Facts about Rainforests
Do you know how many tropical rainforest plants have been identified as having anti-cancer properties? Or how many continents around the world contain rainforests? And just how quickly are the world's rainforests disappearing?
Facts about the Global Coverage of Rainforests
- Covering less than 2 percent of the Earth's total surface area, the world's rainforests are home to 50 percent of the Earth's plants and animals.
- Rainforests can be found all over the world from as far north as Alaska and Canada to Latin America, Asia and Africa.
- Rainforests are found on every continent across the Earth, except Antarctica.
- There are two major types of rainforest: temperate rainforests and tropical rainforests.
- The largest temperate rainforests are found on North America's Pacific Coast and stretch from Northern California up into Canada.
- Temperate rainforests used to exist on almost every continent in the world, but today only 50 percent — 75 million acres — of these forests remain worldwide.
Facts about the Rainforest as Part of our Global Environment and Well-being
- Rainforests act as the world's thermostat by regulating temperatures and weather patterns.
- One-fifth of the world's fresh water is found in the Amazon Basin.
- Rainforests are critical in maintaining the Earth's limited supply of drinking and fresh water.
Facts about the Abundant Life and Important Resources that Rainforests Share with Us
- A typical four-square-mile patch of rainforest contains as many as 1,500 flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 400 species of birds and 150 species of butterflies.
- Rainforests provide many important products for people: timber, coffee, cocoa and many medicinal products, including those used in the treatment of cancer.
- Seventy percent of the plants identified by the U.S. National Cancer Institute as useful in the treatment of cancer are found only in rainforests.
- More than 2,000 tropical forest plants have been identified by scientists as having anti-cancer properties.
- Less than one percent of the tropical rainforest species have been analyzed for their medicinal value.
Facts about the Threats to Rainforests, Indigenous People and Species
- Rainforests are threatened by unsustainable agricultural, ranching, mining and logging practices.
- Before 1500 A.D., there were approximately 6 million indigenous people living in the Brazilian Amazon. But as the forests disappeared, so too did the people. In the early 1900s, there were less than 250,000 indigenous people living in the Amazon.
- Originally, 6 million square miles of tropical rainforest existed worldwide. But as a result of deforestation, only 2.6 million square miles remain.
- At the current rate of tropical forest loss, 5–10 percent of tropical rainforest species will be lost per decade.
- Nearly 90 percent of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide depend on forests for their livelihoods.
- Fifty-seven percent of the world's forests, including most tropical forests, are located in developing countries.
- Every second, a slice of rainforest the size of a football field is mowed down. That's 86,400 football fields of rainforest per day, or over 31 million football fields of rainforest each year.
- More than 56,000 square miles of natural forest are lost each year.