A rainforest is a tall, dense jungle full of countless plants and animals. The word countless is appropriate because so little of the flora and fauna of the world's rainforests have been accounted for. Even though the rainforests are vast, they are being cut down so rapidly that they may disappear before we ever have the chance to fully explore them.
Effects on the Soil
There are different ways of diminishing the world's rainforests. One way is by slashing and burning the plants and trees, which releases minerals into the soil that farmers can use to grow their own crops. Rain washes away the nutrients, and after a while crops can no longer grow for 3 to 20 years. Another way of destroying rainforest is through intensive agriculture, such as that required for growing bananas. This necessitates constructing irrigation systems with pipes and ditches. It also requires the use of pesticides, which infiltrate the soil and kill the rainforest's organisms. Cattle grazing causes 72% of the world's deforestation because cows graze on grass grown in cleared forests for a couple of years before moving on to the next plot. The meat produced is very little compared to the grass and rainforest it takes. Loss of this vegetation makes the soil vulnerable to erosion and leaching, causing rainfall to wash away the soil, removing nutrients and making it difficult for either crops to grow or for the rainforest to grow back for decades or more.
Effects on Indigenous People
Tribes of people have lived in rainforests for centuries. Cutting down the rainforests has forced indigenous people off the land their ancestors lived and died on. Destruction of the rainforest has exposed these people to a world they never knew existed. Their cultures are rapidly dying out as they attempt to integrate with the modern world. People living in the rainforests have low immunity to infectious diseases due to lack of exposure to other humans, and many have thus died of diseases transmitted to them from people in the outside world.
Effects on Biodiversity
The rainforest is home to an estimated 30 million species of animals, roughly two-thirds of the entire world's genetic pool. The rainforest is being destroyed at a rate of 150 acres per minute, so quickly that plants with medicinal healing properties may become extinct before we ever have the chance to discover them.
Effects on Climate and Global Warming
Deforestation involves cutting trees and burning them. Without trees, less carbon dioxide is converted to oxygen; by burning wood, more carbon dioxide is produced. Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases, which are responsible for global warming. Decreasing rainforests also causes reduced evapotranspiration and perspiration of plants, causing an increase in the dryness of the air. This change in the climate cannot support regrowth of the rainforests, but instead dry forests and savannahs thrive.