Rainforest Info Sheet - 1999

Unique - special conditions produce Rainforests
Tropical rainforests are defined primarily by two factors: location (in the tropics) and amount of rainfall they receive. Rainforests receive from 4 to 8 meters of rain a year; 1 meter of rain a year falls on the state of New York. Rainforests cover 2% of the Earth's surface, or 6% of its land mass.
Rainforests are located around the equator, and the temperatures stay near 75-80 degrees F all year-round. A tropical rainforest consists of four vertical layers: the emergent trees, canopy, the understory, and the forest floor.
Diverse - many animals and plants live in the Rainforest
Rainforests are home to about half of the 5 to 10 million plant and animal species on the globe. Rainforests also support 90,000 of the 250,000 identified plant species. Scientists estimate that there are at least 30,000 as yet undiscovered plants, most of which are rainforest species.
A typical four square mile patch of rainforest contains as many as 1500 species of flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 125 mammal species, 400 species of birds, 100 of reptiles, 60 of amphibians, and 150 different species of butterflies. The tropics are the earth's richest natural reserves. One fifth of all the birds and plants on Earth evolved in the Amazon Basin.
Fragile - the Rainforests are being damaged
Four-fifths of the nutrients in the rainforests are in the vegetation. The soils are nutrient-poor and become eroded and unproductive within a few years after being cleared. Rainforests are being destroyed at a staggering rate. According to the National Academy of Science, at least 50 million acres a year are lost, an area the size of England, Wales and Scotland combined.
Value of land based on usage:
$ Value/
Use of Land
6820 intact forest sustainably harvested for fruits, latex, and timber
1000 clear-cut for commercial timber (not sustainably harvested)
148 used as cattle pasture
Deforestation to date for some countries:
Country Original % left % loss/year
Brazil 90,000 50 2.1
Columbia 700,000 26 2.3
Cen. America 500,000 11 3.7
Equador 132,000 33 4

Edited from original material of the RainForest Action Network, http://www.ran.org/.