In this term paper, I will explain the great importance of the tropical Rainforests
around the world and discuss the effects of the tragedy of rainforest destruction and the
effect that it is having on the earth. I will write on some specific plants and animals that
call the tropical rain forests their home; there are many different types of rainforest species
and their uniqueness from the rest of the world is amazing. I will also touch on the efforts
being made to help curb the rate of rainforestdestruction and the peoples of the rainforest.
Rain forests are located near the equator in the tropics and are most noted for their
abundance of vegetatin and extreme diversity. Classified by climate and location, all rain
foretsts are dominated by various sized trees so clustered that different layers have
developed in the depths of the jungles. The upper canopy, containing the tallest trees
ranging from 100-150 feet, receives the most light. Beneath the upper canopy are 1-3
layers of vegetation called the canopy. Here the plants are so condensed that so little light
reaches past it, no allowing the final layer, the understory, to have a nice amount of
sunlight. Only a handful of rays it the floor, causing little vegetation to grow.
Due to climate and location, mother nature has created several rain forest classified
differently due to unsimillar characteristics. The Equatorial rain forest is located in warm,
we areas with low altitude, near the equator. Under primary influence of moisture, an
average annual rainfall of 125 inches and constant temperatures of about 87 degrees
together make such a diverse and fragile ecosystem (Encarta).
Tropical rain forests extended 10 degrees latitude from the equator are called
subtropical rainforests. Most commonly found in Central America, West Indies, and
coastal Bazil, the changes in temperature and season switches give a less diverse forest
compared to the Equatorial rain forests (Encarta)
Some rainforests shouldn’t be called rainforests at all. Found at low elevations and
even farther away from the equator, the Monsoon rain forest barely gets any precipiation,
51 inches annually. Droughted by a 4-5 month dry season, pant life is limited. With a
more open canopy, a dense under growth has grown on the forest floor. Because of the
dry season and little rain fall, there is a high flammability rate.
Tropical Rainforests are home to many of the strangest looking and most
beautiful, largest and smallest, most dangerous and least frightening, loudest and quietest
animals on earth. There are many types of animals that make their homes in the rainforest
some of them include: jaguars, toucans, parrots, gorillas, and tarantulas. Don’t be
surprised if you see an antelope the size of a rabbitt either (Rain forest Action Network).
In the rain forest, all species of plants and animals work together to create and maintain
such diversity. There are so many fascinating animals in tropical rainforest that millions
have not even identified yet. In fact, about half of the world’s species have not even been
identified yet. But sadly, an average of 35 species of rainforest animals are becoming
extinct every day(rain-tree.com).
So many species of animals live in the rainforest than any other parts of the world
because rainforests are believed to be the oldest ecosystem on earth. Some forests in
southeast Asia have been around for at least 100 million years, ever since the dinosaurs
have roamed the earth. During the ice ages, which occurred about 10,000 years ago, the
frozen areas of the North and South Poles covered much of the earth, causing huge
numbers of extinctions, but the great freeze did not reach many tropical rainforests.
Therefore, these plants and animals could continue to evolve, developing into the most
diverse and complex ecosystems on earth. The nearly perfect conditions for life also help
contribute to the great number of species. With temperatures constant at about 75-80
degrees Fahrenheit the whole year, the animals don’t have to worry about freezing during
the cold winters or finding hot shade in the summers (Encarta). They rarely have to search
for water, because rain falls almost every day in tropical rainforests.
Some rainforest species have populations that number in the millions. Other
species consist of only a few dozen individuals. Living in limited areas, most of these
species are found nowhere else on earth. For example, the maues marmoset, a species of
monkey, wasn’t discovered until recently. It’s entire tiny population lives within a few
square miles in the Amazon rainforest. This species of monkey is so small that it could fit
into a persons hand! (Rain Forest Action Network) In a rainforest, it is difficult to see
many things other than the millions of insects creeping and crawling around in every layer
of the forest. Scientists estimate that there are more than 50 million different species of
invertebrates living in rainforests. A biologist researching the rainforest found 50 different
speciesof ant on a single tree in Peru! A few hours of crawling in a rainforest would
produce several insects unknown to science. The same scientist, Al Gentry, also counting
tree and liana species, observed an extravagant 2.5 acres in the Amazon basin rain forest
with an amazing 283 species of trees, larger than 4 inches in diameter. In the same plot,
Gentry counted a wopping 580 trees between those characterized above. Globally, all rain
forests, no matter how ?low quality? contain an average of 185 species of trees in 2.5
acres (Emmons, p2).
Compared to the richest woodland areas of the United States, there are only about
20 speceies of trees with the same qualities. However, most temperate forests are much
poorer than this (Emmons, p2).
