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    Tropical Rain Forest Essay (2793 words)

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    In this term paper, I will explain the great importance of the tropical Rainforestsaround the world and discuss the effects of the tragedy of rainforest destruction and theeffect that it is having on the earth. I will write on some specific plants and animals thatcall the tropical rain forests their home; there are many different types of rainforest speciesand their uniqueness from the rest of the world is amazing. I will also touch on the effortsbeing 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 theirabundance of vegetatin and extreme diversity. Classified by climate and location, all rainforetsts are dominated by various sized trees so clustered that different layers havedeveloped in the depths of the jungles.

    The upper canopy, containing the tallest treesranging from 100-150 feet, receives the most light. Beneath the upper canopy are 1-3layers of vegetation called the canopy. Here the plants are so condensed that so little lightreaches past it, no allowing the final layer, the understory, to have a nice amount ofsunlight. 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 classifieddifferently 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, anaverage annual rainfall of 125 inches and constant temperatures of about 87 degreestogether make such a diverse and fragile ecosystem (Encarta). Tropical rain forests extended 10 degrees latitude from the equator are calledsubtropical rainforests. Most commonly found in Central America, West Indies, andcoastal Bazil, the changes in temperature and season switches give a less diverse forestcompared to the Equatorial rain forests (Encarta)Some rainforests shouldn’t be called rainforests at all. Found at low elevations andeven 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 amore open canopy, a dense under growth has grown on the forest floor. Because of thedry season and little rain fall, there is a high flammability rate. Tropical Rainforests are home to many of the strangest looking and mostbeautiful, largest and smallest, most dangerous and least frightening, loudest and quietestanimals on earth. There are many types of animals that make their homes in the rainforestsome of them include: jaguars, toucans, parrots, gorillas, and tarantulas.

    Don’t besurprised 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 maintainsuch diversity. There are so many fascinating animals in tropical rainforest that millionshave not even identified yet. In fact, about half of the world’s species have not even beenidentified yet. But sadly, an average of 35 species of rainforest animals are becomingextinct every day(rain-tree. com).

    So many species of animals live in the rainforest than any other parts of the worldbecause rainforests are believed to be the oldest ecosystem on earth. Some forests insoutheast Asia have been around for at least 100 million years, ever since the dinosaurshave roamed the earth. During the ice ages, which occurred about 10,000 years ago, thefrozen areas of the North and South Poles covered much of the earth, causing hugenumbers of extinctions, but the great freeze did not reach many tropical rainforests. Therefore, these plants and animals could continue to evolve, developing into the mostdiverse and complex ecosystems on earth. The nearly perfect conditions for life also helpcontribute to the great number of species.

    With temperatures constant at about 75-80degrees Fahrenheit the whole year, the animals don’t have to worry about freezing duringthe cold winters or finding hot shade in the summers (Encarta). They rarely have to searchfor water, because rain falls almost every day in tropical rainforests. Some rainforest species have populations that number in the millions. Otherspecies consist of only a few dozen individuals. Living in limited areas, most of thesespecies are found nowhere else on earth.

    For example, the maues marmoset, a species ofmonkey, wasn’t discovered until recently. It’s entire tiny population lives within a fewsquare miles in the Amazon rainforest. This species of monkey is so small that it could fitinto a persons hand! (Rain Forest Action Network) In a rainforest, it is difficult to seemany things other than the millions of insects creeping and crawling around in every layerof the forest. Scientists estimate that there are more than 50 million different species ofinvertebrates living in rainforests.

    A biologist researching the rainforest found 50 differentspeciesof ant on a single tree in Peru! A few hours of crawling in a rainforest wouldproduce several insects unknown to science. The same scientist, Al Gentry, also countingtree and liana species, observed an extravagant 2. 5 acres in the Amazon basin rain forestwith 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 rainforests, no matter how ?low quality? contain an average of 185 species of trees in 2. 5acres (Emmons, p2).

    Compared to the richest woodland areas of the United States, there are only about20 speceies of trees with the same qualities. However, most temperate forests are muchpoorer than this (Emmons, p2). The constant search for food , water, sunlight and space is a 24-hour pushing andshoving match. With this fierce competition, it is amazing that that so many species ofanimals can all live together.

