Rainforests, Coral Reefs and Ethical Consumption

This post has nothing to do with ethical consumption but focuses on yet another reason on why we all should be making efforts to buy sustainable products. This week in Science, a study shows that intact rainforests and coral reefs both act towards cloud seeding to produce rain. Also this week, NASA released a report to say that 2010 is the hottest year so far. So it is generally agreed that we could do with a bit more rain and a lot more global cooling.

According to this ground-breaking study an rainforest acts as its own 'bioreactor', whereby clouds and precipitation are produced by the abundance of plant materials in the ecosystem. "The trees basically 'sweat out' organic molecules that react with compounds in the atmosphere, producing tiny particles that are around 20 to 200 nanometers in size," explains Markus Petters, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University and one of the members of the study, in a press release. "These particles seed the clouds. In addition, other biological particles form the ice nuclei for the clouds."

These ice nuclei are produced by supermicron particles and are essential for the formation of precipitation. 80% of supermicron particles above the Amazon were produced by rainforest life which means that intact rainforests act as a key toward precipitation and regular rainfall.

Dr. Graham Jones of Australia's Southern Cross University believes that coral reefs produce a volatile substance called dimethylsulphide or DMS which oxidizes in the atmosphere to produce cloud condensation nuclei. He adds that, "water vapor cannot form clouds without these tiny aerosol particles being present." DMS is produced by the live algae in the coral tissues and it is produced on a daily basis. This part of the research shows that coral reef-produced rain may actually feed rainforests along Australia's northern coast.

From 1970-2005, the Amazon was been reduced by 600,000 square kilometers (232,000 square miles) in Brazil, an area the size of Ukraine and nearly 20 percent of Brazil's total rainforest. Coral reefs are even more susceptible to slight raises in temperature, ocean acidification. Many scientists believe that corals all over the world can be severely endangered or extinct in the next 10 years due to warming of the oceans.

Many products have the capacity to harm both rainforests and coral reefs. Coral reefs are affected by a myriad chemicals found in detergents, cosmetics and toiletries including sunblock. Unethically cultivated beef uses former rainforest land in the Amazon.

Rainforests are called rainforests for a reason and reefs are commonly called 'the rainforests of the ocean'. Up until now this phrase has been used to describe the diversity of life present but with this new research, the description will carry more weightage. Ethical consumption has a direct link with biodiversity loss and the principles of green living must be deeply tied in with environmental awareness if they are to be taken seriously. Many ecosystem services cannot be replicated and they are supremely necessary for our survival on the planet.

Source: Mongabay.com Photo: Akhila Vijayaraghavan ©