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2009

ENVIRONMENTAL
SCIENCE
A BRIEF REASERCH
WORK ON
RAIN FOREST
[
CONTENT
01. Introduction
• What is rain forest?
• Where are they located?
• Rain forest ecology.
02. Tropical forest in our daily lives.
03. Deforestation.
• Causes of Anthropogenic deforestation.
• Causes of rain forest deforestation.
04. Consequences
• Environmental factors and impacts of deforestation.
• Economical impacts of deforestation.
04. Conservation of rain forest.
05. Flora and fauna.
• Amphibians
• Birds
• Insects
• Mammals
• Plants
06. Case study: Amazon rain forest
07. Conclusion.

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INTRODUCTION

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WHAT IS RAIN
FOREST

Tropical forests" encompass the idyllic rainforest, the remote cloud


forest, and the lesser-known but equally endangered dry forest, pine
savanna, and much, much more. They are not one ecosystem, but millions
of unique ecosystems. Tropical forests are both the fearsome Jungle of our
fantasy and the fertile Eden of our myth. They are the central nervous
system of our planet -- a hotbed of evolution, life, and diversity.
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Tropical rainforests are home to over half the world's species, all
squeezed into a narrow strip of equatorial land. They are also home to
millions of human beings that have been a part of forest ecosystem for
thousands of years. Together, tropical forests form a gallery of the most
beautiful, awe-inspiring places and creatures on Earth.
Since the beginning of history, humans have relied on tropical forests.
The "jungle" provided our ancient ancestors with a steady supply of wood,
plants, and animals, and it gave us many of our first fruits, fibers, grains,
medicines, cloths, resins, pigments, and other materials. As the millennia
passed and many human communities moved farther and farther away from
the Tropics, our ties to the forest did not weaken. Major trade routes, and
even empires, developed to control the flow of the tropical forest's treasures.

Today, most of the industrialized world senses little connection to the


tropical forest, living in large, busy cities far away from these fertile
ecological powerhouses. We forget that the forest regularly saves our global
food supply by offering new, disease-resistant crops. We forget about the
hundreds of billions of dollars worth of trade in tropical timber, non-timber
forest products, and forest-derived drugs. We forget about things that are
ultimately beyond value: the livelihoods of millions of forest peoples, a stable
and livable climate for us all, the existence of most of our fellow species, and
simple things we take for granted, like regular rain and clean air.
In tropical nations, many developing and debt-ridden, the forest is
cleared in the hope of securing an economic future. Huge industrial
interests, including timber, agriculture, and mining, see an "endless,"
profitable supply of cheap resources just waiting to be taken. Meanwhile,
family farmers and loggers feel they have no option but to deforest in order
to feed their families. However, innumerable studies and recent history show
that little security can be found in tropical deforestation.

IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A JUNGLE AND A RAINFOREST?

From "The Neotropical Companion" by John Kricher:


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When a rainforest is disturbed, such as by hurricane, lightning strikes or
human activity,
the disturbed area is opened, permitting the penetration of large amounts of
light.
Fast growing plan species intolerant of shade are temporarily favored
and a tangle of thin-boled trees, shrubs and vines result.
Like a huge, dense pile carpet, a mass of greenery, or "jungle",
soon covers the gap created by the disturbance.
Another explanation:
A tropical rainforest has more kinds of trees and other plant life than
any other area of the world. Most trees in the tropical rainforest are broad
leaf trees that grow closely together. The tallest trees may grow as tall as 200
feet. The tops, called crowns, form a covering of leaves about 100-150 feet
above the ground. This cover is called the upper canopy. The crowns of the
smaller trees form one or two lower canopies. These canopies share the
forest floor so that it receives less than one percent as much sunlight as
does the upper canopy. As a result, only ferns and other plants requiring
little sunlight grown on the forest floor. This makes it possible for a person
to easily walk through most parts of a tropical rainforest.
However, areas of dense growth occur where much sunlight reaches the
ground. These areas are called jungles and grow in swamps, near broad
rivers or in former clearings.
According to Grolier Inc, there are two major types of rainforests:
• Tropical, characterized by broadleaf evergreen trees that form a closed
canopy, below which is found a zone of vines and epiphytes (plants
growing in the trees), a relatively open forest floor and a very large
number of species of both plant and animal life. The largest areas of
the tropical rainforest are in the Amazon basic of South America, in
the Congo basin and other lowland equatorial regions of Africa, and on
both the mainland and the islands off Southeast Asia where they are
especially abundant in Sumatra and New Guinea. Small areas are
found in Central America and along the Queensland coast of
Australia.
• Temperate, growing in higher-latitude regions having wet, maritime
climates and less extensive than those of the tropical forests. Some of
the notable forests in this category are the northwest of the USA,
southern Chile, in Tasmania and in parts of southeastern Australia
and New Zealand.

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WHERE THEY ARE
LOCATED

T
world.
he map below shows the location of the world's tropical rainforests.
Rainforests cover only a small part of the earth's surface - about 6%,
yet they are home to over half the species of plants and animals in the

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CENTRAL AMERICA

This region was once


entirely covered with rainforest,
but large areas have been
cleared for cattle ranching and
for sugar cane plantations.

Like other major


rainforests, the jungles and
mangrove swamps of Central
America contain many plants
and animals found nowhere
else. Central America is
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famous for its large number of
tropical birds, including many
kinds of parrots.

THE AMAZON

The Amazon jungle is the


world's largest tropical
rainforest. The forest covers
the basin of the Amazon, the
world's second longest river.

The Amazon is home to the


greatest variety of plants and
animals on Earth. A 1/5 of all
the world's plants and birds
and about 1/10 of all mammal
species are found there.

AFRICA
Africa contains
Central Africa areas of high
holds the world's cloud forest,
second largest mangrove swamps
rainforest. To the and flooded
south east, the forests. The
large island of island of
Madagascar was Madagascar is
once intensively home to many
forested, but now unique plants and
much of it is gone. animals not found
anywhere else.

SOUTHERN ASIA
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The rainforests of Asia
stretch from India and Burma
in the west to Malaysia and the
islands of Java and Borneo in
the east. Bangladesh has the
largest area of mangrove forests
in the world.

In Southeast Asia the


climate is hot and humid all
year round. In the mainland
Asia it has a subtropical climate
with torrential monsoon rains
followed by a drier period.

AUSTRALASIA

Millions of years ago,


Australia, New Zealand and
the island of New Guinea
formed part of a great forested
southern continent, isolated
from the rest of the world.
Today these countries contain
many different species of
animal that occur nowhere
else.

