Mongabay Features

World Rainforest Day: The world’s great rainforests

Tropical rainforests have an outsized role in the world. Of the Earth’s ecosystems, rainforests support the largest variety of plants and animal species, house the majority of indigenous groups still living in isolation from the rest of humanity, and power the mightiest rivers. Rainforests lock up vast amounts of carbon, moderate local temperature, and influence rainfall and weather patterns at regional and planetary scales.

Despite their importance however, deforestation in the world’s tropical forests has remained persistently high since the 1980s due to rising human demand for food, fiber, and fuel and the failure to recognize the value of forests as healthy and productive ecosystems. Since 2002, an average of 3.2 million hectares of primary tropical forests—the most biodiverse and carbon-dense type of forest—have been destroyed per year. An even larger area of secondary forest is cleared or degraded.

Flooded forest in the Amazon. Photo by Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay
Flooded forest in the Amazon. Photo by Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay

In recognition of World Rainforest Day 2020, which was launched in 2017 by Rainforest Partnership, below is a brief look at the state of the world’s largest remaining tropical rainforests.


By Rhett Ayers Butler

Rhett Ayers Butler is the Founder and CEO of Mongabay, a non-profit conservation and environmental science news platform. He started Mongabay in 1999 with the mission of raising interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife.