Tropical rainforests play an exceptionally large role in our world, which is somewhat ironic when you consider that they cover a mere 6% of the earth’s surface. However, despite such a nominal figure, and this is once again ironic, the world’s rainforests are home to more than half of all plant and animal species. Rainforests house most indigenous groups living in isolation, power the mightiest rivers, capture massive amounts of carbon, regulate domestic temperatures, and impact weather patterns provincially and globally. Often referred to as “living pharmacies” due to their incredible genetic resources and evolutionary marvels, rainforests also hold significant potential for new medical discoveries and therapies thanks to their yet unknown diversity and untapped resources.
Many items that form part of our daily lives – fruit, vegetables, spices, cacao, coffee - come from our rainforests, and that hardly begins to scratch the surface. Then of course there are deeply entrenched practices of industry such as the farming of beef and palm oil that are causing rainforest deforestation worldwide. Despite such invaluable importance, the deforestation of our rainforests has remained consistent since the 1980s due to demand and a failure to acknowledge the contribution of forests to a healthy ecosystem.
World Rainforest Day may have gone by a few days ago, but here at Cambridge Mask Co, we feel that each and every day should be used to turn things around by commiting ourselves to causes that can affect change, and to place pressure on our leaders to enact legislative laws that can bring about long term and sustainable changes. With all this in mind, and to raise awareness around the rainforests of the world, let us now look at 5 of these invaluable key components of the earth, the environment, and our livelihood.
1. The Amazon Rainforest
Of all the world’s tropical rainforests, the Amazon is the biggest, surpassing the Congo Basin threefold and accounting for a third of tree cover across the tropics. The Amazon River, the world's largest river, drains an area almost equivalent to the size of the forty-eight contiguous United States. It carries 12 times the volume of the Mississippi River and it’s been estimated that 70% of Latin America’s GDP is generated in areas that receive rainfall produced by the Amazon rainforest. Being the biggest rainforest in the world also means that the Amazon leads all tropical forest areas when it comes to annual deforestation. To illustrate, between 2002 and 2019, over 30 million hectares of primary forest were cleared – the equivalent of the global loss of tropical primary forest during the same period.
2. The Congo Rainforest
The Congo Basin contains the second largest block of tropical rainforest and drains an area close to 4 million square kilometres. The bulk of the Congo rainforest (60%) lies within the confines of the Democratic Republic of Congo with Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea making up for almost the rest of the Congo Basin rainforest. Poor infrastructure, war, chronic political instability, and a lack of solid industrial agriculture kept deforestation relatively low for the longest time with logging making the biggest dent, and it wasn’t until the early 2010’s that things started to change for the worse.
3. The Australasian Realm
The Australasian rainforest is composed of the island of New Guinea, north-eastern Australia and a series of scattered islands that used to be connected during the last ice age. The majority of primary rainforest is on the island of New Guinea, and this is split between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. As of 2001, Australasia has maintained the world’s second lowest loss of primary forest, although deforestation has started to increase due to logging and plantation agriculture – mainly in the form of palm oil.
Sundaland is primarily made up of the islands of Borneo, Java, Sumatra, and Peninsular Malaysia. The majority of the region’s surviving forest is on the island of Borneo, with political divisions between Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. Between 2002 and 2019, Sundaland sustained the world’s biggest loss of primary forest – Borneo lost 15% and Sumatra a staggering 25%. Fires for land clearing, timber plantations, and palm oil have been the biggest drivers of deforestation in this region.
Indo-Burma is composed of mangroves, lowland rainforests, and seasonal forests. Legacy issues in the form of human population pressure mean that surviving forests in this region are a lot more fragmented. The majority of Indo Burma’s tree cover is made up of crops, plantations, and secondary crops. Since 2001 Indo-Burma has lost 8% of its primary forest and 12% of its tree cover with Cambodia making up for more than a third of the region’s primary forest loss.
Deforestation is the most devastating act to have befallen our rainforests. The problem with deforestation is that it’s in essence a blanket term encompassing a multitude of impacting factors which in turn all drive climate change. Some might even call it a circular economy of death! Industrial agriculture, mining, timber logging, expansion and infrastructure, are all major contributing factors to deforestation. Regrettably, there are no quick fixes that can lead to long term solutions, as a lot of the problems sit with global demand – beef, soy, wood, palm oil – these are items that are in huge demand and will somehow need to be addressed. In the immediate future, what can be done is you can plant a tree when you can (or you can buy a Cambridge PRO mask at full price and we’ll plant a tree for you!), go paperless at home or in the office, only buy certified wood products, and refuse to use products that contain palm oil. It’s a long road and the irony is it’s getting shorter with every passing day.
Here at Cambridge Mask Co, we’re encouraging our customers to be a part of a great cause – that of reforestation – and we’re doing it with One Tree Planted. Their mission statement is to reforest our planet, provide education, awareness, and engagement on the importance of trees in our ecosystem, and to inspire action. When you buy a Cambridge Mask PRO at full price, One Tree Planted will put a seed in the soil on your behalf. In other words, YOU’LL be taking action.