Undergrowth in
Australia's tropical forests is
dense and lush. The forests
lie in the path of wet winds
blowing in from the Pacific.

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RAINFOREST
ECOLOGY

Tropical rainforests across the world are highly diverse, but share
several defining characteristics including climate, precipitation, canopy
structure, complex symbiotic relationships, and diversity of species. Every
rainforest does not necessarily conform to these characteristics and most
tropical rainforests do not have clear boundaries, but may blend with
adjoining mangrove forest, moist forest, montane forest, or tropical
deciduous forest.

GEOGRAPHY-AND-CLIMATE
Tropical rainforests lie in the "tropics", between the Tropic of
Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer. In this region sunlight strikes Earth at
roughly a 90-degree angle resulting in intense solar energy (solar energy
diminishes as you move farther north or south). This intensity is due to the
consistent day length on the equator: 12 hours a day, 365 days per year
(regions away from the equator have days of varying length). This consistent
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sunlight provides the essential energy necessary to power the forest via
photosynthesis.

Because of the ample solar energy, tropical rainforests are usually


warm year round with temperatures from about 72-93F (22-34C), .JPG
although forests at higher elevations, especially cloud forests, may be
significantly cooler. The temperature may fluctuate during the year, but in
some equatorial forests the average may vary as little as 0.5F (0.3C)
throughout the year. Temperatures are generally moderated by cloud cover
and high humidity.

PRECIPITATION
An important characteristic of rainforests is apparent in their name.
Rainforests lie in the intertropical convergence zone where intense solar
energy produces a convection zone of rising air that loses its moisture
through frequent rainstorms. Rainforests are subject to heavy rainfall, at
least 80 inches (2,000 mm), and in some areas over 430 inches (10,920 mm)
of rain each year. In equatorial regions, rainfall may be year round without
apparent "wet" or "dry" seasons, JPG although many forests do have
seasonal rains. Even in seasonal forests, the period between rains is usually
not long enough for the leaf litter to dry out completely. During the parts of
the year when less rain falls, the constant cloud cover is enough to keep the
air moist and prevent plants from drying out. Some Neotropical rainforests
rarely go a month during the year without at least 6" of rain. The stable
climate, with evenly spread rainfall and warmth, allows most rainforest trees
to be evergreen—keeping their leaves all year and never dropping all their
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leaves in any one season.

Forests further from the equator, like those of Thailand, Sri Lanka, and
Central America, where rainy seasons are more pronounced, can only be
considered "semi-evergreen" since some species of trees may shed all of their
leaves at the beginning of the dry season. Annual rainfall is spread evenly
enough to allow heavy growth of broad-leafed evergreen trees, or at least
semi-evergreen trees.

The moisture of the rainforest from rainfall, constant cloud cover, and
transpiration (water loss through leaves), creates intense local humidity.
Each canopy tree transpires some 200 gallons (760 liters) of water annually,
translating to roughly 20,000 gallons (76,000 L) of water transpired into the
atmosphere for every acre of canopy trees. Large rainforests (and their
humidity) contribute to the formation of rain clouds, and generate as much
as 75 percent of their own rain. The Amazon rainforest is responsible for
creating as much as 50 percent of its own precipitation.

Deforestation and climate change may be affecting the water cycle in


tropical rainforests. Since the mid-1990s, rainforests around the world have
experienced periods of severe drought, including Southeast Asia in 1997 and
2005 and the Amazon in 2005. Dry conditions, combined with degradation
from logging and agricultural conversion, make forests more vulnerable to
wildfire.

CANOPY-STRUCTURE
Rainforests are characterized by a unique vegetative structure
consisting of several vertical layers including the overstory, canopy,
understory, shrub layer, and ground level. The canopy refers to the dense
ceiling of leaves and tree branches formed by closely spaced forest trees. The
upper canopy is 100-130 feet above the forest floor, penetrated by scattered
emergent trees, 130 feet or higher, that make up the level known as the
overstory. Below the canopy ceiling are multiple leaf and branch levels
known collectively as the understory. The lowest part of the understory, 5-
20 feet (1.5-6 meters) above the floor, is known as the shrub layer, made up

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of shrubby plants and tree saplings.

The heavy vegetation of the canopy effectively screens light from the
forest floor, and in a true (primary) equatorial rainforest, there is little
jungle-like ground growth to impede movement. Ground vegetation in
primary forest is minimal and usually consists mainly of lianas (vines) and
tree seedlings.

An important characteristic of the canopy system is the presence of


plants known as epiphytes that grow on canopy trees. Epiphytes are not
parasitic because they draw no nutrients away from the host, but use the
host tree only for support. High in the canopy, epiphytes are better able to
access the strong tropical sunlight, which they require for growth. Epiphytes
have adapted well to their aerial environment, developing various means to
collect nutrients from their surroundings,
An additional plant type characteristic of the canopy system is the liana—a
sort of woody vine that begins life as a shrub on the forest floor and makes
its way up to the canopy by latching on to canopy trees. A related plant type,
the hemiepiphyte, begins life in the canopy and grows long roots that
eventually reach the forest floor. Once rooted, hemiepiphytes do not have to
rely on capturing nutrients from their canopy surroundings, but can access
nutrients from the forest floor.
Unknown numbers of plants and animals reside in the canopy, the vast
majority of which are specifically adapted to life in this leafy world. In
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tropical rainforests, it is estimated that 90 percent of the species that exist
in the ecosystem reside in the canopy. Since the tropical rainforests are
estimated to hold 50 percent of the planet's species, the canopy of
rainforests worldwide may hold 45 percent of life on Earth.

INTERDEPENDENCE AND COMPLEX SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIPS


Interdependence—whereby all species are to some extent be dependent
on one another— is a key characteristic of the rainforest ecosystem.
Biological interdependency takes many forms in the forest, from species
relying on other species for pollination and seed dispersal to predator-prey
relationships to symbiotic relationships.

Agouti in Panama.
These interdependent relationships have been developing for millions of
years and form the basis for the ecosystem. Each species that disappears
from the ecosystem may weaken the survival chances of another, while the
loss of a keystone species—an organism that links many other species
together, much like the keystone of an arch—could cause a significant
disruption in the functioning of the entire system.

For example, Brazil nut trees (Bertholletia excelsa) are dependent on several
animal species for their survival. These large canopy trees found in the
Amazon rainforest rely on the agouti, a ground-dwelling rodent, for a key
part of their life cycle. The agouti is the only animal with teeth strong
enough to open their grapefruit-sized seed pods. While the agouti eats some
of the Brazil nut's seeds, it also scatters the seeds across the forest by
burying caches far away from the parent tree. These seeds then germinate
and form the next generation of trees. For pollination, Brazil nut trees are
dependent on Euglossine orchid bees. Without these large-bodied bees,

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Brazil nut reproduction is not possible. For this reason, there has been little
success growing Brazil nut trees in plantations—they only appear to grow in
primary rainforest.

