In GCSE Geography students will look at different climates and environments. One environment they will study is that of the rainforests which act as the lungs of the planet, recycling carbon dioxide and providing us with oxygen.
The name rainforest comes from the high amount of rainfall that occurs in them each year. By definition no less than 168cm (some definitions refer to 250cm) of rain falls on a rainforest annually, although in rare cases it can exceed 1,000cm. Rainforests exist in temperate zones, but the tropical rainforests are much more extensive and incredibly important. The rainfall and the warm climate lead to hot humid conditions that the plants and animals living there have adapted to. Mean temperatures can exceed 18 degrees Celsius all months of the year and many of the creatures exist nowhere else on the planet. Many useful materials come from rainforests, including chemicals from plants and animals that provide the basis for modern medicines.
Rainforests act as the lungs of planet Earth. They are responsible for 28% of the world’s oxygen turnover. They convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and so help to slow global warming. Deforestation and the burning of the trees is both reducing the amount of oxygen turnover and increasing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
Over half the world's species are contained within rainforests and deforestation is responsible for the extinction of up to 50,000 species of plant and animal each year. 90% of the rainforest in western Africa has already been cut down, in 10 years time the rain forests of Indonesia will be gone, and Papa New Guinea's rainforests will have gone within 16 years. By 2030 it’s thought that 60% of the Amazon rainforest will have been damaged or destroyed. Palm oil is a leading cause for deforestation, especially in Indonesia, whilst in Australia much of the destruction is due to urban expansion.
Brazilian rainforests are so large that in 2007 there were still 67 tribes that had had no contact with outside populations. They’re not the only rainforests with isolated tribes - New Guinea has 44 tribes that are still untouched by the modern world. Deforestation is threatening these tribes just as much as it threatens animal species.
Play this quiz and find out how much you know about the climate, environment and ecosystems found inside the rainforests - the lungs of our planet.