Why are tropical forests so important?
Tropical forests cover just 6% of the planet’s land surface but are some of the richest, most biodiverse places on Earth. They are home to ancient, towering trees and a huge variety of plants, birds, insects and fascinating mammals. A staggering 80% of the world's documented species can be found in tropical rainforests, which makes them a crucial habitat. Their destruction is fuelling the nature crisis.
These forests have different layers, each with their own important role in sustaining a healthy ecosystem. The scattered gigantic trees form the canopy, where most of the flowering and fruiting takes place which sustains other animals including iconic species like the toucan and sloth. Below this live smaller trees which provide shelter for birds and reptiles, and major predators like the jaguar. Beneath this layer lies the forest floor, which receives very little sunlight but is alive with fungi and insects that play an important role in the wider forest ecosystem.
These forests are crucial habitats and sources of food for both people and nature. They play an important role in the global water cycle, help tackle climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and provide livelihoods for local communities.
Two-thirds of global forest cover loss is occurring mainly in the tropics and sub-tropics. Over 43 million hectares, an area roughly the size of Morocco, was lost in these 'deforestation fronts' between 2004 and 2017.