The Gifts of the Rainforest

Rich in animals, birds, insects and plants, rainforests provide products that are part of our everyday living. They give us rubber, sugar and cocoa. Bananas, lemons, pineapples, and avocados all originated in tropical rainforests, as well as peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, coffee beans, and spices, such as ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. The rainforest also produces fine hardwoods, such as ebony, mahogany, teak and rosewood.

Some plants found in rainforests have medicinal qualities; for example, quinine for malaria is derived from Cinchona tree bark; the leaves of a periwinkle in Madagascar was used to treat cancer. (The plant is now extinct from deforestation.) Much work is continuing to discover medicinal properties in more rainforest plant species.

One of the most important values of the rainforests of the world, however, is for preserving balance. Rainforests take large amounts of carbon dioxide out of the air and put oxygen in. Sr. Dorothy said that in the time that she had been in the Brazilian Amazon there had been dramatic climate change–a shortened rainy season, caused by the burning and clearing of vast tracts of the rainforest for cattle grazing, logging and soy. Dorothy taught the new settlers how to farm in the rainforest without harming it.

DID YOU KNOW? Rainforests cover only 6% of the land but contain over half the world’s species.