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Frequently Asked Questions and Rainforest Facts

Rainforests are 1/3 of the Solution

Pressing governments to limit CO2 is vitally important. Reducing our personal carbon footprint is the right thing to do. Inventing and designing carbon capture technology is key. But there is a forgotten solution, and without it, we have no hope of fighting the worst effects fo climate change.  The solution?  Protecting our Forests.  

Every year 30 million acres of rainforest disappears, that is size of New York State, or the same as all the national parks in the continental United States combined. The destruction of these forests puts massive quantities of CO2 into our atmosphere. It also means that our forests can’t do their job–today, forests around the world absorb 8.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year; tropical forests absorb a disproportionate amount of this. 

How do we stop deforestation and activate this forgotten solution? By supporting indigenous rights. Around the world, the best protected forests are in indigenous hands. By partnering with indigenous communities we can protect our forests for generations to come. 

Rainforest Facts

What is a rainforest?

A tropical rainforest is an ecosystem distinguished by being warm and wet. To be considered a rainforest, annual rainfall in an area must be 75 inches at a minimum, and most rainforests get over 100 inches of rain every year. Moreover, temperatures in a rainforest are warm year-round. (There are other ecosystems known as “temperate rainforests,” which also get a lot of rain but have much cooler temperatures.)

Rainforests of the world: 

Tropical rainforests surround the earth’s equatorial zone and are warm and humid places. They provide shelter and sustenance to an enormous variety of plant and animal species, and they are also home to 50 million Indigenous peoples. Although tropical forests cover less than 7% of the earth’s surface they are home to approximately 50% of all living things on earth.

What is Amazonia?

Amazonia is a region that includes most of Northern Brazil and parts of the bordering countries of French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Amazonia can be visualized as a funnel (with its wide end at the Andes) draining some six million square kilometers through a complex of rivers that are tributaries of the Amazon River. The Amazon River has the greatest volume of water of any river in the world. It is navigable along its entire 4000 mile length (6,400 km). The Amazon is also extraordinarily rich in biodiversity. A very large number of Amazonian plant and animal species are “endemic”, meaning that they are found there and nowhere else. Recent estimates from Conservation International indicate that in the Amazon one can find:

  • 18,000 varieties of plants (c.13, 680 endemic)
  • 434 species of mammals (138 endemic)
  • 239 reptile species (59 endemic)
  • 225 species of amphibians (203 endemic)
  • And more freshwater fish and primates than anywhere else on the planet!

Is all rainforest in Amazonia?

No! There are also very large and important tropical rainforests in Asia, Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, as well as a few temperate regions such as the Pacific Northwest. The largest expanse of rainforest in the world, however, is in Amazonia in South America.

How old is the rainforest?

Rainforests have been around for tens of millions of years. The geographical extent of this ecosystem has expanded and diminished under the effect of continental drift and glaciation.

How much rainforest is gone?

In many parts of the tropics, current forest cover is only a fraction of what it was 50 years ago. For example, only 5% of Brazil’s incomparable Atlantic coastal forest remains. While the Amazonian rainforest is still largely intact due to its great size, recent data have shown that the scale and rates of deforestation there are actually greater than many published estimates, not less.

Are rainforests the lungs of the earth?

Not exactly – they are often given this name because they produce about 20% of all the oxygen in the world. The real lungs of the planet, however, are the microorganisms in the world’s oceans which produce the other 80% of our oxygen. But rainforests do play a crucial role in many of our planet’s ecological cycles – they maintain global rainfall and regulate climate patterns worldwide. Even more importantly, mature forests such as the Amazon and elsewhere store huge amounts of carbon in their vegetation. Burning the vegetation or cutting it down and allowing it to rot releases this carbon in the form carbon dioxide – a major greenhouse gas. Keeping rainforests intact and healthy will go a long way towards combating the threat of climate change and global warming.

Will rainforests regenerate?

In some cases this is possible, but the new forest will be a much poorer habitat, home to many fewer species of plants and animals. Rainforest fragmentation leads invariably to biodiversity loss.

