What Are the Three Biggest Threats to Rainforests?

Deforestation, land conversion and climate change pose the three biggest risks to rainforests. Rainforests, like other ecosystems, require specific conditions for optimal health. They face destruction and permanent damage from many human activities, primarily driven by economic incentives, such as logging and commercial farming.

Among rainforest threats, deforestation poses many problems. Deforestation involves cutting down trees and clearing large areas of rainforest land for human use. Some people harvest trees in the rainforest, using them for construction and creating wood-based consumer goods. Logging occurs legally and illegally; while sustainable logging does not pose major threats to rainforests, illegal logging takes a toll. According to the World Wildlife Fund, rainforests in Borneo face a land loss over 55 percent. Increasing global demand for palm oil, a substance in many food items, fuels the rate of deforestation. Land loss leaves many native species homeless and without basic resources, ultimately jeopardizing their survival. The need for ranch lands and livestock grazing also contributes to deforestation.

Land conversion, such as turning forest lands into fields for soy and palm oil plants, raises the risk of flooding and fires in surrounding areas. Uprooting and removing trees takes away the water-absorbing capacities of forests, and human invasion in forests leads to drier lands that are prone to fires. Lastly, climate change, including greater amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and rising sea levels, jeopardizes rainforest health.