Life in the rainforests is competitive and countless species have developed


complex symbiotic relationships with other species in order to survive. A
symbiotic relationship is a relationship where both participant species
benefit mutually. Symbiotic relationships appear to be the rule and not the
exception in the rainforest. For example, ants have symbiotic relationships
with countless rainforest species including plants, fungi, and other insects.
One symbiotic relationship exists between ants and caterpillars. Certain
caterpillar species produce sweet chemicals from "dew patches" on their
backs, upon which a certain ant species will feed. In return, the ants
vigorously protect the caterpillar and have even been observed carrying the
caterpillar to the nest at night for safety. This relationship appears to be
species specific in that only one caterpillar species will cater to a particular
ant species

17
Tropical Forests in Our
Daily Lives

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Tropical forests encompass not only mist enshrouded rainforests but also remote cloud
forests, endangered dry forests and pine savannas. Tropical forests are not a single ecosystem,
but millions of unique ecosystems that are home to over half of the world's plant and animal
species.
Exotic orchids, stealthy jaguars, giant armadillos, colorful songbirds, noisy monkeys and
reclusive snakes are but some of the creatures that inhabit tropical forests -- along with
millions of human beings who have relied on forest fruits, fibers, grains, medicines, cloths,
resins and pigments for millennia.
While most of the industrialized world senses little connection with the tropical forest, living
in large, busy cities far away from these fertile ecological powerhouses, we continue to rely
on them for many of our most basic needs.
Food
The forest regularly saves our global food supply by offering new, disease-resistant
crops. Although we have sampled only a tiny fraction of the potential foods that tropical
forests offer, they already have a profound influence on our diet. An astounding number of
fruits (bananas, citrus), vegetables (peppers, okra), nuts (cashews, peanuts), drinks (coffee,
tea, cola), oils (palm, coconut), flavorings (cocoa, vanilla, sugar, spices) and other foods
(beans, grains, fish) originated in and around the rainforest.
If we are not careful though, our appetites for these products could destroy the source from
which they came as unsustainable farming methods continue to be a major cause of rainforest
destruction and pollution worldwide. We can enjoy the rainforest food basket if we support
Earth-friendly farming -- a balanced agricultural approach that may draw on both local
farming traditions and cutting-edge science.
Medicine

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Many of the Western medicines that we use today are derived from plants, and many
more may have pharmaceutical properties. Tropical forests have given us chemicals to treat or
cure inflammation, rheumatism, diabetes, muscle tension, surgical complications, malaria,
heart conditions, skin diseases, arthritis, glaucoma and hundreds of other maladies.
Homes and Offices
Tropical forests yield some of the most beautiful and valuable woods in the world,
such as teak, mahogany, rosewood, balsa, sandalwood and countless lesser-known species.
These woods surround us at home, in shopping malls and in offices. Many are vital to our
industries. But only recently has the industrialized world realized the limits to timber
extraction. Just like agriculture, logging can either nurture or destroy an ecosystem. It is up to
us to support environmentally responsible logging and promote smarter wood production and
consumption around the world.
After all, a healthy forest can provide a lot more than wood. Tropical forest fibers are
found in rugs, mattresses, ropes and strings, fabrics, industrial processes and more. Tropical
forest oils, gums and resins are used in insecticides, rubber products, fuel, paint, varnish and
wood finishing products. And tropical oils are key ingredients in cosmetics, soaps, shampoos,
perfumes, disinfectants and detergents.
Climate Control

Tropical forests do not only provide goods, but invaluable services, as well. They are
vital to the hydrologic cycle (rain and water systems), and they maintain some of the world's
most fragile soils. They are also one of the world’s primary carbon reservoirs. By absorbing
carbon dioxide from the air, storing the carbon and giving us oxygen, tropical forests act as
the world’s thermostat, regulating temperatures and weather patterns. The loss of our forests
contributes to approximately 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions each year -- more
than all the world’s trains, planes and automobiles combined. In some tropical countries (i.e.
Brazil and Indonesia) emissions from deforestation can be as high as 50 to 70 percent --
higher than from all other sources.
Responsible forestry helps us to turn down the global thermostat. By stopping the
destruction of mature (old-growth) forests, we keep a huge amount of carbon from being
released into the atmosphere, and by promoting Earth-friendly planting and management of
young forests, we absorb large amounts of atmospheric carbon.
The Future
Nearly half of the Earth’s original forest cover has already been lost, and each year an
additional 32 million acres (13 million hectares) are destroyed (a land area the size of
Nicaragua or the State of Louisiana). Our world is facing the greatest extinction crisis since
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the fall of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. The future of many of Earth's plants and
animals -- and hundreds of human cultures -- will be determined within the next few decades.
Because our lives are so intertwined with the forest's great bounty, our fate -- as well as the
fate of millions of plants and animal species -- is at stake. It is up to all of us to act
responsibly and to be good stewards by contributing to the sustainable production of all the
goods and services that the Earth’s tropical forests provide.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has several ongoing collaborative programs which
screen plants for the possibility of new drugs and active plant chemicals for cancer and
AIDS/HIV.
Because well over 50 percent of the estimated 250,000 plant species found on earth come
from tropical forests, NCI concentrates on these regions. Plants have been collected from the
African countries of Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Ghana, Madagascar,
and Tanzania. Collections are now concentrated in Madagascar (one of the most rapidly
disappearing rainforest regions in the world), and collaborative programs have been
established in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
In Central and South America, samples have been collected from Belize, Bolivia,
Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Martinique,
Paraguay, Peru, and Puerto Rico. The NCI has established collaborative programs in Brazil,
Costa Rica, Mexico, and Panama. Southeast Asian collections have been performed in
Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines,
Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Collaborative programs have been established in Bangladesh,
China, Korea, and Pakistan. In each country, NCI contractors work in close collaboration with
local botanical institutions. Since 1986, over 40,000 plant samples have been screened, but
thus far only five chemicals showing significant activity against AIDS have been isolated.
Three are currently in preclinical development. Before being considered for clinical trials in
humans, these agents must show tolerable levels of toxicity in several animal models. For
AIDS, three agents are presently in preclinical or early clinical development. The following
are plants and chemicals which are still under research for cancer and AIDS/HIV:
• (+)-Calanolide A and (-)-Calanolide B (costatolide) are isolated from Calophyllum
lanigerum and Calophyllum teysmanii, respectively, trees found in Sarawak,
Malaysia. Both these agents are licensed to Medichem, Inc., Chicago, which is
developing them in collaboration with the Sarawak State Government through a joint
company, Sarawak Medichem Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (+)-Calanolide A is currently in
early clinical trials in the United States.
• Conocurovone, isolated from the shrub species, Conospermum incurvum (saltbush),
found in Western Australia, has been licensed for development to AMRAD, a
company based in Victoria, Australia.
• Michellamine B, from the leaves of Ancistrocladus korupensis, a vine found in the
Korup rainforest region of southwest Cameroon, has undergone extensive preclinical
study, but is considered too toxic for advancement to clinical trials.
• Prostratin, isolated from the wood of Homolanthus nutans, a tree found in Western
Samoa, has been placed on low priority, largely due to its association with a class of
compounds shown to be tumor promoters.

