Study Notes

The Value of Tropical Rainforests | AQA GCSE Geography | Tropical Rainforests 7


Last updated 17 Feb 2023

Tropical rainforests are extremely valuable and provide a number of goods and services. Goods are things that are obtained directly from the rainforest, such as food stuffs, building materials and ingredients for medicines. Services are benefits that the rainforest provides for people and the environment, such as job opportunities and air and water purification.

Goods provided by tropical rainforests

We get huge amounts of materials from the rainforest, for example food stuffs, such as fruits, nuts and spices as well as products like rubber and chemicals, used to make perfumes, soaps and chewing gum. Harvesting these goods is at the heart of traditional subsistence farming in the tropical rainforests.

Water is also an important rainforest product - rainforests provide a source of drinking water to many, as well as water for domestic, industrial and agricultural uses. Additionally, many dams are built along the huge powerful rivers that flow through rainforests, in order to generate hydroelectric power.

More recently people have started to appreciate that rainforest plants have many medicinal benefits – ingredients can be used to treat and cure diseases, as well as plants with powerful pain killing properties. Indigenous tribes have been using bark, resin, roots and leaves for this purpose for centuries, and since 1980 pharmaceutical companies have researched tropical rainforest plant ingredients to use in the development of medicines. Around 25% of the medicines used in developed nations include ingredients sourced from tropical rainforests, and 25% of active ingredients in cancer fighting drugs can only be found in tropical rainforests. Despite this, currently less that 1% of rainforest trees and plants have been tested for their medicinal value.

Services provided by tropical rainforests

We also get lots of important services from the rainforest.

There is lots of water and nutrient recycling, which is important for ecosystems and food webs. The climate of the tropical rainforest biome is warm and wet, which are perfect conditions for decomposition, so nutrient cycling is very efficient when the leaf litter rots down.

Trees also offer good protection against soil erosion - the roots bind the soil together, which is important when the rainfall is so high. Without the tree roots the soil risks being washed away.

The trees within the rainforest provide air purification – absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen, which is vital in the fight against climate change. Trees are important natural stores of carbon, and tropical rainforests are huge carbon sinks.

The rainforest also provides valuable animal habitats for countless species, which is why biodiversity levels are so high.

Finally, there are also many employment opportunities in the rainforest, which is particularly important as most of the world's tropical rainforests can be found in developing nations. However there needs to be a balance here, between economic activity and the environment as many of these economic activities have caused great harm to the tropical rainforest biome.

Value of the Tropical Rainforest | AQA GCSE Geography | Tropical Rainforests 7

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