    But this is actually the cause of the huge number of thedifferent species. The main secret lies in the ability of many animals to adapt to eating aspecific plant or animal, which few other species are able to eat. An example of suchadaptations would be the big beaks of the toucans and parrots. Their beaks give them agreat advantage over other birds with smaller beaks. The fruits and nuts from many treeshave evolved with a tough shell to protect them from predators.

    In turn toucans andparrots developed large, strong beaks, which serves as a nutcracker and provides themwith many tasty meals. Many animal species have developed relationships with each other that benefit bothspecies. Birds and mammal species love to eat the tasty fruits provided by trees. Even fishliving in the Amazon River rely on the fruits dropped from forest trees.

    Then, the fruittrees depend upon these animals to eat their fruit, which helps them to spread their seedsto far – off parts of the forest. In some cases both species are so dependent upon eachother that if one becomes extinct, the other will as well. This nearly happened with treesthat relied on the now extinct dodo birds. They once roamed Mauritius, a tropical islandlocated in the Indian Ocean. They became extinct during the late 19th century whenhumans overhunted them.

    The calvaria tree stopped sprouting seeds soon after. Scientistsfinally concluded that, for the seeds of the calvaria tree to sprout, they needed to bedigested by the dodo bird. By force feeding the seeds to a domestic turkey, who digestedthe seeds the same way as the dodo bird, the trees were saved. Unfortunately, humans willnot be able to save each species in this same way. Each species has evolved with its own set of unique adaptations, ways of helpingthem to survive. Every animal has the ability to protect itself from being someone’s nextmeal.

    To prevent the extinction of a species each and every species must develop adefense tactic. The following are just a few of Mother Nature’s tricks:The coloring of some animals acts as protection from their predators. Insects playsome of the best hide-and-go-seek in the forest. The ?walking stick? is one such insect; itblends in so well with the palm tree it calls its home that no one would notice unless it’smoved. Some butterflies, when they close their wings, look exactly like leaves.

    Camouflage can howeverhelp predators, such as boa constrictors, sneak up onunsuspecting animals and surprise them. The tree-toed sloth is born with brown fur, but you would never know this bylooking at it. The green algae that makes its home in the sloths fur helps it to blend in withthe tops of the trees, the canopy, where it makes it’s home. But even green algae isn’t theonly thing living in a sloth’s fur; it is literally ?bugged? with a variety of insects. 978beetles 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 soslow that it often takes up to a month to digest it’s food. Being make a good meal forjaguars and other predators, most do not notice the sloth as it hangs in the trees, high upin the canopy (Enclyclopedia Bitannica). Other animals don’t want to let their presence to the whole forest. Armed withdangerous poisons used in life threatening situations, their bright colors warn predators tostay away.

    This allows them to survive everyday emergency situations. The coral snake ofthe Amazon, with its brilliant red, yellow, and black coloring, is recognized as one of themost beautiful snakes in the world, but it is just as deadly as it is beautiful. The coralsnake’s deadly poison can kill in seconds. Other animals know to stay away from it.

    Thepoison arrow frog also stands out with its brightly colored skin. It’s skin produces someof the strongest natural poison in the world, which indigenous people often use for huntingpurposes. It’s poison is now being tested for use in modern medicine. In a single raiforest habitat, several species of squirels can live together withoutharming one another. Why can nine species of squirrels live together? Well, in a briefsummary each of the nine species is a different size; three have specialized diets orhabitats, which leaves six species that feed on nuts, fruits and insects, and so potentiallycompete for food.

    A closer look showed that three of the six, a large, a medium, and asmall one live in the forest canopy and never come to the ground. The largest squirrelfeeds mainly on very large, hard nuts, and the smaller ones eat smaller fruits and nuts. Theother three species, again a large medium and small one live in the ground and eat fruitsand nuts of the same species as their canopy neighbors, but only after they fall to theground. Tropical rainforests are bursting with life.

