World leaders promised to end deforestation by 2030 at COP26: 9 reasons why rainforests are important

According to Rainforest Alliance expert Emmanuelle Berenger, they're vital for our survival as a species and for the survival of life on Earth.

Why are rainforests important: A rainforest

According to Rainforest Alliance expert Emmanuelle Berenger, they're vital for our survival as a species and for the survival of life on Earth.

At COP26 last November , over 100 world leaders vowed to end - and even reverse - the damaging effects of deforestation by 2030, marking the climate conference's first major deal.

Brazil, a country where large swathes of the Amazon rainforest have been cut down, also signed the deal, with around £14bn ($19.2bn) being pledged to help the cause.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on the deal: "We have to stop the devastating loss of our forests and end the role of humanity as nature's conqueror, and instead become nature's custodian."

However, experts were quick to warn that a similar 2014 pledge never led to any significant action.

Ever wondered why rainforests are important? According to the sustainable forest management lead at the Rainforest Alliance Emmanuelle Berenger, they're vital for our survival as a species and for life on Earth, too.

Over one billion hectares - that's an area the size of Europe - has been destroyed over the last forty years, and the destruction continues, putting the planet in peril.

If you're keen to live more sustainably and cut down your carbon footprint, you'll know that fighting deforestation is key. Protecting and restoring forests could reverse global emissions by third—so if you need another reason (or nine) to protect the world’s rainforests, keep reading. You'll learn just why rainforests are important - and need to be looked after - from someone who's day-to-day is to protect them and keep them safe.

Don't miss our guides to saving the oceans and reducing your water usage, while you're here.

Why rainforests are important: An aerial shot of a rainforest and river

Why rainforests are important: 9 key points 

1. Forests absorb greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide

Plants absorb and store carbon dioxide, according to Berenger, and the world’s rainforests alone give us the potential to provide 23% of the natural climate mitigation needed by 2030, she shares.

"Not only do they absorb carbon dioxide, but help us to stabilise the global climate," she explains.

2. Forests clean the air

Rainforests are nature’s air filters, she shares.

"They collect and filter excess carbon and pollutants - not to mention stinky odours - and release fresh oxygen through photosynthesis," she explains.

3. Forests help regulate the earth’s water cycle

Rainforests are key to the earth’s global irrigation system, which forms clouds and “flying rivers”, helping to distribute fresh water around the globe.

Why rainforests are important: A woman working in a rainforest

4. Forests stabilise the soil

Did you know? Just one spoonful of rainforest soil contains some 50,000 different types of bacteria and supports millions of species.

"When deforestation happens, this richness is lost—for good," shares Berenger. "Forests also protect the soil from damaging erosion, which can fill and contaminate waterways," she expands.

5. Forests protect biodiversity and endangered species

Rainforests are the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth and are home to literally millions of - many undiscovered - species.

"Some indicators say that we are already losing some 50,000 species per year due to deforestation alone," she shares.

6. Forests provide livelihoods

Interestingly, rainforests are home and all resources to some 1.2 billion people around the world.

"They provide an essential means of food, shelter, health, medicine and are central to maintaining a diversity of cultures and identities," explains Berenger. "Plus, millions more live on forest fringes and depend on them for income or natural resources like fruit, coffee beans, timber, nuts and tree sap."

Why rainforests are important: Coffee beans

7. Forests provide a pharmacy

This one's perhaps not one you might have guessed. Forests have always provided plant medicine for the people who live there, but did you know that some 25% of our modern medicines originate from tropical forest plants?

"It's thought that this is only the tip of the iceberg, with 99% of medicinal plant use being untapped by the Western world," shares Berenger.

8. Forests provide foods that you love

Think bananas, pineapples, nuts, even coffee beans - the forests are rich ecosystems that provide humans with a wealth of foods we love and enjoy regularly.

9. Forests protect our future

Last but by no means least, according to the expert, protecting the rainforests is arguably the best, natural, most cost-effective means available to combat the climate crisis.

It's time - act now to recycle, reduce your plastic usage and avoid fast fashion to do your bit.

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.