest to continue, or intensify conservation efforts.” National Geographic.

“Why are the Rainforests Important?” (2007). R ain Forest Concern .

Wolfe, Jason. (January 21, 2003). “ The Road to Recovery .” Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Cite this paper

  • Chicago (N-B)
  • Chicago (A-D)

StudyCorgi. (2020, January 9). The Amazon Rainforest: Essay Example. https://studycorgi.com/the-amazon-rainforest-an-integral-component-of-the-environment/

"The Amazon Rainforest: Essay Example." StudyCorgi , 9 Jan. 2020, studycorgi.com/the-amazon-rainforest-an-integral-component-of-the-environment/.

StudyCorgi . (2020) 'The Amazon Rainforest: Essay Example'. 9 January.

1. StudyCorgi . "The Amazon Rainforest: Essay Example." January 9, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/the-amazon-rainforest-an-integral-component-of-the-environment/.


StudyCorgi . "The Amazon Rainforest: Essay Example." January 9, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/the-amazon-rainforest-an-integral-component-of-the-environment/.

StudyCorgi . 2020. "The Amazon Rainforest: Essay Example." January 9, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/the-amazon-rainforest-an-integral-component-of-the-environment/.

This paper, “The Amazon Rainforest: Essay Example”, was written and voluntary submitted to our free essay database by a straight-A student. Please ensure you properly reference the paper if you're using it to write your assignment.

Before publication, the StudyCorgi editorial team proofread and checked the paper to make sure it meets the highest standards in terms of grammar, punctuation, style, fact accuracy, copyright issues, and inclusive language. Last updated: December 5, 2023 .

If you are the author of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on StudyCorgi, request the removal . Please use the “ Donate your paper ” form to submit an essay.

  • Conservation Of Forest Essay

Conservation of Forest Essay

500+ words conservation of forest essay.

Forest conservation is the practice of planting and maintaining forested areas for the future. Forests play a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance and bringing the monsoon. They are essential for the survival of life on Earth as they provide oxygen, which is essential for all living organisms to survive. Apart from these, they provide a wide range of resources we use in our everyday lives. But, human activities are destroying forests to fulfil their greed. Thus, there is a need for forest conservation. Efforts should be made to stop this destruction from causing serious environmental problems. With the help of the conservation of forest essay, students will know various methods of forest conservation to reduce environmental damage. Students must practise CBSE Essays on different topics to gain command over the writing section. This will also help them to score high marks on English papers.

A forest is a complex ecosystem mainly composed of trees, shrubs and herbs. They are home to different plants, birds, insects, mammals, reptiles etc. A large variety of life forms exists in the forests. Even microorganisms and fungi are found in forests, which are important for decomposing dead organic matter and thus enriching the soil. Nearly 30 per cent of the total land area is covered with forest, which accounts for 4 billion hectares of forest on the earth’s surface.

Importance of Conserving the Forests

Forests provide various natural services and products. Many forest products are used in our day-to-today lives. Forests store carbon and act as carbon sinks. They produce oxygen, which is important for the existence of life on earth. That’s why forests are also called the earth’s lungs. They help in regulating the hydrological cycle, purify water, absorb toxic gases and noise, provide wildlife habitat, maintain planetary climate, reduce global warming, conserve soil, reduce pollution, and mitigate natural hazards such as landslides, floods and so on. Thus, forests play an important role in maintaining ecological balance and also contribute to the economy.

Forest Conservation Initiatives

The loss of our forest can be stopped by putting efforts from the citizens, forest conservation organisations, and governments. Various laws, like the Forest Conservation Act, have been prepared and are being implemented by the government of India. The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 was enacted to control deforestation. In 1988, this act was amended to facilitate stricter conservation measures. The government also implements many schemes for the conservation of forests and their sustainable management. The Joint Forest Management (JFM) programme is a good example of involving local communities in managing and restoring degraded forests.

People’s participation in the conservation of the forest is of vital importance. The perfect example of people’s contribution towards forest conservation is the Chipko movement in the Himalayas. The movement was successful due to the efforts of the local residents to save the forest of Tehri Garhwal. The women cling or hug the trees tightly and dare men to cut them. Thus, the movement gained a lot of popularity and became famous around the world. The cutting down of trees in forest areas must be stopped at all costs. At all functions, festivals and celebrations, we must build a habit of planting trees.

