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The Rainforests - Rainforest Information


The Rainforests > Rainforest Information

Author: Denise Tansley


Save Our Earth - Rainforest Waterfall
Photo courtesy by RIC
The Rainforests are the most natural, beautiful, diverse places on this Earth. They are home to many rare birds, plants and animals, contributing around 50 to 80% of the species on this Earth. Today it is termed as. 'The Lungs of the Earth' and two thousand years ago, 'The Gardens of Eden'. Within the last forty years we as a whole have managed to destroy seventy percent of these Ancient Forests.

It takes an average of 300-500 years for a tree to firmly establish its roots with a maximum height for some of the trees reaching 200ft you can easily see why it takes this long and yet minutes to burn. With the size of Wales being destroyed each year for products such as toilet paper, newspaper, writing paper and furniture, the forests are looking more like deserts than the greenery it once was. So where are these forests that we hear so much about, below is a list of them all, many now have been cultivated for land to graze cattle, for roads and of course felled for their timber.


Whats the difference between Rainforests and other forests?

Latitude and rainfall distinguish tropical forests from temperate (or moderate climate) forests which are found in warm climates but not too hot to be called tropical. Temperate forests are at ground elevation, mainly in North America, Europe and cooler Australasia. There are many types : deciduous woodland, coniferous woodland, Mediterranean woodland and temperate rainforest.

All tropical rainforests lie between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. They receive more water, being in the monsoon regions. There are many different kinds of rainforest : tropical evergreen, tropical moist deciduous, cloud forest, lowland rainforest and peaty swamp forest.

Rainforests may grow in thin and sterile soil. This is achieved by ample sunlight and water, and nutrients from decaying plant matter. In the warm damp conditions, dead plants rapidly decay and by bacterial or microbial action, the nutrients are released.

The forests are a closed ecosystem where everything is recycled but once these forests are opened, the decaying matter is cleared, the moist conditions disappear and slowly the forest cannot sustain itself.


Where are the Rainforests of the World?

Save Our Earth - Rainforest Map



What is the purpose of the Forests?

The main purpose of the forests is to act as the breathing apparatus for the world's climate. If you can imagine, take away all forms of air pollution, and picture the forests before man had stumbled on them and you have a natural environment; the forests, growing more and more lush as each decade that passes.
Save Our Earth - Costa Rica
Photo supplied by Ann Walker
Then bang, along comes the Industrial Age that falls upon the world and as travel becomes easier, man makes more and more discoveries outside his own domain, seeing the rainforests as a giant playground which will provide the world with products such as wood for furniture and paper, without destroying their own resources. (Japan and Europe being the largest markets for tropical hardwoods figures from 1992, show 12 to 15 million cubic tonnes of timber a year being shipped to these areas). After all nobody would miss the wood here!Medicine was another product the forest provided (mentioned later).

So as companies moved into providing furniture for our luxury, the trees were felled without one thought of what would go so horribly wrong. Now because of this greed and commercialism, this once perfect oasis now becomes as extinct as the wildlife that thrived there. Without this breathing apparatus, the air we breathe now fills with fumes from the Industrial Age we so welcomed.

But what of the technicalities of the 'Lungs of the Earth'? As the Earth is producing more carbon dioxide from usages such as cars, planes boats, power stations, incinerators and with population growing, the levels are much higher. So where does this carbon dioxide go? At a normal rate and with the forests being left untouched or sustained, the poison is sucked up by the trees and the trees then emit oxygen. As we sleep at night the Earth wakes us with fresh air. Perfect and simple. NO. Now with the forests STILL being destroyed at the rate of the size of a football pitch each second, we are destroying the one thing that holds the Earth in balance. If this continues within the next few years, our oxygen supplier will no longer wake us with the fresh air we take so much for granted.


What life do the Rainforests' support?

