Rainforests cover less than 6% of the earth, but provide a home for more than half of the Earth's plant and animal species. More than 80% of the Earth's land vegetation can be found in rainforests. What does that mean for us?
Rainforests are one of the more important environmental resources we have. They are the home for tropical fruits, nuts, hundreds of animal and plants, medicines we know about, and probably many medicines we haven't found yet. They are the home for unique groups of people who use the resources of the rainforests in very special ways. For example, in the Philippine rainforest a tribe called the Hanunoo have developed 430 rainforest crops. Another tribe, the Lua in Northern Thailand, use 21 different plants for medicine.
The rainforests are like a frontier. We do not know what we will find when we explore the rainforests. However, we may not get the chance. Less than 50 years ago, rainforests covered 14% of the Earth's land--more than twice the land they cover now! Do you know how big a football field is? Well, every second of every minute an area as large as a football field is stripped of rainforest! The trees are cut down to provide exotic (exotic means unusual and beautiful) wood for furniture. Land is cleared so that cattle can graze. Trees are destroyed so that things like sweet potatoes can be grown. Hundreds of special animals and plants disappear every year because the rainforests are cut down.