Although they cover less than 7% of the earth’s land surface, tropical forests are home to approximately 50% of all living things on earth. Yet these forests are being cleared at a rate of 18 million hectares a year.
While the economic value of forests is difficult to quantify precisely, an estimate by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity project, which was kick-started by the UK Government, forecast that the loss of biodiversity from deforestation would cost the global economy up to $4.5 trillion a year.
One industry that could be impacted heavily is the pharmaceuticals industry. Tropical rainforests have provided key ingredients for an estimated 25% of pharmaceuticals and prescription drugs derived from rainforest plants are used to treat cancer, heart disease, bronchitis, arthritis, diabetes and other conditions. Yet only around 1% of plants have been tested for medicinal properties and deforestation means species are lost before they can even be explored.