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• A tree native to China--Camptotheca acuminata--is the source of four promising
anticancer drugs, two of which have been approved by the FDA and are described
above. The other two chemicals still under research include:
○ 9AC (9-aminocamptothecin): Currently in clinical trials for several types of
cancer, including ovarian and stomach cancers and T-cell lymphoma.
○ Camptothecin: While no clinical trials are being performed in the United
States, trials are ongoing in China.
• Homoharringtonine from the Chinese tree, Cephalotaxus harringtonia are in early
clinical trials.
• Perillyl alcohol, and flavopiridol, a totally synthetic compound based on a flavone
isolated from Dysoxylum binectiferum are in early clinical trials.

DEFORESTATION

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Deforestation is stuff that the logging or burning of trees in forested
areas. There are several reasons for doing so: trees or derived charcoal can
be sold as a commodity and are used by humans while cleared land is used
as pasture, plantations of commodities and human settlement. The removal
of trees without sufficient reforestation, has resulted in damage to habitat,
biodiversity loss and aridity. Also deforestated regions often degrade into
wasteland davaughn deangelo simmons and or cody allen toole.
Disregard or unawareness of intrinsic value, and lack of ascribed value, lax
forest management and environmental law allow deforestation to occur on
such a large scale. In many countries, deforestation is an ongoing issue
which is causing extinction, changes to climatic conditions, desertification
and displacement of indigenous people.

Rainforest deforestation
The difficulties of estimating deforestation rates are nowhere more
apparent than in the widely varying estimates of rates of rainforest
deforestation. At one extreme Alan Grainger, of Leeds University, argues that
there is no credible evidence of any longterm decline in rainforest area while
at the other some environmental groups argue that one fifth of the world's
tropical rainforest was destroyed between 1960 and 1990, that rainforests
50 years ago covered 14% of the worlds land surface and have been reduced
to 6%. and that all tropical forests will be gone by the year 2090. While the
FAO states that the annual rate of tropical closed forest loss is
declining[(FAO data are based largely on reporting from forestry departments
of individual countries) from 8 million has in the 1980s to 7 million in the
1990s some environmentalists are stating that rainforest are being
destroyed at an ever-quickening pace.[ The London-based Rainforest
Foundation notes that "the UN figure is based on a definition of forest as
being an area with as little as 10% actual tree cover, which would therefore
include areas that are actually savannah-like ecosystems and badly
damaged forests."
These divergent viewpoints are the result of the uncertainties in
the extent of tropical deforestation. For tropical countries, deforestation
estimates are very uncertain and could be in error by as much as +/- 50%
while based on satellite imagery, the rate of deforestation in the tropics is
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23% lower than the most commonly quoted rates Conversely a new analysis
of satellite images reveal that deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is twice
as fast as scientists previously estimated. The extent of deforestation that
has occurred in West Africa during the twentieth century is currently being
hugely exaggerated.
Despite these uncertainties there is agreement that development of
rainforests remains a significant environmental problem. Up to 90% of West
Africa's coastal rainforests have disappeared since 1900. In South Asia,
about 88% of the rainforests have been lost. Much of what of the world's
rainforests remains is in the Amazon basin, where the Amazon Rainforest
covers approximately 4 million square kilometres. The regions with the
highest tropical deforestation rate between 2000 and 2005 were Central
America -- which lost 1.3% of its forests each year -- and tropical Asia. In Central
America, 40% of all the rainforests have been lost in the last 40 years. Madagascar
has lost 90% of its eastern rainforests.As of 2007, less than 1% of Haiti's forests
remain. Several countries notably Brazil, have declared their deforestation a
national emergency.
From about the mid-1800s, around 1852, the planet has experienced an
unprecedented rate of change of destruction of forests worldwide. More than half of
the mature tropical forests that back in some thousand years ago covered the
planet have been cleared.
A January 30, 2009 New York Times article stated, "By one estimate, for every
acre of rain forest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are
growing in the tropics..." The new forest includes secondary forest on former
farmland and so-called degraded forest.

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Africa
Africa is suffering deforestation at twice the world rate, according to
the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP). Some sources claim that
deforestation have already wiped out roughly 90% of the West Africa's
original forests. Deforestation is accelerating in Central Africa. According to
the FAO, Africa lost the highest percentage of tropical forests of any
continent. According to the figures from the FAO (1997), only 22.8% of West
Africa's moist forests remain, much of this degraded. Massive deforestation
threatens food security in some African countries Africa experiences one of
the highest rates of deforestation due to 90% of its population being
dependent on wood for wood-fuel energy as the main source of heating and
cooking..
Research carried out by WWF International in 2002 shows that in
Africa, rates of illegal logging vary from 50% for Cameroon and Equatorial
Guinea to 70% in Gabon and 80% in Liberia – where revenues from the
timber industry also fuelled the civil war.

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Ethiopia
The main cause of deforestation in Ethiopia, located in East Africa, is a
growing population and subsequent higher demand for agriculture, livestock
production and fuel wood. Other reasons include low education and
inactivity from the government, although the current government has taken
some steps to tackle deforestation. Organizations such as Farm Africa are
working with the federal and local governments to create a system of forest
management. Ethiopia, the third largest country in Africa by population, has
been hit by famine many times because of shortages of rain and a depletion
of natural resources. Deforestation has lowered the chance of getting rain,
which is already low, and thus causes erosion. Bercele Bayisa, an Ethiopian
farmer, offers one example why deforestation occurs. He said that his
district was forested and full of wildlife, but overpopulation caused people to
come to that land and clear it to plant crops, cutting all trees to sell as fire
wood
Ethiopia has lost 98% of its forested regions in the last 50 years. At
the beginning of the 20th century, around 420,000 km² or 35% of Ethiopia's
land was covered with forests. Recent reports indicate that forests cover less
than 14.2% or even only 11.9% now. Between 1990 and 2005, the country
lost 14% of its forests or 21,000 km².