Students must have found the Conservation of Forest Essay useful for improving their essay writing skills. Visit BYJU’S website to get the latest updates and study material on CBSE/ICSE/State Board/Competitive Exams.

Leave a Comment Cancel reply

Your Mobile number and Email id will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Request OTP on Voice Call

Post My Comment

essay on conservation of rainforest

  • Share Share

Register with BYJU'S & Download Free PDFs

Register with byju's & watch live videos.



U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Here's how you know

The .gov means it’s official. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.

The site is secure. A lock ( ) or https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Keyboard Navigation

  • Agriculture and Food Security
  • Anti-Corruption
  • Conflict Prevention and Stabilization
  • Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance
  • Economic Growth and Trade
  • Environment, Energy, and Infrastructure
  • Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment
  • Global Health
  • Humanitarian Assistance
  • Innovation, Technology, and Research
  • Water and Sanitation
  • Burkina Faso
  • Central Africa Regional
  • Central African Republic
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • East Africa Regional
  • Power Africa
  • Republic of the Congo
  • Sahel Regional
  • Sierra Leone
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Southern Africa Regional
  • West Africa Regional
  • Afghanistan
  • Central Asia Regional
  • Indo-Pacific
  • Kyrgyz Republic
  • Pacific Islands
  • Philippines
  • Regional Development Mission for Asia
  • Timor-Leste
  • Turkmenistan
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • North Macedonia
  • Central America and Mexico Regional Program
  • Dominican Republic
  • Eastern and Southern Caribbean
  • El Salvador
  • Middle East Regional Platform
  • West Bank and Gaza
  • Dollars to Results
  • Data Resources
  • Strategy & Planning
  • Budget & Spending
  • Performance and Financial Reporting
  • FY 2023 Agency Financial Report
  • Records and Reports
  • Budget Justification
  • Our Commitment to Transparency
  • Policy and Strategy
  • How to Work with USAID
  • Find a Funding Opportunity
  • Organizations That Work With USAID
  • Resources for Partners
  • Get involved
  • Business Forecast
  • Safeguarding and Compliance
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility
  • Mission, Vision and Values
  • News & Information
  • Operational Policy (ADS)
  • Organization
  • Stay Connected
  • USAID History
  • Video Library
  • Coordinators
  • Nondiscrimination Notice
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements
  • Disabilities Employment Program
  • Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey
  • Reasonable Accommodations
  • Urgent Hiring Needs
  • Vacancy Announcements
  • Search Search Search

USAID Supports Vietnamese Conservation Officials on Learning Tour of India

From April 14 - 22, USAID/Vietnam supported a study tour to India for 25 Vietnamese senior officials and national park managers to learn from USAID/India’s support for biodiversity conservation. The delegation visited the Kanha Tiger Reserve and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve to learn about their respective, successful tiger relocation programs. They met with Indian counterparts to discuss fostering partnerships between conservation managers, communities, and researchers. The delegation also spoke with conservation-friendly enterprises to learn how eco-tourism can provide sustainable finance for conservation work.

The study tour provided the delegation with concrete examples of successful conservation work that can be replicated in Vietnam’s national protected areas, including the investments needed to fund biodiversity restoration and rewilding.

Related Updates

Cti-cff and usaid launch partnership to protect marine biodiversity in the coral triangle.

  • May 3, 2024

USAID Supports New Amazon Rainforest Investments to Advance Sustainable Development

  • May 2, 2024

USAID Strengthens Legislation on Wildlife and Forestry Conservation

  • April 19, 2024

Biodiversity Conservation project


  1. Rainforest essay in 10 lines||10 lines on Rainforest||English

    essay on conservation of rainforest

  2. Rainforest Essay.doc

    essay on conservation of rainforest

  3. Amazon Rainforest: A Vital Ecosystem in Peril Free Essay Example

    essay on conservation of rainforest

  4. World Nature Conservation Day Essay in English for School Students

    essay on conservation of rainforest

  5. What can you do in the Amazon rainforest: [Essay Example], 1110 words

    essay on conservation of rainforest

  6. My Rainforest Essay

    essay on conservation of rainforest


  1. Amazon Rainforest essay|10 Sentences

  2. Essay on conservation of Nature// Natural resources and its types// jsj jesy education

  3. Essay on Amazon River || @InternationalWritings || Short Essay on Amazon River in English

  4. 🌳#forestconservation

  5. Write a short essay on Conservation of Environment

  6. Amazon Rainforest: The Oxygen Factory #shorts


  1. Why are rainforests so important?

    Rainforests are important because they provide a wide range of ecosystem services, including the provision of basic human needs, such as timber and food; cultural services with recreational, aesthetic, or spiritual benefits; and vital ecological services, such as nutrient cycling, oxygen production, wildlife habitat, erosion and flood control, water filtration, and carbon sequestration.

