The roots of rainforest trees and vegetation help anchor the soil. When trees are cut down there is no longer anything to protect the ground, and soils are quickly washed away with rain. The process of washing away of soil is known as erosion.
As soil is washed down into rivers it causes problems for fish and people. Fish suffer because water becomes clouded and spawning grounds fill with silt, while people have trouble navigating waterways that are shallower because of the increased amount of dirt in the water. Meanwhile, farmers lose topsoil that is needed for growing crops, and dams generate less electricity as water is lost to runoff.
On steep hillsides, loss of forest can trigger landslides. For example, thousands of people were killed in Central America during Hurricane Mitch of 1998 when deforested hillsides collapsed. Had forests been maintained, the death toll would have been lower.
Forests also play an important role in reducing damage from flooding by reducing the rate of water runoff.
During the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, areas where mangrove forests had been cut down suffered more devastation than areas where healthy mangrove forests remained as a buffer. Mangroves also help protect against coastal erosion.
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- May I use graphics from mongabay.com for my projects? Yes, you may provided that you don't remove the mongabay label from the images. You may use information from the site for class projects and can cite mongabay as the source.
- Is this web site credible? Mongabay is the world's most popular source for information on tropical forests. The site is highly acclaimed by a number of the world's leading tropical scientists. Mongabay Founder Rhett Butler has published several scientific papers.
- Can I interview the founder of mongabay for my school project? Unfortunately Rhett is not available for interviews. However he has answered some common questions on the Rainforest Interview page.
- Do you have any games or activities? Currently there are a few on the resources page.
- How can I help save rainforests? Some ideas are listed at Rainforest Solutions.
- Where can I learn more about rainforests? Check the main rainforest site.