Courtesy Reuters

Tropical Deforestation: A Global View

Between 1970 and 1980, Mr. Guppy traveled extensively throughout the New World and Far Eastern tropical forest regions, and in other areas of the globe. In 1980 he began writing about the problems of tropical deforestation (in association with the Threshold Foundation). He was consultant and co-author of the Time-Life book The Amazon, and has contributed to learned journals and books upon conservation, ecological and social themes. The author acknowledges with especial gratitude the encouragement and advice of William D. Rogers of Washington, D.C., and of Dr. Timothy C. Whitmore of Oxford University. Copyright (c) 1984, Nicholas Guppy.

Tropical rain forest, today everywhere threatened with accelerating destruction, if conserved could be one of humanity's greatest renewable resources. In 1982 it occupied nearly 12 million (11,610,350) square kilometers of the continuously warm, high-rainfall areas of the globe that lie between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Wherever it remains it forms a three-dimensional carpet, 40 meters or more thick, of intricately interwoven and interdependent individuals of several millions of species (including both plants and animals), and many life-forms-more than are found in any other terrestrial ecosystem. Its preservation is important for many reasons, but perhaps the maintenance of this genetic diversity is ultimately the most important, because it offers endless opportunities for mankind, and because it is irreplaceable.

More obviously, however, rain forest is a source of raw materials: timbers for construction, furniture, plywood, paper, and other uses; fuelwoods, fibers, canes, resins, oils and drugs; fruits and spices; and much else. It is also functionally important. Considered as a solar engine, it absorbs more sunshine than any other living land cover, moderating surface temperatures and reducing heat reflection into the atmosphere. It uses this absorbed energy to combine atmospheric carbon dioxide gas with water to form sugars and starches, oils and fats; and later, adding mineral salts and other substances, to make proteins and innumerable complex materials; as a by-product, it is the largest terrestrial net producer of oxygen. It imbibes rainfall and ground water, and holds water close

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