  2. Rainforest

    A rainforest is an area of tall, mostly evergreen trees and a high amount of rainfall. Rainforests are Earth's oldest living ecosystems, with some surviving in their present form for at least 70 million years. They are incredibly diverse and complex, home to more than half of the world's plant and animal species—even though they cover ...

  3. 4 vital steps to protect the world's remaining rainforests

    The loss of biodiversity will decimate economies by affecting pollination and food sources, increasing irregular rainfall and exacerbating climate catastrophes. Conservation of rainforests. 1) Reforestation. The most common action taken in restoring the lost primary forests is by replanting them.

  4. 7 Reasons Why We Should Be Protecting Our Rainforests

    The rainforest helps to regulate the worlds water cycle. Trees play an important part in the water cycle, grounding the water in their roots and releasing it into the atmosphere. In the Amazon, more than half the water in the ecosystem is held within the plants. Without the plants, the climate may become dryer and growing food could become ...

  5. Save the Rainforest: How conservationism and environmentalism ...

    It was a review of a seminal book on rainforest conservation, Catherine Caulfield's In the Rainforest, and it is a truly bonkers document. An actual quote: "Despite her bias toward efforts to ...

  6. Rain Forest Threats Information and Facts

    Rain Forest Threats. Learn about what threatens the wet, layered forest and what you can do to help. More than half of Earth's rain forests have already been lost due to the human demand for ...

  7. Tropical rainforests

    Tropical forests cover just 6% of the planet's land surface but are some of the richest, most biodiverse places on Earth. They are home to ancient, towering trees and a huge variety of plants, birds, insects and fascinating mammals. A staggering 80% of the world's documented species can be found in tropical rainforests, which makes them a ...

  8. Here's what happens if the world loses its rainforests

    Ahead of World Rainforest Day on 22 June, we spoke with Gabriel Labbate, the head of the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP's) Climate Mitigation Unit. He explained why safeguarding rainforests is so urgent, the scarcely conceivable consequences of failure, and how everyone can play a role in ensuring their survival.

  9. Our Mission to Protect the World's Forests

    How the Rainforest Alliance works to protect forests. The fight to protect the world's forests is at the very heart of the Rainforest Alliance's mission. Together with farmers and forest communities, scientists, governments, companies, and citizens, we are working diligently in more than 60 countries to cultivate sustainable, rural ...

  10. Why deforestation matters—and what we can do to stop it

    The organization Amazon Conservation reports that destruction rose by 21 percent in 2020, a loss the size of Israel. ... The South American rainforest, for example, ...

  11. Why are rainforests important?

    Rainforests also help to maintain the world's water cycle by adding water to the atmosphere through the process of transpiration which creates clouds. Water generated in rainforests travel around the world; scientists think that moisture generated in the forests of Africa ends up falling as rain in the Americas!

  12. African rainforests: past, present and future

    A number of papers in this theme issue explore the theme of climate change, a looming but poorly quantified and understood threat to the African rainforest realm. ... There is also a need to better apply the research to practical management and conservation of the rainforest biome. Of critical importance is finding platforms and processes that ...

  13. Protecting Wildlife by Conserving Habitat

    In recognition of this grim reality, the Rainforest Alliance has integrated the protection of wildlife into the very DNA of our conservation strategy, including the certification systems we helped develop: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard and the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standard. Both standards include detailed criteria designed to protect wildlife habitat and ...

  14. How to save the Rainforest

    How to save the Rainforest. Today tropical rainforests are disappearing from the face of the globe. Despite growing international concern, rainforests continue to be destroyed at a pace exceeding 80,000 acres (32,000 hectares) per day. Tropical cover now stands at 2 billion hectares (7.7 million sq miles), an area about the size of the United States plus China and representing around 13 ...

  15. Tropical Rain Forest

    The tropical rain forest is among the types of ecosystems exhibited in ecology. Other types of ecosystems include: "aquatic, arid, deciduous forests, grasslands and tundra ecosystems" (COTF 1). The tropical rain forest is a hot and moist ecosystem that is found along the equator. This ecosystem is found in parts of Africa, South America and ...

  16. TNC Forest Conservation, Restoration & Management Work Worldwide

    TNC supports forest protection, restoration, and sustainable forest management practices, based on sound science and traditional knowledge. Many of the world's natural forests provide wood and fiber products—like lumber, furniture and paper—critical to people's lives and livelihoods. While some logging practices harm forests and the ...

  17. Biodiversity Conservation: Tropical Rainforest Essay

    Biodiversity Conservation: Tropical Rainforest Essay. Tropical Rainforest South is the forest that should be conserved. One of the reasons why it should be conserved is because the size of the forest is larger compared to the other forests. Therefore, the forest will be of great help in protecting a lot of species (Saterson, 2014).

  18. Conserving Earth

    Earth 's natural resources include air, water, soil, minerals, fuels, plants, and animals. Conservation is the practice of caring for these resources so all living things can benefit from them now and in the future. All the things we need to survive, such as food, water, air, and shelter, come from natural resources.Some of these resources, like small plants, can be replaced quickly after ...

  19. 10 Things You Can Do to Protect the Rainforest

    Encourage your loved ones to join you in advocating for the protection of rainforests, Indigenous rights, and the climate crisis. When editors know that these issues are significant to their readers, they are more likely to cover them in their articles and reach a broader audience. 7. Inform Yourself and Others.

  20. Ecology Issues: Rainforest Conservation Research Paper

    Rainwater, which is the main source of surface water, is an essential component of an environmental factor that human beings need for survival. Besides being the main source of surface water, rain is a component of the hydrological cycle that develops stability in the ecosystem. These two aspects of rain make it an inevitable environmental factor.

  21. First-of-its-kind study shows conservation interventions are ...

    Although many papers look at individual conservation projects and interventions and their impact compared to no action taken, these papers have never been pulled into a single analysis to see how and whether conservation action is working overall. The co-authors conducted the first-ever meta-analysis of 186 studies, including 665 trials, that ...

  22. The Amazon Rainforest: Essay Example

    The Amazon rainforest, the largest rainforest on Earth, encompasses an area roughly the size of the United States (the 48 contiguous states), contains most of the plant and animal species found on the planet and contributes to weather patterns on a global scale. This natural wonder is disappearing at an alarming rate due to deforestation and ...

  23. Conservation of Forest Essay for Students in English

    500+ Words Conservation of Forest Essay. Forest conservation is the practice of planting and maintaining forested areas for the future. Forests play a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance and bringing the monsoon. They are essential for the survival of life on Earth as they provide oxygen, which is essential for all living organisms ...

  24. Seven decades of Atlantic rainforest conversion to slash-and-burn

    Slash-and-burn agriculture is a millennia-old no-till farming technique that is still widely practiced in developing tropical countries. This practice is currently employed in Brazil by subsistence family farms, Indigenous groups, and maroons, in a primitive manner, using only cutting, fire, and fallow as soil preparation techniques for food production. In recent years, this practice has been ...

  25. USAID Supports Vietnamese Conservation Officials on Learning Tour of

    The delegation also spoke with conservation-friendly enterprises to learn how eco-tourism can provide sustainable finance for conservation work. The study tour provided the delegation with concrete examples of successful conservation work that can be replicated in Vietnam's national protected areas, including the investments needed to fund ...

  26. Ancient tea gardens play important role on in situ conservation of

    Southwest Yunnan of China is the homeland of famous Pu'er tea and preserved the largest area of ancient tea gardens in the world. The ancient tea gardens keeping a large number of shade trees have prevailed for hundreds of years persist and formed typical agroforestry systems. To assess the potential of the ancient tea gardens for in situ orchid conservation, in this study, three typical ...

  27. Forestry company under fire for illegal timber harvest in DR Congo

    Environmental science and conservation news Some $5 million worth of timber exported from the Democratic Republic of Congo to China in the second half of 2022 was felled illegally, according to a ...