Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Deforestation Rate
Name: Landerso
Status: Other
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A 

I would like to know how fast the rain forests are shrinking.

An essay by E.O. Wilson in the National Geographic Atlas of the World (1990) estimates the rate at about one percent per year, which he says is an area about the size of Panama. Judging from the data I have seen, the rate is something more like an area the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island each year. That is based on analysis of landsight photos by NASA, which puts the figure at 5,800 square miles per year. There were about 3.4 million square miles of rain forest in 1990. If the NASA estimate is correct, it should take about 600 years to cut them all down at the present rate. If E. O. Wilson's estimate is correct, they will all be gone in 100 years.

My guess is that we will have a few hundred years to figure out how to save the rain forests and make them last forever (maybe even longer than the human species will last).

Don Libby

Click here to return to the Environmental Science

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory