9 Rainforest Facts Everyone Should Know

There are so many reasons to fight for the rainforests. Here are some of the biggest.

When the Rainforest Alliance was founded in 1987, our work focused on the deforestation crisis in Central America. In the years since, we’ve extended our reach to a multitude of landscapes and crops in more than 100 countries. Our mission to stop deforestation, improve livelihoods, and protect biodiversity has led us to engage rural communities, governments, and businesses in our work to defend critically important, vulnerable landscapes.

We focus on the sectors that have the greatest impact on forests: agriculture and tourism, in addition to forestry. And in every aspect of our work, forests—in particular, rainforests—remain central to our mission. There is a good reason for that: Although rainforests cover only 2 percent of the earth’s surface, these ecological powerhouses are critical to nearly every aspect of the planet’s health—including our very ability to breathe.

Here’s what every human should know about rainforests:


1. As much as 20 percent of the planet’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest alone.

Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest

The Baixo Rio Negro region of the Brazilian Amazon.

Photo credit: CIFOR/Neil Palmer


2. Rainforests are our best defense against climate change.

Forest sunset in Costa Rica

Sunset in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Photo credit: Dan Stone

Not only do they regulate global temperatures, they also stabilize local climates and limit the earth’s reflectivity, which in turn stabilizes ocean currents, wind patterns and rainfall.


3. Rainforests are home to more than half the world’s animal species.

Orangutan in Indonesia

Orangutans are fighting for their very survival in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.

Photo credit: Paul Hillman

Bengal tigers, mountain gorillas, orangutans, jaguars, and blue poison dart frogs are just a few of the magical creatures found in rainforests. Sadly, many of these species are fighting extinction, and their continued existence is crucial to maintaining the balance of the rainforests’ marvelously efficient—but delicate—ecosystems.


4. Rainforests are critical to maintaining the Earth’s limited supply of drinking and fresh water.

Rio Celeste waterfall

Rio Celeste, Costa Rica.

Photo credit: Jessica Webb

Rainforests act as natural water filters, keeping pollution and debris from flowing into water supplies; they also slow down rainwater, sending it into underground reserves. A full fifth of the world’s fresh water is in the Amazon Basin.


5. Rainforests are the world’s pharmacies: 25 percent of all modern medicines are derived from their flora.

Bromeliads of the Clouds

Bromeliad in Boquete, Panama.

Of all the plants deemed useful in treating cancer, 70 percent can be found only in rainforests.


6. A swath of rainforest the size of thirty-six football fields disappears each minute.

Aerial view of deforestation

Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon, Madre de Dios, Peru

Photo credit: David Dudenhoefer

An area the size of Nicaragua is razed every year. Nearly half of the world’s original forest cover has already been destroyed.


7. Nearly 90 percent of people living in extreme poverty worldwide depend on forests for their livelihoods.

Little Girl Belen Peru

Child in Belen, Perfu, on the floodplain of Itaya River.

Photo credit: Jason Wolff


8. You can help conserve rainforests by choosing products that bear the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal (hint: just #FollowTheFrog!).

Coffee under shade trees

Shade coffee cultivation.

Photo credit: David Dudenhoefer

Added benefit: the shade requirements for Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee and cocoa farms also happen to produce better tasting beans (who says you can’t be both virtuous and indulgent?).


9. The Rainforest Alliance has certified more than 104,568,000 acres of forestland.

Honduran schoolchildren

Schoolchildren from a community in the Mosquitia region of Honduras, site of a Rainforest Alliance community forestry enterprise.

Photo credit: Charlie Watson

This means that vast swaths of forests are now being managed in ways that protect biodiversity, improve livelihoods for forest communities and ensure the health of the land for generations to come.

Burning Peruvian forest - photo by Mohsin Kazmi

Forests are falling at an alarming rate.

Each minute, 85 acres are destroyed.