What percentage of the world’s rainforests are there?

Tourist Attractions

By Kristy Tolley

Defining Rainforests

Rainforests are dense forests characterized by high rainfall, warm temperatures, and a wide variety of plant and animal species. They are home to more than half of the world’s plant and animal species, despite covering only 6 percent of the Earth’s surface. Rainforests are found in tropical regions around the world, including South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.

Importance of Rainforests for the Planet

Rainforests play a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s climate by absorbing carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. They also produce oxygen, which is essential for all living creatures. Additionally, rainforests are important sources of food, medicine, and other resources for local communities. They provide habitats for countless species, many of which are endangered or threatened. Finally, rainforests are important for their cultural and spiritual significance, as they have been home to indigenous peoples for thousands of years.

The Current State of the World’s Rainforests

The world’s rainforests are under threat from deforestation, which is the process of clearing forests for human use. This can include clearing land for agriculture, logging, mining, and urbanization. Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, as it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and reduces the Earth’s ability to absorb it. It also destroys habitats and threatens the survival of countless plant and animal species.

Estimating the Total Area of Rainforests

Estimating the total area of rainforests is a challenging task, as defining what qualifies as a rainforest can be subjective. However, it is generally agreed that there are two major types of rainforests: tropical rainforests and temperate rainforests. Tropical rainforests are found in equatorial regions, while temperate rainforests occur in cooler climates. It is estimated that there are approximately 6 million square kilometers of tropical rainforest in the world, which represents about 2 percent of the Earth’s surface.

Factors Affecting Rainforest Loss

There are many factors that contribute to rainforest loss, including population growth, economic development, and globalization. As the human population grows, there is increasing pressure to clear forests for agriculture and urbanization. Economic development can also drive deforestation, as countries seek to exploit natural resources for profit. Globalization has led to increased demand for products like beef, soy, and palm oil, which are major drivers of deforestation.

Historical Rainforest Destruction

Rainforests have been under threat for centuries, but the pace of destruction has accelerated in recent decades. Historically, rainforests were cleared for timber, agriculture, and other purposes. For example, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, large areas of rainforest were cleared in Brazil and Indonesia to make way for coffee and rubber plantations. In the mid-20th century, logging became a major driver of rainforest destruction.

Current Rainforest Destruction Rates

Current rates of rainforest destruction vary by region, but they are generally high. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that approximately 10 million hectares of forest are lost each year, with tropical rainforests accounting for most of the loss. This represents a significant decline from the peak of deforestation in the 1990s, but the rate of loss is still unsustainable.

Regions with the Most Rainforest Coverage

The largest areas of rainforest are found in South America, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia. The Amazon rainforest in South America is the largest tropical rainforest in the world, covering an area of about 5.5 million square kilometers. The Congo Basin in Africa is home to the second-largest rainforest, covering about 2 million square kilometers. In Southeast Asia, the island of Borneo is home to one of the world’s most biodiverse rainforests.

Countries with the Most Rainforest Coverage

Brazil has the largest area of rainforest of any country, with about 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest located within its borders. Other countries with significant rainforest coverage include Indonesia, Peru, Colombia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, many of these countries are also experiencing high rates of deforestation, which threatens the survival of their rainforests.

The Challenge of Rainforest Conservation

Conserving rainforests is a complex and challenging task that requires cooperation between governments, local communities, and international organizations. Efforts to conserve rainforests must address the root causes of deforestation, such as poverty, lack of access to education and healthcare, and unsustainable agricultural practices. Conservation efforts must also address the needs of local communities, who often rely on rainforests for their livelihoods.

Conclusion: The Future of Rainforests

The future of rainforests is uncertain, but there are reasons for hope. Efforts to conserve rainforests are increasing, and there is growing awareness of the importance of these ecosystems for the planet. However, much more needs to be done to protect rainforests from deforestation. This will require sustained efforts from governments, local communities, and international organizations. The challenge of conserving rainforests is daunting, but it is also essential for the survival of the planet and all its inhabitants.

References and Further Reading

  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2020). The State of the World’s Forests 2020. Rome: FAO.
  • Rainforest Alliance. (n.d.). Why Are Rainforests Important? Retrieved from
  • World Wildlife Fund. (n.d.). Rainforests. Retrieved from
Photo of author

Kristy Tolley

Kristy Tolley, an accomplished editor at TravelAsker, boasts a rich background in travel content creation. Before TravelAsker, she led editorial efforts at Red Ventures Puerto Rico, shaping content for Platea English. Kristy's extensive two-decade career spans writing and editing travel topics, from destinations to road trips. Her passion for travel and storytelling inspire readers to embark on their own journeys.

Leave a Comment