The Effects of Rainforest Depletion on Animals

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Rain forests are home to millions of species of plants and animals. This is despite the fact that they cover less than 5 percent of the earth's surface, according to the National Geographic Society. Some animal species in the rain forest have not yet been studied by humans. As rain forest animal species continue to be lost, largely as a result of deforestation, there is an increased risk that more species will become extinct before humans have had an opportunity to learn from them.

Loss of Habitat

  • Rain forests are cut down by humans for reasons including urbanization, agriculture and to obtain wood for the timber industry. Deforestation can lead to animals becoming endangered or extinct due to the loss of habitat. When areas of rain forests are completely destroyed, the animals that once lived there find that there is a scarcity of the shelter and food that they rely upon. When a portion of a rain forest has been destroyed, the small pockets of rain forest that have been left behind and the new edges of rain forest are exposed to dangers such as heat and wind. These areas were sheltered before the surrounding rain forest was destroyed. The result of this is that the newly exposed trees and other plants can die, causing further loss of habitat and food for the animals that remain.

Species Specialization

  • The loss of just one small portion of a rain forest can lead to species becoming extinct, notes Michigan State University's Tropical Rain forest Information Center. This is because many animals in the rain forest have very specialized requirements when it comes to their habitat. As a result, these specialized animals can only be found in very limited areas of a rain forest. If this area is cut down, the species can be lost completely.

Climate Change

  • Rain forests play an important role in managing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Michigan State University's Tropical Rain forest Information Center suggests that nearly 200 tons of carbon dioxide can be stored by a single acre of rain forest. Because of this, the rain forest helps to limit the effects of climate change that this important greenhouse gas can cause. Rain forest depletion causes more carbon dioxide to enter the atmosphere, which results in climate change. If the greenhouse effect continues to increase, the resulting changes in climate may lead to changes in animal habitats around the world. This would increase the risk of animal species becoming extinct around the globe.

Wider Consequences

  • According to NASA's Earth Observatory website, the loss of animal species in the rain forests may have wider consequences for both humans and animals. By studying the genetics of the many diverse species in the rain forest, it is possible for scientists to find clues to help them discover cures for serious illnesses in humans and other animals. If species continue to be lost as a result of rain forest depletion before scientists have been able to learn about them, we may miss these vital clues. Biodiversity, such as that which exists in rain forests, is also important for the future of life on Earth. A large number of different types of animals can help to ensure that some life could survive major environmental disasters, such as that which destroyed the dinosaurs, for example, in the future.

References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images
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