Madagascar
Deforestation with resulting desertification, water resource
degradation and soil loss has affected approximately 94% of Madagascar's
previously biologically productive lands. Since the arrival of humans 2000
years ago, Madagascar has lost more than 90% of its original forest. Most of
this loss has occurred since independence from the French, and is the result
of local people using slash-and-burn agricultural practises as they try to
subsist Largely due to deforestation, the country is currently unable to
provide adequate food, fresh water and sanitation for its fast growing
population.

Nigeria
According to the FAO, Nigeria has the world's highest deforestation
rate of primary forests. It has lost more than half of its primary forest in the
last five years. Causes cited are logging, subsistence agriculture, and the
collection of fuel wood. Almost 90% of West Africa's rainforest has been
destroyed.

Iceland
Iceland has undergone extensive deforestation since Vikings settled in
the ninth century. As a result, vast areas of vegetation and land has
degraded, and soil erosion and desertification has occurred. As much as half

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of the original vegetative cover has been destroyed, caused in part by
overexploitation, logging and overgrazing under harsh natural conditions.
About 95% of the forests and woodlands once covering at least 25% of the
area of Iceland may have been lost. Afforestation and revegetation has
restored small areas of land.

Australia
Victoria and NSW's remnant red gum forests including the Murray
River's Barmah-Millewa, are increasingly being clear-felled using mechanical
harvesters, destroying already rare habitat. Macnally estimates that
approximately 82% of fallen timber has been removed from the southern
Murray Darling basin, and the Mid-Murray Forest Management Area
(including the Barmah and Gunbower forests) provides about 90% of
Victoria's red gum timber.
One of the factors causing the loss of forest is expanding urban
areas. Littoral Rainforest growing along coastal areas of eastern Australia is
now rare due to ribbon development to accommodate the demand for
seachange lifestyles.

Brazil
There is no agreement on what drives deforestation in Brazil, though
a broad consensus exists that expansion of croplands and pastures is
important. Increases in commodity prices may increase the rate of
deforestation Recent development of a new variety of soybean has led to the
displacement of beef ranches and farms of other crops, which, in turn, move
farther into the forest. Certain areas such as the Atlantic Rainforest have
been diminished to just 7% of their original size. Although much
conservation work has been done, few national parks or reserves are
efficiently enforced. Some 80% of logging in the Amazon is illegal.
In 2008, Brazil's Government has announced a record rate of
deforestation in the Amazon. Deforestation jumped by 69% in 2008
compared to 2007's twelve months, according to official government data.
Deforestation could wipe out or severely damage nearly 60% of the Amazon
rainforest by 2030, says a new report from WWF.

Canada
One case of deforestation in Canada is happening in Ontario's boreal
forests, near Thunder Bay, where 28.9% of a 19,000 km² of forest area had
been lost in the last 5 years and is threatening woodland caribou. This is
happening mostly to supply pulp for the facial tissue industry.
In Canada, less than 8% of the boreal forest is protected from development
and more than 50% has been allocated to logging companies for cutting.

28
Southeast Asia
The forest loss is acute in Southeast Asia, the second of the world's great biodiversity hot
spots. According to 2005 report conducted by the FAO, Vietnam has the second highest rate
of deforestation of primary forests in the world second to only Nigeria. More than 90% of the
old-growth rainforests of the Philippine archipelago have been cut.

Russia
Russia has the largest area of forests of any nation on Earth. There
is little recent research into the rates of deforestation but in 1992 2 million
hectares of forest was lost and in 1994 around 3 million hectares were lost..
The present scale of deforestation in Russia is most easily seen using Google
Earth, areas nearer to China are most affected as it is the main market for
the timber. Deforestation in Russia is particularly damaging as the forests
have a short growing season due to extremely cold winters and therefore will
take longer to recover.

Indonesia
At present rates, tropical rainforests in Indonesia would be logged
out in 10 years, Papua New Guinea in 13 to 16 years. There are significantly
large areas of forest in Indonesia that are being lost as native forest is
cleared by large multi-national pulp companies and being replaced by
plantations. In Sumatra tens of thousands of square kilometres of forest
have been cleared often under the command of the central government in
Jakarta who comply with multinational companies [to remove the forest
because of the need to pay off international debt obligations and to develop
economically]. In Kalimantan, between 1991 and 1999 large areas of the
forest were burned because of uncontrollable fire causing atmospheric
pollution across South-East Asia. Every year, forest is burned by farmers
(slash-and-burn techniques are used by between 200 and 500 million people
worldwide) and plantation owners. A major source of deforestation is the
logging industry, driven spectacularly by China and Japan. Agricultural
development programs in Indonesia (transmigration program) moved large
populations into the rainforest zone, further increasing deforestation rates.
A joint UK-Indonesian study of the timber industry in Indonesia in 1998
suggested that about 40% of throughout was illegal, with a value in excess
of $365 million. More recent estimates, comparing legal harvesting against
known domestic consumption plus exports, suggest that 88% of logging in
the country is illegal.

United States

29
Loss of old growth forest in the United States.
1620, 1850, and 1920 maps: William B. Greeley, the Relation of Geography to
Timber Supply, Economic Geography, 1925, vol. 1, p. 1-11. Source of TODAY
map: compiled by George Deafen from roadless area map in The Big outside: A
Descriptive Inventory of the Big Wilderness Areas of the United States, by
Dave Foreman and Howie Wolke (Harmony Books, 1992). These maps
represent only virgin forest lost. Some regrowth has occurred but not to the
age, size or extent of 1620 due to population increases and food cultivation.
See United States entry on left
Prior to the arrival of European-Americans about one half of the
United States land area was forest, about 4 million square kilometers (1
billion acres) in 1600. For the next 300 years land was cleared, mostly for
agriculture at a rate that matched the rate of population growth. For every
person added to the population, one to two hectares of land was cultivated.
This trend continued until the 1920s when the amount of crop land
stabilized in spite of continued population growth. As abandoned farm land
reverted to forest the amount of forest land increased from 1952 reaching a
peak in 1963 of 3,080,000 km² (762 million acres). 1997.