    Not only do millions of species of plantsand 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 andSouth America they were mistakenly named Indians by Christopher Columbus, whothought that he had landed in Indonesia, then called the East Indies. The native people ofthe rainforest live very different lives than us. In this section, I will explain how verydifferent our lives differ than from the indigenous people of the rainforest. Although manyindigenous people live very much like we do, some still live as their ancestors did manyyears 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 theforest:? FOODBesides haunting, gathering wild fruits and nuts and fishing, Indigenous peoplealso plant small gardens for other sources of food, using a sustainable farming methodcalled shifting cultivating. First they clear a small area of land and burn it. Then they plantmany types of plants, to be used for food and medicines. After a few years, the soil hasbecome too poor to allow for more crops to grow and weeds to start to take over.

    So theythen move to a nearby uncleared area. This land is traditionally allowed to regrow 10-50years before it is farmed again. Shifting cultivation is still practiced by those tribes whohave access to a large amount of land. However, with the growing number ofnon-Indigenous farmers and the shrinking rainforest, other tribes, especially in Indonesiaand Africa, are now forced to remain in one area. The land becomes a wasteland after afew years of overuse, and cannot be used for future agriculture. ? EDUCATIONMost tribal children don’t go to schools like ours.

    Instead, they learn about theforest around them from their parents and other people in the tribe. They are taught howto survive in the forest. They learn how to hunt and fish, and which plants are useful asmedicines or food. Some of these children know more about rainforests than scientistswho have studied rainforests for many years. The group of societies known as Europeansincludes 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 fromthe Amazon while the Penan of Borneo, Southeast Asia, depend on the sago palm (a typeof palm tree) for food and other uses. All Indigenous people share their strong ties to theland. 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 withoutdoing harm to the plants and animals that also call the rainforest their home. As a wiseIndigenous 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 sinceEuropeans began colonizing 500 years ago. Most of them died from common Europeandiseases which made Indigenous people very sick because they had never had thesediseases before. A disease such as the flu could possibly kill an indigenous person becausehe/she has not been exposed to this disease before.

    Many Indigenous groups have alsobeen killed by settlers wanting their land, or put to work as slaves to harvest the resourcesof the forest. Others were converts to Christianity by missionaries, who forced them tolive like Europeans and give up their cultural traditions. Since we (the US and other countries) have been working with theIndigenous People and other rainforest protection agencies, we have learned many thingsabout the forest, including it’s ecology, medicinal plants, food and other products. It hasalso showed us how crucial it is for the Indigenous people of the rainforest to continuetheir daily and traditional activities because of their importance in the cycle if the rainforest(congo-online. com). One Indigenous man is leading the fight to preserve is home in the Amazonrainforest.

    Medicine man Davi Kopenawa Yanomami cures his brothers with the powerand spirit provided to him by a giant anaconda spirit that lives in the Amazon basin. Usinghallucinagenic 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 andrain forest gods being swept towards exticntion. After tense pressure from Davi andfriends, the Brazillian government set aside 36,000 square miles for the Yanomamihomeland (McGirk, 83). Scientists have come to the conclusion the rain forests are potentially more valubleon 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 conditionsby recycled nutrients. Rain forests properly managed and cared for are able to providemass amounts of quality timber and stablalize the local climate, as well as many otherbeneficial good things. Medicinal products already available from the rain forest includediosgenin, an ingredient in contrasepitive pills; resperine, treating cardiac problems; andcurare, used in heart and lung surgery. If the rain forest is left alone and allowed toevolve, more studies needed can be conducted for future benefits in the medical field aswell as consumer products.

    One company, Merck, specializing in medicinal drugs, has been duing its part tohelp rainforests through biological prospecting. Merck has local technicians collectsamples to possibly uncover a new medicine. If a breakthrough is found, Costa Rica willshare in the profits, also the local people will earn a living by stuying the rain forest insteadof destroying it (Kowalski, 2). The large number of natural disasters, cyclones, lighting fires, etc. , are just aminimal effect compared to human activity.

    Logging, road construction, mining, andcattle farming have led the attack on the forests (Encarta) The method of slash and burn iscommonly used, where small areas of land are used. Many areas were cleared for bananaand coffee growing or pasture. However, due to the lack of nutrients in the soil, its valuedepleted and were abandoned. The time it takes for the area to regrow is insane to eventhink about, because the soil needs decaying plant matter to support the lush vegetataion. The destruction of rainforests affects pollination patterns, migration routes, and food chainlinks(Kowalski, 32).

    If human impact is affecting these forest like this now, who knowswhat may happen to these brilliant ecosystems. Science Essays

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