Just a few thousand years ago, tropical rainforests covered as much as 12% of the Earth’s land surface, or about 7 million mi2 (18 million km2), but today less than 7% of Earth’s land is covered with these forests (about 4 million mi2 or 10 milliom km 2). Since 1960, more than half of the world’s tropical rainforests have disappeared and the rate of destruction is still accelerating.
Tropical rainforests are disappearing rapidly as humans clear the natural landscape to make room for farms and pastures, to harvest timber for construction and fuel, and to build roads and urban areas.1 Commercial logging is one of the greatest causes of rainforest deforestation. Once the trees are removed, much of the rainforest property is converted into grazing land for livestock. Although deforestation meets some human needs, it can have devastating impacts, including extinction of plants and animals. Given that tropical rainforests contain 50% of the Earth’s species, the loss of tropical rainforest biodiversity is a real and immediate consequence.
More than 1 acre of rainforest is lost every second, more than 80,000 acres are lost every day, and 31 million acres (48,000 mi2) are lost every year. Massive deforestation brings with it dire consequences such as: pollution, soil erosion, release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and loss of biodiversity.
Watch the video below to learn more about deforestation in South America.
1Lindsey, Rebecca. “Tropical Deforestation” Earth Observatory. NASA, 30 Mar. 2007. <http://www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Deforestation/>.