30
CAUSES OF
ANTHROPOGENIC
DEFORESTATION

I n simple terms, deforestation occurs because forested land is not


economically viable. Increasing the amount of farmland, woods are used
by native populations of over 200 million people worldwide.
The presumed value of forests as a genetic resources has never been
confirmed by any economic studies. As a result owners of forested land lose
money by not clearing the forest and this affects the welfare of the whole
society. From the perspective of the developing world, the benefits of forest
as carbon sinks or biodiversity reserves go primarily to richer developed
nations and there is insufficient compensation for these services. As a result
some countries simply have too much forest. Developing countries feel that
some countries in the developed world, such as the United States of
America, cut down their forests centuries ago and benefited greatly from this
deforestation and that it is hypocritical to deny developing countries the
31
same opportunities: that the poor shouldn’t have to bear the cost of
preservation when the rich created the problem.
Aside from a general agreement that deforestation occurs to
increase the economic value of the land there is no agreement on what
causes deforestation. Logging may be a direct source of deforestation in
some areas and have no effect or be at worst an indirect source in others
due to logging roads enabling easier access for farmers wanting to clear the
forest: experts do not agree on whether logging is an important contributor
to global deforestation and some believe that logging makes considerable
contribution to reducing deforestation because in developing countries
logging reserves are far larger than nature reserves. Similarly there is no
consensus on whether poverty is important in deforestation. Some argue
that poor people are more likely to clear forest because they have no
alternatives, others that the poor lack the ability to pay for the materials and
labour needed to clear forest.. Claims that that population growth drives
deforestation is weak and based on flawed data. with population increase
due to high fertility rates being a primary driver of tropical deforestation in
only 8% of cases. The FAO states that the global deforestation rate is
unrelated to human population growth rate, rather it is the result of lack of
technological advancement and inefficient governance. There are many
causes at the root of deforestation, such as the corruption and inequitable
distribution of wealth and power, population growth and overpopulation,
and urbanization. Globalization is often viewed as a driver of deforestation.
According to British environmentalist Norman Myers, 5% of
deforestation is due to cattle ranching, 19% to over-heavy logging, 22% due
to the growing sector of palm oil plantations, and 54% due to slash-and-
burn farming.

32
CAUSES OF
RAINFOREST
DESTRUCTION

Immediate-Causes

The immediate causes of rainforest destruction are clear. The main


causes of total clearance are agriculture and in drier areas, fuelwood
collection. The main cause of forest degradation is logging. Mining,
industrial development and large dams also have a serious impact. Tourism
is becoming a larger threat to the forests.

33
Logging
Commercial logging companies cut down mature trees that have been
selected for their timber. The timber trade defends itself by saying that this
method of 'selective' logging ensures that the forest regrows naturally and in
time, is once again ready for their 'safe' logging practices (WWF). In most
cases, this is untrue due to the nature of rainforests and of logging
practices. Large areas of rainforest are destroyed in order to remove only a
few logs. The heavy machinery used to penetrate the forests and build roads
causes extensive damage. Trees are felled and soil is compacted by heavy
machinery, decreasing the forest's chance for regeneration. The felling of one
'selected' tree, tears down with it climbers, vines, epiphytes and lianas. A
large hole is left in the canopy and complete regeneration takes hundreds of
years. Removing a felled tree from the forest causes even further
destruction, especially when it is carried out carelessly. It is believed that in
many South East Asian countries 'between 45-74% of trees remaining after
logging have been substantially damaged or destroyed' (WWF). The tracks
made by heavy machinery and the clearings left behind by loggers are sites
of extreme soil disturbance which begin to erode in heavy rain. This causes
siltation of the forests, rivers and streams. The lives and life support
systems of indigenous people are disrupted as is the habitat of hundreds of
birds and animals.Little if any industrial logging of tropical forests is
sustainable. The International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO), the body
established to regulate the international trade in tropical timber, found in
1988 that the amount of sustainable logging was "on a world scale,
negligible"."Logging roads are used by landless farmers to gain access to
rainforest areas. For this reason, commercial logging is considered by many
to be the biggest single agent of tropical deforestation" Apart from its direct
impact, logging plays a major role in deforestation through the building of
roads which are subsequently used by landless farmers to gain access to
rainforest areas. These displaced people then clear the forest by slashing
and burning to grow enough food to keep them and their families alive, a
34
practice which is called subsistence farming. This problem is so widespread
that Robert Repetto of the World Resources Institute ranks commercial
logging as the biggest agent of tropical deforestation. This view was
supported by the World Wide Fund for Nature's 1996 study, Bad Harvest?,
which surveyed logging in the world's tropical forests. Most of the rainforest
timber on the international market is exported to rich countries. There, it is
sold for hundreds of times the price that is paid to the indigenous people
whose forests have been plundered. The timber is used in the construction
of doors, window frames, crates, coffins, furniture, plywood sheets,
chopsticks, household utensils and other items.

Agriculture - Shifted Cultivators


'Shifted cultivators' is the term used for people who have moved into
rainforest areas and established small-scale farming operations. These are
the landless peasants who have followed roads into already damaged
rainforest areas. The additional damage they are causing is extensive.
Shifted cultivators are currently being blamed for 60% of tropical forest loss
(Colchester & Lohmann). The reason these people are referred to as 'shifted'
cultivators is that most of them people have been forced off their own land.
For example, in Guatemala, rainforest land was cleared for coffee and sugar
plantations. The indigenous people had their land stolen by government and
corporations. They became 'shifted cultivators', moving into rainforest areas
of which they had no previous knowledge in order to sustain themselves and
their families (Colchester & Lohmann). Large-scale agriculture, logging,
hydroelectric dams, mining, and industrial development are all responsible
for the dispossession of poor farmers. "One of the primary forces pushing
landless migrants into the forests is the inequitable distribution of
agricultural land" (WRI 1992, Colchester & Lohmann). In Brazil,
approximately 42% of cultivated land is owned by a mere 1% of the
population. Landless peasants make up half of Brazil's population (WRM).
Once displaced, the 'shifted cultivators' move into forest areas, often with
the encouragement of their government. In Brazil, a slogan was developed to
help persuade the people to move into the forests. It read "Land without men
for men without land" (WRM). After a time, these farmers encounter the
same problems as the cash crop growers. The soil does not remain fertile for
long. They are forced to move on, to shift again, going further into the
rainforest and destroying more and more of it. It is evident that the shifted
cultivators "have become the agents for destruction but not the cause"
(Westoby 1987: Colchester). Shifted cultivators do not move into pristine
areas of undisturbed rainforests. They follow roads made principally for
logging operations. "Shifted cultivators are often used by the timber industry
as scapegoats" (Orams and McQuire). Yet logging roads lead to an estimated
90% of the destruction caused by the slash-and-burn farmers (Martin 1991:
Colchester). Solutions: Land reform is essential if this problem is to be
addressed. However, according to Colchester and Lohmann, "an enduring
shift of power in favour of the peasants" is also needed for such reforms to
35
endure (Colchester &Lohmann).

