Nature continues to provide the great majority of the ecosystem services that sustain all life on Earth. The world’s richest ecosystem, the Amazon, is the source of one fifth of all fresh water on the planet, and plays a critical role in regulating the global and regional rainfall cycle. More locally, the Amazon rainforest directly affects the water supply by filtering impurities and preventing soil erosion.
Rainforests also contain four times the biomass of our temperate forests, meaning they store major amounts of carbon. This regulates global climate patterns through the sequestration and storage of carbon dioxide in above-ground biomass and soil. By absorbing roughly 20% of the atmospheric carbon emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, the world’s tropical rainforests help mitigate climate change substantially.
As the central repository of biodiversity, rainforests provide the basis for future advances in medicines and agriculture.
In addition to these global life support functions, tropical rainforests provide valuable local ecosystem services such as erosion prevention, flood control, water filtration, and fisheries protection—functions that are particularly important to the world’s poorest people, who rely on natural resources for their everyday survival. Forests also provide such renewable resources as timber, medicinal plants, nuts and fruit, and game.