Rainforest Facts

  • Rainforests cover less than 2% of the Earth’s total surface area, yet they are home to 50% of the Earth’s plants and animals.
  • Rainforests once covered 14% of the Earth’s land surface.
  • Experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years.
  • The United Nations estimates that over 100,000 acres of rainforests are destroyed each day.
  • 34% of the world’s intact forests are in Latin America.
  • 11 tropical Latin American countries have already destroyed all of their intact forests. They are: The Bahamas, Dominica, El Salvador, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica,
  • Martinique, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia and Uruguay.
  • There are two types of rainforest; temperate and tropical rainforests
  • The world has lost 50% or 75 million acres of it’s temperate rainforest.
  • Temperate forests are the most endangered forest type on the planet.
  • British Columbia is home to a quarter of the world’s remaining ancient temperate rainforests
  • 90% of the logging in British Columbia occurs in endangered forests
  • Over 40% of the trees cut in British Columbia are used to produce paper.
  • The oldest living thing on Earth is a bristolcone pine tree in Nevada. It is 4,700 years old!

Rainforest and the Environment

  • Rainforests are the world’s thermostat because they regulate weather patterns and temperatures.
  • The Amazon Rainforest produces more than 20% of the world’s oxygen.
  • The Amazon Basin contains 20% of the world’s fresh water.

Rainforest and Medicines

  • Out of the 3,000 plants the U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified as useful in the treatment of cancer, 70% of these plants are found only in rainforests.
  • 25% of the ingredients contained in Western Pharmaceuticals are derived from the Rainforest.
  • Less than one percent of the tropical rainforest species have actually been analyzed for their medicinal value.
  • Vincristine, extracted from the rainforest plant, periwinkle, is one of the world's most powerful anticancer drugs. It has dramatically increased the survival rate for acute childhood leukemia since its discovery.

Rainforest and Food

  • At least 80% of the developed world’s food originated in the tropical rainforest. Its bountiful gifts to the world include fruits like avocados, coconuts, figs, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, bananas, guavas, pineapples, mangos and tomatoes; vegetables including corn, potatoes, rice, winter squash and yams; spices like black pepper, cayenne, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sugar cane, tumeric, coffee and vanilla and nuts including Brazil nuts and cashews.
  • At least 3000 fruits are found in the rainforests; of these, only 200 are now in use in the Western World. The Indians of the rainforest use over 2,000.
  • Rainforest plants are rich in secondary metabolites, particularly alkaloids. Biochemists believe alkaloids protect plants from disease and insect attacks. Many alkaloids from higher plants have proven to be of medicinal value and benefit.

Rainforest and Species

  • A typical four square mile area of rainforest contains as many as 1,500 flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 400 species of birds and 150 species of butterflies.
  • Deforestation causes the loss of over 137 plant, animal and insect species per day. That is over 50,000 species per year
  • At the current rate of tropical forest loss, 5-10 percent of tropical rainforest species will be lost per decade.
  • There are more species of fish in the Amazon than in the Atlantic Ocean.

Rainforest and Value

  • Over a 50-year lifetime, a tree generates $31,250 worth of oxygen, provides $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and controls $31,250 worth of soil erosion.

But this is only part of the value……

  • Experts agree that by leaving the rainforests intact and harvesting it's many nuts, fruits, oil-producing plants, and medicinal plants, the rainforest has more economic value than if they were cut down to make grazing land for cattle or for timber.
  • The latest statistics show that rainforest land converted to cattle operations yields the land owner $60 per acre and if timber is harvested, the land is worth $400 per acre. However, if these renewable and sustainable resources are harvested, the land will yield the land owner $2,400 per acre.
  • Promoting the use of these sustainable and renewable sources could stop the destruction of the rainforests. By creating a new source of income harvesting the medicinal plants, fruits nuts, oil and other sustainable resources, the rainforests is be more valuable alive than cut and burned.
  • Sufficient demand of sustainable and ecologically harvested rainforest products is necessary for preservation efforts to succeed. Purchasing sustainable rainforest products can effect positive change by creating a market for these products while supporting the native people's economy and provides the economic solution and alternative to cutting the forest just for the value of its timber.

Paper Consumption

  • For centuries, paper was a rare and precious commodity.
  • Today, paper is a fundamental part of life and its existence is taken for granted.
  • Each year, the world produces more than 300 million tons of paper.
  • The United States annually consumes 4 million tons of copy paper, 2 billion books, 350 million magazines and 25 billion newspapers.
  • U.S. households receive nearly 90 billion pieces of commercial "junk mail" in a year.
  • Proof of our paper addiction is in our garbage cans—paper comprises 40 percent of U.S. municipal solid waste.