Agriculture - Cash Crops and Cattle Ranching


Undisturbed and logged rainforest areas are being totally cleared to
provide land for food crops, tree plantations or for grazing cattle (Colchester
& Lohmann). Much of this produce is exported to rich industrialised
countries and in many cases, crops are grown for export while the local
populace goes hungry.
Due to the delicate nature of rainforest soil and the destructive nature of
present day agricultural practices, the productivity of cash crops grown on
rainforest soils declines rapidly after a few years. Monoculture plantations -
those that produce only one species of tree or one type of food - on rainforest
soil are examples of non-sustainable agriculture. They are referred to as
cash crops because the main reason for their planting is to make money
quickly, with little concern about the environmental damage that they are
causing. Modern machinery, fertilisers and pesticides are used to maximise
profits. The land is farmed intensively. In many cases, cattle damage the
land to such an extent that it is of no use to cattle ranchers any more, and
they move on, destroying more and more rainforest. Not only have the
forests been destroyed but the land is exploited, stripped of nutrients and
left barren, sustaining no-one. Solutions:"Reducing the demand for
Southern-produced agribusiness crops and alleviating the pressure from
externally-financed development projects and assistance is the essential first
step" (Colchester and Lohmann).

Fuelwood
The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates
that '1.5 billion of the 2 billion people worldwide who rely on fuelwood for
cooking and heating are overcutting forests'. This problem is worst in drier
regions of the tropics. Solutions will probably involve a return to local
peoples' control of the forests they depend on.

Large Dams
In India and South America, hundreds of thousands of hectares of
forests have been destroyed by the building of hydro-electric dams. It was
the dominant view that new dams had to be built or otherwise these
countries would suffer an energy crisis. However, a recent study by the
World Bank in Brazil has shown that 'sufficient generating capacity already
exists to satisfy the expected rise in demand for power over the medium
term, provided that the energy is used more efficiently' (WRM).
The construction of dams not only destroys the forest but often uproots tens
36
of thousands of people, destroying both their land and their culture. The
rates of waterborne diseases increase rapidly. Downstream ecosystems are
damaged by dams which trap silt, holding back valuable nutrients. Reduced
silt leads to coastal erosion. The sheer weight of water in dams has in Chile,
Zimbabwe, and Greece led to earthquakes. The irrigation and industrial
projects powered by dams lead to further environmental damage. Irrigation
leads to salination of soils and industry leads to pollution. Solutions: Aid
organisations like the World Bank have traditionally favoured spectacular
large-scale irrigation and hydro-electric projects. In all cases when such
projects are proposed, there has been massive opposition from local people.
Reform of the World Bank and other such organisations, and support for
campaigns against large-scale dams is needed.

Mining and Industry

Mining and industrial development lead to direct forest loss due to


the clearing of land to establish projects. Indigenous people are displaced.
Roads are constructed through previously inaccessible land, opening up the
rainforest. Severe water, air and land pollution occurs from mining and
industry. Solutions: Local campaigns against mining and industrial
development.

Colonisation Schemes
Governments and international aid agencies for a time believed that by
encouraging colonisation and trans-migration schemes into rainforest areas,
they could alleviate some of the poverty felt by the people of the financially
poorer countries. It has since become increasingly obvious that such
schemes have failed, hurting the indigenous people and the environment
(Colchester & Lohmann). These schemes involve the relocation of millions of
people into sparsely populated and forested areas. In Indonesia, the
Transmigrasi Program, begun in 1974, is believed to be 'the greatest cause
of forest loss in Indonesia', directly causing an average annual loss of
200,000 hectares (Colchester & Lohmann). The resettled people suffered the
same problems as 'shifted cultivators'. The soil is not fertile enough to be
able to sustain them for very long. Even after such projects have officially
ended, the flow of 'shifted cultivators' continues as the area remains opened
up. "The World Bank estimates that for every colonist resettled under the
official transmigration project, two or more unofficially move into the forest
due to the drawing effect of the program" (Colchester & Lohmann).

Tourism
The creation of national parks has undoubtedly helped to protect
rainforests. Yet, as national parks are open to the public, tourism is
damaging some of these areas.
Often, national parks are advertised to tourists before adequate
37
management plans have been developed and implemented. Inadequate
funding is allocated for preservation of forests by government departments.
Governments see tourism as an easy way to make money, and therefore
tourism is encouraged whilst strict management strategies are given far less
government support.
Ecotourism, or environmentally friendly tourism, should educate the
tourists to be environmentally aware. It should also be of low impact to its
environment. Unfortunately, many companies and resorts who advertise
themselves as eco-tourist establishments are in fact exploiting the
environment for profit.
In Cape Tribulation, Australia, for example, the rainforest is being
threatened by excessive tourism. Clearing for roads and pollution of
waterways are two of the major problems in this area. The Wet Tropics
Management Authority which oversees the surrounding World Heritage Area
is promoting tourism to the area before any management plans have been
formulated, before any effective waste management strategy has been
devised and before any ecofriendly power alternatives have been fully
explored.

38
ENVIRONMENTAL
FACTORS
AND IMPACTS

Atmospheric

Orbital photograph of human deforestation in progress in the Tierras Bajas


project in eastern Bolivia.

Deforestation is ongoing and is shaping climate and geography.

39
Deforestation is a contributor to global warming, and is often cited as
one of the major causes of the enhanced greenhouse effect. Tropical
deforestation is responsible for approximately 20% of world greenhouse gas
emissions. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
deforestation, mainly in tropical areas, account for up to one-third of total
anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. Trees and other plants remove
carbon (in the form of carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere during the
process of photosynthesis and release it back into the atmosphere during
normal respiration. Only when actively growing can a tree or forests remove
carbon over an annual or longer timeframe. Both the decay and burning of
wood releases much of this stored carbon back to the atmosphere. In order
for forests to take up carbon, the wood must be harvested and turned into
long-lived products and trees must be re-planted. Deforestation may cause
carbon stores held in soil to be released. Forests are stores of carbon and
can be either sinks or sources depending upon environmental
circumstances. Mature forests alternate between being net sinks and net
sources of carbon dioxide (see carbon dioxide sink and carbon cycle).
Reducing emissions from the tropical deforestation and forest
degradation (REDD) in developing countries has emerged as new potential to
complement ongoing climate policies. The idea consists in providing
financial compensations for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions from deforestation and forest degradation".

