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Rainforest

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Rain forest in Costa Rica
Rain forest Locations in the wild

Rainforests are areas which are characterized by very high rainfall. A few of the largest rainforests in the world are located in the Amazon basin, Nicaragua, Yucatán Peninsula-El Peten-Belize, equatorial Africa, and Indonesia. Tropical rainforests are called a few different names including, "jewels of the earth" and, "world's largest pharmacy" or, "earths lungs". It is called the world’s largest pharmacy because it provides so many medicines to human society, through the collection of herbs and other plants. The tropical rainforests are also called the earth’s lungs due to the carbon dioxide which is produced. The name is often confusing because there are limited amounts of oxygen produced in the rainforests. Because of the lack of sunshine on the forest floor little or no vegetation is created which allows humans to travel by foot for exploration or tourist reasons. If more sunlight is let through, it will open up an opportunity for plants to grow on the shrub and forest floor layer. Some of these plants that may grow include tangled growth of vines, shrubs, and various species of small trees called "jungle". Rainforests are a very important part to the, "global climate system" system because it is believed that the forest cools the wind or air that passes through it. [1]

Characteristics

One of the most prominent characteristics of rainforests is the large amounts of rainfall. Because of the abundance of rainfall, the soil becomes poor due to the rainfall "leeching" the nutrients from the soil. The production of humus, which is organic matter that has decayed to a relatively stable, amorphous state, is prevented by bacterial decay from the rainfall. Oxisols, which are an order of soil, have a bright red color that is produced through the iron and aluminum concentration which can commonly be found due to lateralization. Another characteristic which is further explored below is the organisms which inhabit the rainforest. It has been discovered that 2/3 of the animal and plant species in the world are found in the rainforest. It is thought that there may be millions of new species of organisms which possibly may not even have a name. Another characteristic that is easily seen is the tall trees which are commonly evergreens, which can be found in mass quantity in the canopy layer as well as the emergent trees which are taller than all other trees. The leaves of the trees are usually broad, which creates dense foliage. [2] Rainforest are known to be in the wet climate group in biomes. [3]

Through various ways of research, it has been found that tropical rainforests have more species of trees than any other biome, environment, or habitat in the world. The number of different number of species that may be found ranges anywhere from around 100-300 species.[4] Although rainforests hold immense amounts of organisms, it has been found that the soil in the rainforest is shallow and lacking in nutrients and other needed minerals. This lacking in nutrients is caused by the large amounts of rainfall. The insects and other such creatures break down dead plant waist and therefore replenish the soil with small amounts of nutrients, which are used by the needy organisms almost immediately. [5]

Climate

The climate in rain forests can range anywhere from 68 °F to around 93 °F. Because of the large amounts of rainfall, the humidity percentage is around 88%. The rainforest usually receives approximately 100 inches of rainfall annually. [6] On the other hand, tropical rainforests receive anywhere from 160-400 inches of rain per year. In one year, it is common in rainforests to have rain anywhere from 130-250 days per year.[7]

Rainforest Layers

Emergent layer

The Emergent layer includes a limited number of the tallest trees which inhabit the rainforest. Such trees are those who are able to grow to higher heights than the other trees encompassed in the canopy later. The average height of these trees ranges from approximately 45-95 meters tall. The trees in the emergent layer must be able to withstand high wind speeds as well as hot weather due to their location above all other trees.

Canopy layer

The canopy layer encompasses the masses of trees that are found in the rainforest. The average height of these trees ranges from about 30 meters tall to around 45 meters tall. The densest parts of the rainforest are found in this layer, due to the broad range of foliage that may be found on the variety of species. It is commonly thought that around 40% of the earth's plant species can be found in the earth's rainforest. Although there is a plethora of plant species may be found in the Canopy layer, approximately a quarter of all insect species can be found in this layer. Scientist, since 1917, have been exploring the possibilities of study the plant and animal life which hides in the trees of the rainforest. Although many have talked about such opportunities, few have actually been able to accomplish this task due to the problem of reaching the height in the trees which needs to be reached for proper analysis of life. A common way to reach the canopy layer is by firing ropes into the trees using a cross-bow. This technique was developed in the 1980's.

Undercanopy layer

The shrub layer or the undercanopy layer is located under the canopy. The leaves at this particular region of the rainforest are naturally larger than those in the canopy. Along with the canopy layer, many insect species may be found in this layer as well. Because only 5% of the sunlight which covers the canopy layer reaches the shrub layer, many plants are not able to grow due to the lack of sunlight.

