The Future of Tropical Rain Forests

Rain forests are rapidly disappearing. Commercial logging activities and the expansion of agriculture have damaged or destroyed extensive areas of forest in the tropics. Huge mining projects, the construction of hydroelectric dams, and government resettlement programs have also taken their toll on the rain forest. According to the best estimates, the world lost 1.1 billion acres (450 million hectares) of rain forest between 1960 and 1990. This is equal to an area about half the size of the United States. Over the past thirty years, Asia lost almost one-third of its rain forest, and Africa and Latin America each lost about 20 percent. Deforestation is particularly severe in regions like the Atlantic coastal forest of Brazil, Madagascar, and Sumatra, where only very small tracts of forest are left. Less than half of the original extent of the world's rain forest remains. It is estimated that we are losing one plant species and a minimum of 20 animal species every day (7,500 species per year) as a result of tropical deforestation. If this rate of biodiversity loss continues, one-quarter of the world's species may be extinct before the middle of the twenty-first century.

—Charles M. Peters

See also: Agriculture and Biodiversity Loss: Genetic Engineering and the Second Agricultural Revolution; Biogeography; Carbon Cycle; Coevolution; Ecological Niches; Global Climate Change; Pollination

Bibliography

Denslow, Julie S., and Christine Padoch, eds. 1988. People of the Tropical Rain Forest. Berkeley: Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service; Longman, Kenneth A., and John Jenik. 1987. Tropical Forest and Its Environment, 2d ed. Essex: Longman; Richards, Paul W. 1996. The Tropical Rain Forest: An Ecological Study, 2d ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Terborgh, John. 1992. Diversity and the Tropical Rain Forest. New York: W. H. Freeman; Whitmore, Tim C. 1998. An Introduction to Tropical Rain Forests, 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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