The Rain Forest and Climate Change

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We often hear how the precious rain forest is being lost, – but do we know why they’re so important to the global community?  From wherever you are sitting as you read this, it’s difficult to grasp how the rain forest directly impacts each of us.

Biomass Loss

First, it’s important to understand just how large the tropical rain forests are and where they are located.  They primarily stretch across the equator between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn in the following locations:  Hawaii, Australia, Central America, South America, Cameroon, Congo, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Caribbean and Burma. The Amazon rain forest alone covers almost the entirety of the Amazon River Basin in South America and takes up 2.7 million square miles. This means that if the rain forest was a country of its own it would be the 9th largest in the world. This growth has taken place over millions of years – between 60 and 100 million to be exact. However, it’s taken only a fraction of that time to eradicate a swath as large as South Africa. 

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Carbon Emissions

A critical aspect of this eradication is the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere when forests are destroyed.  This is especially critical in the world’s peat forests.  Most of the world’s peat forests are located in Malaysia and an archipelago of islands that includes Borneo and Sumatra (Indonesia).  These forests are especially critical because the amount of CO2 stored in the un-decomposed layers of leaf litter covering the forest floor can reach a depth of up to 60 feet.  Yes, 60 feet of organic matter and CO2 released if burned, equals 69 billion metric tons of carbon.  This is about nine times the global emissions from fossil fuel combustion for one year (2006).  Unfortunately this is one of our planet’s largest environmental assaults being called a crime against humanity by some.  This satellite photo shows the extent of the fires as seen from space.

 

Smoke rising from Indonesia as the rain forest is burned

The fires are used to clear the forest for agriculture and wide spread palm oil cultivation.

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The Home of Plants and Animals

It’s said that over 30 million unique species of plants and animals can be found in the rain forest. As more and more acreage is cleared for human use, the flora and fauna that reside there near extinction and are forced into urban environments.  We at Purse for the People are deeply concerned and committed to forest preservation because our rattan handbags are sourced here.  Many organizations including the Rainforest Alliance and the World Wildlife Fund are working to preserve the forests and create a sustainable supply of rattan.