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The Rainforests – a Disappearing Treasure
Why the Rainforest is Disappearing
The rain forest is disappearing at an alarming rate, as at once covered 14% of the earth's surface and now covers a mere 6%. At this rate the rainforest will be totally consumed in less than 40 years. At the present time 1 1/2 acres of rain forest are lost every second, which has tragic consequences for world. Shortsighted governments, national logging companies and landowners are willing to destroy the rainforest for the value of its timber and grazing land. This also impacts half of the world's species of plants, animals and microorganisms. Chainsaws, bulldozers and suppliers are used to clear the rainforest for its timber value and the land is used for farming and ranching operations. Some of the big companies that are involved in these activities are Mitsubishi Corporation, Georgia Pacific, Texaco and Unocal.
Rainforest Around the World
View of Top of Trees While Riding Tram
Rainforest Characteristics and History
There are less than 200,000 Indians living in the Amazon rainforests today, whereas five centuries ago there were 10 million. European colonists have destroyed more than 90 indigenous tribes since the 1900s. Shamans and medicine men living in the rainforest today are typically 70 years or older and when one of them dies without passing his arts onto the next generation the tribe and the world loses thousands of years of non-replaceable knowledge about medicinal plants.
Rainforests are called tropical because most of them are located near the equator, which means they are always warm, with the average temperature from 70° to 90°, and it is always humid. Rainforests can be found in the continents of Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia, with the largest being the Amazon Rain Forest, located in South America, primarily in Brazil. It has the world's largest river, the Amazon, running through it.
Rainforest Emergent Top Level - Costa Rico
Canopy Level - Rainforest Costa Rico
Understory of Rainforest
Rainforest Forest Floor
Rainforest biomes are comprised of four different layers each having different types of trees, flowers and other plants.
Emergent Layer - the top layer:
This layer has huge trees that grow up to 150" to 200' and, of course, receive the most sunlight. Monkeys, bats, eagles and butterflies are found at this level.
Canopy - third layer:
This layer also has very tall trees (some to 120’), which grow very close together, almost touching, which forms a type of lush green garden in the air. This is where you will find numerous plants, animals and insects, along with many beautiful birds, butterflies, hummingbirds and flowering plants. The animals include monkeys, bats, reptiles, and other animals that have the ability to swoop in and climb to this canopy.
Understory - middle layer:
This layer includes smaller trees, bushes and plants, such as ferns which do not grow over 12' tall. Very little sunlight filters down to this layer. There is an large array of birds and animals, plus multiple insects that live in this layer. Forest wildcats, such as the leopard, are excellent tree climbers and chase monkeys and squirrels for food.
Forest Floor - bottom layer:
Plants are scarce on the forest floor due to little sunlight reaching this area. The animals and insects that live on the forest floor receive food and shelter from leaves and plants, which are dropped from the upper layers. The animals include mice, frogs, snakes, insects and even larger animals such as, wild boar and deer make their home on the forest floor.
Rainforest Conncting Vines Canopy Level
Facts about the Rainforest Plants
The canopy trees have huge, thick, waxy leaves that have “drip tips” to allow water to drain off for the plants and animals below.
Thousands of flowers, called air plants, grow on these trees and since their roots are not in soil they take their food from the air and water around them. Of course, these include orchids. Hummingbirds and butterflies drink nectar from the flowers, plus insects and even some small animals live on these air plants.
Bromeliads are commonly seen and they collect water in the center of their flower, which forms a small pool for frogs, lizards and insects to live.
There are numerous types of vines and ferns, which connect the layers of the rainforest and you will see mushrooms and herbs growing on the forest floor.
Rainforest people have collected fruits and nuts for food and plants for medicine for thousands of years without hurting the rain forest in any way.
The following plants first came from the rainforest: avocado, banana, coffee, lemon, orange, peanut, pepper and pineapple. There are at least 3000 fruits found in the rainforest but only about 200 of them are used in the Western world, while the Indians use over 2000.
The rainforests have 170,000 of the world's 250,000 known plant species. Due to their climate they have more species of frogs and butterflies. For example, Europe has 321 butterfly species, while the rain forests of Peru has 1300 species.
It is commonly estimated that approximately 1/2 of the world animals live in the rain forest and approximately 25% of the world's medicine is derived from rainforest plants. Unfortunately, scientists have not been able to explore much of the rainforest for gathering plants for further study.
Connecting Vines from Forest Floor
Toucan Lives in Emergent Layer
Redeye Tree Frog
The rainforests are full of very unique birds such as Macaws, Toucans, Quetzals, Parrots, Harpy Eagles and many others.
Amphibians include the Poison Dark Frog and the Red-eyed Tree Frog.
There are a large variety of mammals including the Bengal Tiger, Guerrillas, Jaguars, Lar Gibbon, Lemur, Orangutan, plus many other types of monkeys.
Reptiles include the frightening Anaconda, the Black Caiman, the Boa Constrictor, the Gaboon Viper and the Reticulated Python.
In the water you will also find Manatee and Piranhas.
White Face Monkey
Tour of Costa Rico Rainforest
My husband and I had the pleasure of touring the rainforest and Costa Rica. We rode in a tram hanging from cables at various levels throughout the rainforest. It was a fascinating, learning experience. The way the four layers are connected for the survival of all is like seeing a finely tuned orchestra. The birds also thrilled us, and we saw a white face monkey, which are very rare. They are small but look at the picture on your right.
The Amazon Rainforest
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It is heartbreaking that so much of the rainforests are being lost throughout the world. The Amazon rain forest has often been referred to as" Lungs of our Planet".The rainforests provide a continuous recycling of carbon dioxide into oxygen and more than 20% of the world's oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest. The U.S. National Cancer Institute, which actively fights against cancer cells with 70% of the medicines found in the rain forest plants.
Experts certainly agree that leaving the rainforest intact while harvesting the nuts, fruits, oil-producing plants and medicinal plants has much more economic value than cutting down the rain forest to make room for cattle to graze. The problem is no one has control over what any individual country or landowner chooses to do with their rainforest. Hopefully people will wake up before this treasure is completely destroyed.
The copyright to this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.