What do we use rainforests for?

Rainforests are crucial to all humanity. About 1.2 billion people in the world rely on the rainforest for their survival, directly or indirectly. In addition, the destruction of the rainforest creates greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change – something that impacts us all. And rainforests provide many other important benefits that we all can appreciate. For example, over 40 useful drugs currently on the market are obtained from tropical forest plants. Similarly, much of the food we eat – coffee, bananas, lemons, oranges, cacao, cashews, peanuts, pineapples, papayas, and many more! – comes from tropical forests.

Forests regulate water and protect watersheds. Without the canopy breaking the force of heavy downpours, rain can dissolve pastures and cropland into mud slides. The canopy allows rainfall to slowly trickle down, rather than rush into rivers and flood the surroundings. In 1998, for example, Hurricane Mitch left 11,000 people dead and many more homeless in Central America. The destruction was caused primarily by deforestation.

What are the major threats to the rainforest?

One of the largest threats to the Amazon is farming: cattle, soy, and increasingly palm oil are destroying the rainforest bit by bit. Uncontrolled extractive industries, such as logging, mining, and oil, as well as road development and infrastructure projects (such as roads, dams, etc.) also threaten the people that live in and rely upon the rainforest for their survival.

Where does Rainforest Foundation work?

The Rainforest Foundation US partners with indigenous communities located in Central and South America. We mostly work in Brazil, Peru, Panama and Guyana. Our sister organizations Rainforest Foundation UK and Rainforest Foundation Norway expand our work into other countries in the Amazon Basin, Central Africa and Southeast Asia.   


How is the Rainforest Foundation different?

The Rainforest Foundation was founded to work with indigenous communities to help them protect their rainforest homes. This means that people are at the forefront of our work and have been for the very beginning. We create long-standing connections with indigenous communities recognizing their knowledge about the rainforest and their history of protecting the forest is invaluable. 

By working for long-term results, following our partners lead on the ground, training communities to use drones, cell phones and satellite imaging to fight the corporations and people that destroy their forests, and ensure legal recognition of their rights to their rainforest land, we’ve become experts in the intersection of human rights and environmental protection. This sets us apart.


Rainforest Facts

Tropical forests = 2% of the planet
Home to 50% + of terrestrial plants and animals

Climate Change

Forests are 1/3 of the solution.
Forests are at increased risk as our climate changes.

The Amazon

2.1 million square miles.
Would be the 9th largest country.

Our Work

Partnering with Indigenous Communities
Fighting Against Climate Change
Protecting Forests
Protecting Rights.

What You Can Do

Become a Defender
Vote for Politicians that have pledged to fight climate change.
Support Sustainable Rainforest products.
Advocate for Indigenous Rights

Forests controlled by indigenous communities are protected.

Last year, our planet lost rainforsts twice the size of Manhattan.  But indigenous lands have 12 times
less deforestation than other areas.

Help Indigenous communities protect their lands & help us protect the future!

Make a difference

-Just $5 saves an acre of Rainforest-


Diana Rios puts her life everyday in order to protect her people and the planet. At only 22, she has already spent 4 years being targeted by illegal loggers just for defending the rainforest.

As a child Diana accompanied her father as he advocated for her people and their land rights, seeing first hand the hard work her community was doing to protect their forests. In 2014, her father and three other community leaders were assassinated by illegal loggers when they were trying to formalize ownership of their ancestral lands. Instead of being intimidated, Diana and the widows of the assassinated leaders took charge of their community. During the last four years Diana has become Saweto Alto Tamayo’s ambassador, the government for land rights but traveling around the world to speak out for land rights and against illegal logging.

Today, Diana knows that there are people around the world cheering her on as she fights for her community and our environment. Yet, Diana’s dedication to our rainforests has put her and others in her community at great personal risk.

We have sacrificed our lives for our land, but we are doing it for everyone. We know that when you kill a tree you are killing living being. Our climate is changing. Why? Because we are killing our trees.