The constant search for food , water, sunlight and space is a 24-hour pushing and
shoving match. With this fierce competition, it is amazing that that so many species of
animals can all live together. But this is actually the cause of the huge number of the
different species. The main secret lies in the ability of many animals to adapt to eating a
specific plant or animal, which few other species are able to eat. An example of such
adaptations would be the big beaks of the toucans and parrots. Their beaks give them a
great advantage over other birds with smaller beaks. The fruits and nuts from many trees
have evolved with a tough shell to protect them from predators. In turn toucans and
parrots developed large, strong beaks, which serves as a nutcracker and provides them
with many tasty meals.
Many animal species have developed relationships with each other that benefit both
species. Birds and mammal species love to eat the tasty fruits provided by trees. Even fish
living in the Amazon River rely on the fruits dropped from forest trees. Then, the fruit
trees depend upon these animals to eat their fruit, which helps them to spread their seeds
to far – off parts of the forest. In some cases both species are so dependent upon each
other that if one becomes extinct, the other will as well. This nearly happened with trees
that relied on the now extinct dodo birds. They once roamed Mauritius, a tropical island
located in the Indian Ocean. They became extinct during the late 19th century when
humans overhunted them. The calvaria tree stopped sprouting seeds soon after. Scientists
finally concluded that, for the seeds of the calvaria tree to sprout, they needed to be
digested by the dodo bird. By force feeding the seeds to a domestic turkey, who digested
the seeds the same way as the dodo bird, the trees were saved. Unfortunately, humans will
not be able to save each species in this same way.
Each species has evolved with its own set of unique adaptations, ways of helping
them to survive. Every animal has the ability to protect itself from being someone’s next
meal. To prevent the extinction of a species each and every species must develop a
defense tactic. The following are just a few of Mother Nature’s tricks:
The coloring of some animals acts as protection from their predators. Insects play
some of the best hide-and-go-seek in the forest. The ?walking stick? is one such insect; it
blends in so well with the palm tree it calls its home that no one would notice unless it’s
moved. Some butterflies, when they close their wings, look exactly like leaves.
Camouflage can howeverhelp predators, such as boa constrictors, sneak up on
unsuspecting animals and surprise them.
The tree-toed sloth is born with brown fur, but you would never know this by
looking at it. The green algae that makes its home in the sloths fur helps it to blend in with
the tops of the trees, the canopy, where it makes it’s home. But even green algae isn’t the
only thing living in a sloth’s fur; it is literally ?bugged? with a variety of insects. 978
beetles were once found living on one sloth. The sloth has other clever adaptations.
Known for its snail-like pace, it is one of the slowest moving animals on earth. It is so
slow that it often takes up to a month to digest it’s food. Being make a good meal for
jaguars and other predators, most do not notice the sloth as it hangs in the trees, high up
in the canopy (Enclyclopedia Bitannica).
Other animals don’t want to let their presence to the whole forest. Armed with
dangerous poisons used in life threatening situations, their bright colors warn predators to
stay away. This allows them to survive everyday emergency situations. The coral snake of
the Amazon, with its brilliant red, yellow, and black coloring, is recognized as one of the
most beautiful snakes in the world, but it is just as deadly as it is beautiful. The coral
snake’s deadly poison can kill in seconds. Other animals know to stay away from it. The
poison arrow frog also stands out with its brightly colored skin. It’s skin produces some
of the strongest natural poison in the world, which indigenous people often use for hunting
purposes. It’s poison is now being tested for use in modern medicine.
In a single raiforest habitat, several species of squirels can live together without
harming one another. Why can nine species of squirrels live together? Well, in a brief
summary each of the nine species is a different size; three have specialized diets or
habitats, which leaves six species that feed on nuts, fruits and insects, and so potentially
compete for food. A closer look showed that three of the six, a large, a medium, and a
small one live in the forest canopy and never come to the ground. The largest squirrel
feeds mainly on very large, hard nuts, and the smaller ones eat smaller fruits and nuts. The
other three species, again a large medium and small one live in the ground and eat fruits
and nuts of the same species as their canopy neighbors, but only after they fall to the
Tropical rainforests are bursting with life. Not only do millions of species of plants
and animals live in rainforests, but many people also call the rainforest their home. In fact,
Indigenous, or native, people have lived in rainforests for thousands of years. In North and
South America they were mistakenly named Indians by Christopher Columbus, who
thought that he had landed in Indonesia, then called the East Indies. The native people of
the rainforest live very different lives than us. In this section, I will explain how very
different our lives differ than from the indigenous people of the rainforest. Although many
indigenous people live very much like we do, some still live as their ancestors did many
years before them. These groups organize their daily lives differently than our culture.