Paper Facts

  • Each person in the United States uses approximately 750 pounds of paper each year. This equals approximately 187 billion pounds per year.
  • 4 billion trees are cut down each year just to satisfy the world’s paper needs. This amount represents only 35% of the actual trees cut down.
  • The world consumes approximately 300 million tons of paper each year.
  • Between 70 and 100 percent of trees used to make newspapers are cut from virgin forests.
  • Ninety percent of all logging in Canada is clear cutting.
  • There are 1,580 daily newspapers in the U.S. with a circulation total of 61 million. There are 875 Sunday newspapers with a total circulation of 62 million.
  • The New York Times Sunday Edition alone uses approximately 75,000 trees per edition.
  • Only 10% of the global paper stream goes into “cultural memory”.
  • The world consumes five times more paper now than in 1950.
  • Most of the world’s paper supply, about 71 percent, is not made from timber harvested at tree farms but from forest-harvested timber, from regions with ecologically valuable, biologically diverse habitat.
  • Tree plantations host about 90 percent fewer species than the forests that preceded them.
  • Global production in the pulp, paper and publishing sector is expected to increase by 77% from 1995 to 2020.
  • Industrialized nations, with 20 percent of the world’s population, consume 87 percent of the world’s printing and writing papers.
  • Of the global wood harvest for “industrial uses” (everything but fuelwood) 42% goes to paper production, a proportion expected to grow by more than 50 percent in the next 50 years.
  • The paper industry is the largest consumer of forests in the Southern US, currently logging an estimated 5 million acres of forests (an area the size of New Jersey) each year.
  • 75% of the tree plantations established in the last 20 years have been established at the expense of natural forests.
  • More than 40 percent of logged trees is used for paper.
  • All recycled papers now account for less than 10 percent of the paper market.

Carbon Facts

World Population and Consumption

  • It took almost all of human history – until the early 1800s – to reach a global population of 1 billion people on Earth, and today there are 6.5 billion of us! The population has grown more since 1950 than in the previous four million years! We are adding about 74 million people per year to the planet, and the United Nations predicts that we will reach approximately 9 billion people by mid-century.
  • With just 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. consumes 25% of almost all global resources. Such a disproportionate "ecological footprint" means that a person born in the United States will have 280 times the environmental impact as a person born in Haiti.
  • If the entire world consumed resources at the average consumption level of a citizen of the United States, we would need 4 Earths to support us all!

Trees and Carbon

  • If every American family planted just one tree, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would be reduced by one billion pounds annually. This is almost 5% of the amount that human activity pumps into the atmosphere each year.
  • Planting trees remains one of the cheapest, most effective means of drawing excess CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs./year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings.
  • Each person in the U.S. generates approximately 2.3 tons of CO2 each year. A healthy tree stores about 13 pounds of carbon annually -- or 2.6 tons per acre each year. An acre of trees absorbs enough CO2 over one year to equal the amount produced by driving a car 26,000 miles. An estimate of carbon emitted per vehicle mile is between 0.88 lb. CO2/mi. – 1.06 lb. CO2/mi. (Nowak, 1993). Thus, a car driven 26,000 miles will emit between 22,880 lbs CO2 and 27,647 lbs. CO2.

Facts Footnotes

i Roadmap to Recovery: The world’s last intact forest landscapes, Greenpeace, March 2006

ii Roadmap to Recovery: The world’s last intact forest landscapes, Greenpeace, March 2006

iii World Resources Institute, 1997

iv World Resources Institute

v BC Ministry of Forests

vi Markets Initiative, 2001

vii USDA Forest Service Pamphlet #R1-92-100.

viii Resource Conservation Alliance

ix Minnesota Daily, Frank Erickson

x Minnesota Daily, Frank Erickson

xi Minnesota Daily, Frank Erickson

xii Natural Capitalism, Dudley & Stolton 1996;cited in Brown 1997 at 68, n.12. Prof. Paul Barten of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies estimates this as about 100 acres of pulp trees.

xiii Natural Capitalism

xiv Natural Capitalism , United Nations  Food and Agriculture Organization 1995

xv Toward a Sustainable Paper Cycle: An Independent Study on the Sustainability of the Pulp and Paper Industry, 1996

xvi (Allen Hershkowitz, Bronx Ecology, p. 75, 2002)

xvii (OECD Environmental Outlook. Paris: OECD, 2001, p.215)

xviii (Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme, Keynote Address UNEP’s 7th International High Level Seminar on Cleaner Production, 29-30 April 2002.)

xix (Abramovitz, “Paper Cuts”, WorldWatch Institute 1999, p. 124)

xx (USDA Forest Service Southern Forest Resource Assessment 2001, hereafter referred to as SFRA 2001)

xxi (USFS, SFRA 2001)

xxii Resource Conservation Alliance

xxiii Resource Conservation Alliance

xxiv National Wildlife Foundation

xxv National Wildlife Foundation

xxvi American Forestry Association Tree Facts: Growing Greener Cities, 1992.

xxvii Prow, Tina, “The Power of Trees”, Human Environmental Research Laboratory at University of Illinois.

xxviii McAliney, Mike. Arguments for Land Conservation:Documentation and Information Sources for Land Resources Protection, Trust for Public Land, Sacramento, CA, December, 1993

xxix Nowak, David J., “Benefits of Community Trees”,  (Brooklyn Trees, USDA Forest Service General Technical Report)