Forest floor

The forest floor of the rainforest is located below the shrub layer. The forest floor layer only receives around 2% of the light of the sun. This lack makes it so only plants which are specialized for such conditions are able to remain alive. Because of the warm and humid conditions which are found in the rainforest, animal and plant waist are easily decomposed and broken down. Also because of this humid moist weather, fungi tend to grow which helps in the breaking down and decay of the waste. [8]

Plant Adaptations

Rainforest Leaf

The plants which inhabit the rainforest are forced to make many adaptations throughout their life, due to the minimum 80 inches of rain year. Some of these adaptations are that the leaves of the plant have produced a way of shedding the water off of their leaves so that they do not become overweight and creating buttresses and stilt roots for extra support. It is vital for plants to shed the water off of their leaves, because when there are constant large amounts of rainfall the leaves may be weighted down and ultimately break off. Buttresses and stilt roots are produced to support the individual trees, because of the moist soil which produces and unsteady base for the organism. A minor adaptation which occurs is the lack of growth beneath the canopy layer. This occurs because the plant realizes that if it produces vegetation in this area, it will die due to lack of sunlight (3% of all sunlight reaches this area!). As spoken of above, the leaves that are found in the rainforest are generally large. Why is this? Because the leaves do not receive as much sunlight as needed, the leaves are larger so that they are able to receive the maximum amount of sunlight which is a vital part in photosynthesis. The vines of the forest, which make up approximately 40% of the jungle foliage, are able to grow up the trees due to the ability they have to grow spines on the under side of the vine which allows them to hold on to or grasp the side of the trees. [9]

Note that though "adaptations" is a common evolutionist term, this paragraph is not referring to new genetic information that was not previously there. Biblical Christianity holds that all the genetic potential in the world's animals and plants would have had to have been in existence from Day 3 (in this case), save perhaps for viruses. Thus, the "adaptations" referred to are nothing more than the results of natural selection working on the rainforest trees, allowing them to utilize their genetic potential to "be fruitful and multiply" and "fill the earth." Adaptation, in this usage, means nothing more than the regular dictionary term.

Deforestation

Deforestation

Rainforests, for hundreds of years, have been exposed to forestation, (logging and "agricultural clearance"). Because of deforestation, much of the land area that was once covered by natural rain forest has since been receding and decreasing. Many experts believe that because of this forestation, thousands of species every year are being deleted, killed, and nearly pushed to extinction. This issue has become one of the top arguments for wild life and environmentalists, which would like to protect the forests.

Another reason for deforestation in forests is for urbanization (building of homes, which causes there to be deforestation for land purposes). Although sometimes seen as a negative action, in some third world countries, it is seen a necessity due to emergency. Some staggering claims that support this necessity statement are that the Thailand, India, and the Philippines have states that their deforestation is needed because of a national emergency. [10]

Common Uses

Multiple foods that are now commonly found were originally native to the tropical rain forest due to good growing conditions because of the moisture and warmth which is provided. Many of the plants that were grown in the rainforest may now be found growing in plantations where the soil is similar to the original soil in which it was grown, because the plantations were sometimes built on land which had been previously deforested. Another common way in which humans use the rain forest is for medical uses. It has been found that over half of all medicines that are used today originated from the rainforest, in the herbs and other such plants.[11]A few specific plants that are commonly used in our society today are the Curare and Quinine. Curare is commonly used as an anesthetic, as well as to relax patient’s muscles during surgery. Quinine is used to treat malaria. Over 1,400 plants that may be found in the rainforest are possible cures Cancer, which runs rampant in our world today.[12] As spoken of in the deforestation section, logging is one of the main uses. Because of the broad range of animals in the rainforest, humans are also able to recover meats and hides from animals such as jaguars, cougars, and other such animals. Humans use large rainforests as tourist attractions, where many people can come and view the cornicopia of plants, animals, and other organisms. [13]

Animal Inhabitants

Blue Morpho Butterfly

Along with the many plants species that the rainforest gives home to, it also provides an ample home for many animals. Such animals include species from various families, kingdoms, and species. A few of the varieties include reptiles, birds, mammals, and many invertebrates. A few example of the mammals which call the rainforest their home are primates (monkeys), felids (lions, tigers, domestic cats), and other variations. A few example of the reptiles which may be found are animals such as lizards, chameleons, snakes, as well as some species of turtles.[14] The monkeys which inhabit the rainforest are equipped with prehensile tails which allow them the hang from the branches in the tree tops. In tropical rainforest, the largest animal groups that may be found are the insects. Some examples of the insects which may be found are butterflies stick insects, beetles, and large colonies of ants (many species). The Amazon Basin Rainforest holds the largest population of plants and animals than any other habitat or biome in the world. A biome in Southeast Asia holds the second largest population. The Rainforest in Africa, which is listed above, holds the smallest amount of plants and animals out of all the rainforests.[15]

Interesting Statistics

  • One and one-half acres of rainforest are cut down every second with tragic consequences countries that are in need of industry and development.
  • It is widely believed that the world is losing approximately 137 plants, animal and insect species every single day. This loss is directly due to rainforest deforestation.
  • Rainforest covers approximately 6% of the earth’s surface, although this number is diminishing due to deforestation.
  • Half of the world's species of plants, animals, and other organisms will be destroyed in the next quarter century due illegal logging and deforestation.
  • 80% of the world's diet that is developed originated in the tropical rainforest

References

  • Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia. Many Authors
  • Forest stats A collection of statistics regarding forestation and other such information including information on rainforests
  • Blue Planet Biomes information on rainforests written by the The West Tisbury School. numerous authors (not named)
  • Rainforest Climates information in rainforests which was collected by scientists (author unknown)

Gallery

See Also