Everything they need to survive, from food to medicines to clothing, comes from the
Besides haunting, gathering wild fruits and nuts and fishing, Indigenous people
also plant small gardens for other sources of food, using a sustainable farming method
called shifting cultivating. First they clear a small area of land and burn it. Then they plant
many types of plants, to be used for food and medicines. After a few years, the soil has
become too poor to allow for more crops to grow and weeds to start to take over. So they
then move to a nearby uncleared area. This land is traditionally allowed to regrow 10-50
years before it is farmed again. Shifting cultivation is still practiced by those tribes who
have access to a large amount of land. However, with the growing number of
non-Indigenous farmers and the shrinking rainforest, other tribes, especially in Indonesia
and Africa, are now forced to remain in one area. The land becomes a wasteland after a
few years of overuse, and cannot be used for future agriculture.
Most tribal children don’t go to schools like ours. Instead, they learn about the
forest around them from their parents and other people in the tribe. They are taught how
to survive in the forest. They learn how to hunt and fish, and which plants are useful as
medicines or food. Some of these children know more about rainforests than scientists
who have studied rainforests for many years. The group of societies known as Europeans
includes such cultures such as Spanish and German. Similarly, the broad group,
Indigenous peoples includes many distinct culture groups, each with its own traditions.
For instance, plantains (a type of banana) are a major food source for the Yanonami from
the Amazon while the Penan of Borneo, Southeast Asia, depend on the sago palm (a type
of palm tree) for food and other uses. All Indigenous people share their strong ties to the
land. Because the rainforest is so important for their culture, they want to take care of it.
They want to live what is called a sustainable existence, meaning they use the land without
doing harm to the plants and animals that also call the rainforest their home. As a wise
Indigenous man once said, ?The earth is our historian, our educator, the provider of food,
medicine, clothing and protection. She is the mother of our races.?
Indigenous peoples have been losing their lives and the land they live on ever since
Europeans began colonizing 500 years ago. Most of them died from common European
diseases which made Indigenous people very sick because they had never had these
diseases before. A disease such as the flu could possibly kill an indigenous person because
he/she has not been exposed to this disease before. Many Indigenous groups have also
been killed by settlers wanting their land, or put to work as slaves to harvest the resources
of the forest. Others were converts to Christianity by missionaries, who forced them to
live like Europeans and give up their cultural traditions.
Since we (the US and other countries) have been working with the
Indigenous People and other rainforest protection agencies, we have learned many things
about the forest, including it’s ecology, medicinal plants, food and other products. It has
also showed us how crucial it is for the Indigenous people of the rainforest to continue
their daily and traditional activities because of their importance in the cycle if the rainforest
One Indigenous man is leading the fight to preserve is home in the Amazon
rainforest. Medicine man Davi Kopenawa Yanomami cures his brothers with the power
and spirit provided to him by a giant anaconda spirit that lives in the Amazon basin. Using
hallucinagenic powders to contact the spirit world, Davi, leader of the Yanomami Indians,
is taking a modern approach to his quest. Davi is a prophet that sees his people, land and
rain forest gods being swept towards exticntion. After tense pressure from Davi and
friends, the Brazillian government set aside 36,000 square miles for the Yanomami
homeland (McGirk, 83).
Scientists have come to the conclusion the rain forests are potentially more valuble
on a long-term basis. If left intact, an even larger standing biomass can be created.
Todays biodiversity of the rain forest has been conditioned independent of soil conditions
by recycled nutrients. Rain forests properly managed and cared for are able to provide
mass amounts of quality timber and stablalize the local climate, as well as many other
beneficial good things. Medicinal products already available from the rain forest include
diosgenin, an ingredient in contrasepitive pills; resperine, treating cardiac problems; and
curare, used in heart and lung surgery. If the rain forest is left alone and allowed to
evolve, more studies needed can be conducted for future benefits in the medical field as
well as consumer products.
One company, Merck, specializing in medicinal drugs, has been duing its part to
help rainforests through biological prospecting. Merck has local technicians collect
samples to possibly uncover a new medicine. If a breakthrough is found, Costa Rica will
share in the profits, also the local people will earn a living by stuying the rain forest instead
of destroying it (Kowalski, 2).
The large number of natural disasters, cyclones, lighting fires, etc., are just a
minimal effect compared to human activity. Logging, road construction, mining, and
cattle farming have led the attack on the forests (Encarta) The method of slash and burn is
commonly used, where small areas of land are used. Many areas were cleared for banana
and coffee growing or pasture. However, due to the lack of nutrients in the soil, its value
depleted and were abandoned. The time it takes for the area to regrow is insane to even
think about, because the soil needs decaying plant matter to support the lush vegetataion.
The destruction of rainforests affects pollination patterns, migration routes, and food chain
links(Kowalski, 32). If human impact is affecting these forest like this now, who knows
what may happen to these brilliant ecosystems.