As mentioned above the forests support 50-80% of species on the Earth. Ecuador and South America has between 15,000 and 20,000 plant species, whereas in the whole of Europe has 13,000. In Southeast Asia there are 656 mammals, 850 amphibians and 700 butterflies. In Peru, 530 species of birds can be found. To get an idea of the enormity of life that the rainforests supports we have listed as many as we can find, below :

Tree Frog (Hyla Boans) , Leaf cutting Ant , Harlequin Beetle (Acrocinus Longimanus) , Worker Ants, Gecko , Damselfly , Jaguar , Deer , Tapir , Rubber Fly , Coatimundi , Lanternwing Insect , Bull Frog , Red Squirrel , Anolis Lizard , Pike-headed Vine Snake , Red-eyed Tree Frog , Basilisk Basilliscus Americana , Helmeted Iguana , Boa Constrictor , Orange Tree Frog (Bojo Peregienes) , Agalychnis Spurreli , Poison Tree Frog (Hyla Ebbraccata) , Flaming Arrow Poison Frog (Dendrobates Pumilio) , Hyla Boulanger , Aloreate Parrot Snake , Hummingbird , Bare-Throated Tiger Heron (Tigrisoma Mexicanum) , Guatemalan Howler Monkey (Aloutta Villosa) , Woolly Opposum , Baird's Tapirs , Wolf Spider , Tegnaria Spider , Katydid , Spotted Butterfly , Sphyngid Moth , Owl Butterfly , Winged Butterfly (Hypoleria) , Clearwing Butterfly (Cithaerias Menander) , Black Polister Wasp , Blackcurrent Grasshopper , Ruduvig Bug ,
Save Our Earth - Bird
Photo supplied by Ann Walker
Yellow Schegal Viper , Chrotopteris Bat , White Bearded Hermit Humming Bird , Apoica Wasp , Howler Monkey , King Vulture , Copybara (grows to 4feet and is the largest living rodent) , Ocelot , Giant Otter , Hoatzin , Orgiope Argentata , Pygmy Anteater (Cylcopes Didactylus - rarely grows more than 7inches) , Dendrobates Leucomeless , Eleuthero Dactylus , Caterpillar , Amazon Dolphin , Red Faced Uakari (Cacajao Rubicundus) , Woolly Monkey (Lagothrix Lagothricha - woolly monkeys live with up to 50 other individual monkeys) , Two Toed Sloth (Choloepus Didactylus) , Blue Morpho butterfly (Morpho Nestira) ,

Dung-Eating Butterfly , Sulphur Butterfly (Phoebus sp - sucks moisture from the riverside mud of Bolivia) , Actinote Momina Butterfly , Grasshopper , Urticating Caterpillar , Bird-Eating Spider , Piranha , Green-Throated Hummingbird , Yellow Rumped Cacique (Cacicus Cela) , Fruit-Eating Bird (found in large groups) , Blue-Tailed Emerald Hemmingbird (Chlorostilbon Melliscus) , Genus Ithomiidae , Heliconid , Heliconius Melpomene , Cattle Egret (Ardeola Ibis) , Long-Tailed Lemur (Lemur Catta) , Black Lemur (Lemur Macaco) , Indris (Indri Indri - largest of the lemurs growing around 28 inches) , Aye-Aye (Daubentonia Madagacariensis) , Toco Toucan (Ramphastos Toco) , Red-Ruffed Lemur (Lemur Variegatus-Ruber) , Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis Liberiensis) , Eastern Lowland Gorilla , Silverback Ape , Leopard (Panthera Pardus) , Tiger (Panthera Tigris - largest hunter of the rainforests, reaching over 11 feet) , Spoonbill (Platgala Leuxorodia) , Stork (Ibis Leucocephallus) , Genus Cynapes Spider ,

Tocrue Macaque Monkey , Brown-Headed Barbet , Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris Asiatica) , Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone Paradisi) , Ceylon Hawk , Malabar Pied Hornbill , Ceylon Serpent Eagle , Silvered Langur , Stump-Tailed Macaques (Macaca Fascicularis) , Malay Fishing Owl , Adjutant Stork , Flying Frog , Praying Mantis , Flying Foxes , Viper , Python , Golden Tree Snake , Siamang (Large Gibbon) , Blue-Eared Kingfisher (Alcedo Meninting) , Heron , Weaver Ants (Oecophylla Smaragdina) , Thosea Butterfly , Paper Wasp (Polistes) , Atlas Moth (Attacus Atlas) , Two Horn Rhino Beetle , Blue-Throated Bee-Eater (Merops Viridis) , Rufous-Backed Kingfisher , Jumping Spider (Hyllus sp) , Orang Utan (Pongo Pygmaeus - grow as tall as 5 feet) , Asian Rhinoseroses (once found throughout Java and mainland Malaysia but hunting has reduced its numbers to a few hundred) , Blossom Bat , Giant Wood Spider (Nehila Maculata) , Harpy Eagle , Tree-Dwelling Anteater (Tamandua) , 12 inch Golden Conue , Giant Anole Lizard.


