Incubators of Life
Photo: Scenic view from Mt. Des Voeux over pristine rain forest
Photograph by Timothy G. Laman
In Brazil, which houses 30 percent of the remaining tropical rain forest on Earth, more than 50,000 square miles of rain forest were lost to deforestation between 2000 and 2005. Biologists worry about the long-term consequences. Drought may be one. Some rain forests, including the Amazon, began experiencing drought in the 1990s, possibly due to deforestation and global warming.
Efforts to discourage deforestation, mainly through sustainable-logging initiatives, are underway on a very limited basis but have had a negligible impact so far.
The rain forest is nearly self-watering. Plants release water into the atmosphere through a process called transpiration. In the tropics, each canopy tree can release about 200 gallons (760 liters) of water each year. The moisture helps create the thick cloud cover that hangs over most rain forests. Even when not raining, these clouds keep the rain forest humid and warm. Read more.