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



Replies:
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



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