Plants and Flowers


Bosleria Orchid , Wild Fuchsia , Aroid Plant , Gurania Climber , Cephaelis Alata , Forest Mistletoe , Ginger Flower , Epidendron Orchid , Pseudobombax Flower , Helicona , Purple Helicona , Red and Green Helicona , Passion Flower , Black Lilly , Climbing Palm (Calamus Densiflora) , Sobralia Orchid , Sonneratia Flower , Black Pomatocalpa Orchid , Chloranthum Orchid , Bulbophyllum Orchid , Ladies Slipper Orchid (Glaucophyllum) , Pink Orchid , Helliconia Collinsiana , Sumatran Orchid , Wild Ginger Plant , Pholidota Imbricata Orchid , Mucuna Novaeguineesis.


What medicines do the Forests provide?

It is astonishing to think that of all the drugs we consume today most of the common ones are derived from the rainforests, even more astonishing is that only a small amount of the total number of plants have been screened for medical use. The following is a list of drugs that the plants have provided a basis for : the contraceptive pill, antibiotics, tranquillisers, dental cement, heart and ulcer drugs. In fact one in four products from the chemist contain chemical compounds derived from rainforest plants. 70% of anti cancer plants originate from the rainforests and the US National Cancer Institute identified 3,000 plants with properties in fighting cancer.

From 1960-1990, the survival rate for child leukaemia rose from 20% to 80% when 'The Rosy Periwinkle' plant from Madagascar played a major contribution in fighting this form of cancer. The Cinchona tree from Peru has been effective in treating malaria; the Guatemalan wild yam is a major contribution to the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill; Resperine from South East Asia, from the shrub Rauwlfia Serpentina is used for treating hypertension. Cement used in dentistry comes from the balsams of Latin America. And the 'Benzoin Tree' of Malaysia produces a yellow substance that is used for antiseptic and to treat bronchitis. This is the Earth's own medicine cabinet with many more cures for illnesses hidden within the forests.

With the pharmaceutical companies making billions of pounds and dollars each year, it seems that it is in their interest that the forests no longer survive, but the forests provided the basis for all of man's drugs and we should start preserving them now.


What happens to Forests that are burnt down?

Save Our Earth - Forest
Photo courtesy by RIC
Forests that are burnt will not resume their previous life again as the ground is not fertile enough and nothing will grow; it will be like a house gutted after a fire. As if this was not enough the heavy rains that hit the forests that normally receives up to 200 centimetres a year will sit on the ground and flood the area causing mud and land slides.

In 1988 the great floods of Thailand alerted the government of the dangers and implications of forest clearing. A study carried out in the Ivory Coast region found that in a landslide, a forested slope lost 0.03 tons per hectare per year where as a deforested slope lost 138 tons of soil per hectare per year. You can also add to this the carbon dioxide that is released into the air when forests are burnt.

Based on a 1992 study, figures showed 15-20% of carbon dioxide was emitted into the air and ten years later, you can double that and add the emissions caused by the Industrial Age and its fossil fuels and you are pushing the percentage higher and higher. Within the next five to ten years, if the forests continue to be destroyed and emissions are not cut drastically, we will see such diverse weather patterns like never before, pushing highs up to 150 degrees with famine, drought and disease, and this is only the beginning...



References

The Green Guide by Angela Smyth & Caroline Wheater
Tropical Rainforests of the World by Rupert O. Matthews
Battle For The Planet by Andre Singer





Document last updated on Tuesday 30 August 2011

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