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Why are we concerned about rainforests?
They are the most biologically diverse and ecologically complex terrestrial ecosystems on Earth. They are the pinnacle of evolution. At their peak — the Emerald Era — rainforests covered the whole of the Australian continent. So much of our wildlife in all sorts of ecosystems today had their beginnings in these rainforests. Future evolutionary innovation often restarts from these ancestral genes so their protection is vital.
Rainforest covered over 14 percent of the Earth’s land surface in pre-industrial times, but we have reduced them to just 6 percent. Much less than that in Australia — just 0.2 percent — surviving only in safe havens, refugia, that most resemble the ancient climates in which they began. Yet this tiny area is home for more than half the species in this vast and ancient land!
And they are still disappearing at rates leading some to predict their complete disappearance, on this our planet Earth, within the next 100 years.
We have something extraordinarily special here in Australia. They have been reduced to just 0.2 percent of our land, partly through past climate change — the browning of our continent — and very much because we cleared them. Our rainforests still contain some of the oldest lineages of plants and animals on earth. They give an insight into how the rich and wondrous diversity that exists today evolved, spread and survived. They are still the life store from which the future unfolds — they are a window into the past, the present and our future.
This is our challenge! We alone, the human species, could be responsible for one of the greatest mass extinction events in the whole geological history of Earth.
We cannot sit by and do nothing.