Hydrologic
The water cycle is also affected by deforestation. Trees extract
groundwater through their roots and release it into the atmosphere. When
part of a forest is removed, the trees no longer evaporate away this water,
resulting in a much drier climate. Deforestation reduces the content of water
in the soil and groundwater as well as atmospheric moisture. Deforestation
reduces soil cohesion, so that erosion, flooding and landslides ensue.
Forests enhance the recharge of aquifers in some locales, however, forests
are a major source of aquifer depletion on most locales.
Shrinking forest cover lessens the landscape's capacity to intercept,
retain and transpire precipitation. Instead of trapping precipitation, which
then percolates to groundwater systems, deforested areas become sources of
surface water runoff, which moves much faster than subsurface flows. That
quicker transport of surface water can translate into flash flooding and more
localized floods than would occur with the forest cover. Deforestation also
contributes to decreased evapotranspiration, which lessens atmospheric
moisture which in some cases affects precipitation levels downwind from the
deforested area, as water is not recycled to downwind forests, but is lost in
runoff and returns directly to the oceans. According to one preliminary
study, in deforested north and northwest China, the average annual
precipitation decreased by one third between the 1950s and the 1980s.]

40
Trees, and plants in general, affect the water cycle significantly:
• their canopies intercept a proportion of precipitation, which is then
evaporated back to the atmosphere (canopy interception);
• their litter, stems and trunks slow down surface runoff;
• their roots create macropores - large conduits - in the soil that
increase infiltration of water;
• they contribute to terrestrial evaporation and reduce soil moisture via
transpiration;
• their litter and other organic residue change soil properties that affect
the capacity of soil to store water.
• their leaves control the humidity of the atmosphere by transpiration.
99% of the water pulled up by the roots move up to the leaves for
transpiration.
As a result, the presence or absence of trees can change the quantity of
water on the surface, in the soil or groundwater, or in the atmosphere. This
in turn changes erosion rates and the availability of water for either
ecosystem functions or human services.
The forest may have little impact on flooding in the case of large rainfall
events, which overwhelm the storage capacity of forest soil if the soils are at
or close to saturation.
Tropical rainforests produce about 30% of our planets fresh water.

Soil
Undisturbed forest has very low rates of soil loss, approximately 2
metric tons per square kilometer (6 short tons per square mile).
Deforestation generally increases rates of soil erosion, by increasing the
amount of runoff and reducing the protection of the soil from tree litter. This
can be an advantage in excessively leached tropical rain forest soils. Forestry
operations themselves also increase erosion through the development of
roads and the use of mechanized equipment.
China's Loess Plateau was cleared of forest millennia ago. Since then it has
been eroding, creating dramatic incised valleys, and providing the sediment
that gives the Yellow River its yellow color and that causes the flooding of
the river in the lower reaches (hence the river's nickname 'China's sorrow').
Removal of trees does not always increase erosion rates. In certain regions of
southwest US, shrubs and trees have been encroaching on grassland. The
trees themselves enhance the loss of grass between tree canopies. The bare
intercanopy areas become highly erodible. The US Forest Service, in
Bandelier National Monument for example, is studying how to restore the
former ecosystem, and reduce erosion, by removing the trees.
Tree roots bind soil together, and if the soil is sufficiently shallow they act to
keep the soil in place by also binding with underlying bedrock. Tree removal
41
on steep slopes with shallow soil thus increases the risk of landslides, which
can threaten people living nearby. However most deforestation only affects
the trunks of trees, allowing for the roots to stay rooted, negating the
landslide.

Ecological
Deforestation results in declines in biodiversity. The removal or
destruction of areas of forest cover has resulted in a degraded environment
with reduced biodiversity. Forests support biodiversity, providing habitat for
wildlife; moreover, forests foster medicinal conservation. With forest biotopes
being irreplaceable source of new drugs (such as taxol), deforestation can
destroy genetic variations (such as crop resistance) irretrievably.
Since the tropical rainforests are the most diverse ecosystems on earth and
about 80% of the world's known biodiversity could be found in tropical
rainforests removal or destruction of significant areas of forest cover has
resulted in a degraded environment with reduced biodiversity.
Scientific understanding of the process of extinction is insufficient to
accurately make predictions about the impact of deforestation on
biodiversity. Most predictions of forestry related biodiversity loss are based
on species-area models, with an underlying assumption that as forest are
declines species diversity will decline similarly. However, many such models
have been proven to be wrong and loss of habitat does not necessarily lead
to large scale loss of species. Species-area models are known to over predict
the number of species known to be threatened in areas where actual deforestation
is ongoing, and greatly over predict the number of threatened species that
are widespread.
It has been estimated that we are losing 137 plant, animal and
insect species every single day due to rainforest deforestation, which equates
to 50,000 species a year. Others state that tropical rainforest deforestation
is contributing to the ongoing Holocene mass extinction. The known
extinction rates from deforestation rates are very low, approximately 1
species per year from mammals and birds which extrapolates to
approximately 23000 species per year for all species. Predictions have been
made that more than 40% of the animal and plant species in Southeast Asia
could be wiped out in the 21st century, with such predictions called into
questions by 1995 data that show that within regions of Southeast Asia
much of the original forest has been converted to monospecific plantations
but potentially endangered species are very low in number and tree flora
remains widespread and stable.

42
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF
DEFORESTATION

43
amage to forests and other aspects of nature could halve living standards for
the world's poor and reduce global GDP by about 7% by 2050, a major
report concluded at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in
Bonn. Historically utilization of forest products, including timber and fuel
wood, have played a key role in human societies, comparable to the roles of
water and cultivable land. Today, developed countries continue to utilize
timber for building houses, and wood pulp for paper. In developing countries
almost three billion people rely on wood for heating and cooking.
The forest products industry is a large part of the economy in both
developed and developing countries. Short-term economic gains made by
conversion of forest to agriculture, or over-exploitation of wood products,
typically leads to loss of long-term income and long term biological
productivity (hence reduction in nature's services). West Africa, Madagascar,
Southeast Asia and many other regions have experienced lower revenue
because of declining timber harvests. Illegal logging causes billions of dollars
of losses to national economies annually.
The new procedures to get amounts of wood are causing more harm
to the economy and overpowers the amount of money spent by people
employed in logging. According to a study, "in most areas studied, the
various ventures that prompted deforestation rarely generated more than
US$5 for every ton of carbon they released and frequently returned far less
than US $1." The price on the European market for an offset tied to a one-
ton reduction in carbon is 23 euro (about $35).

44
CONSERVATION THE
RAINFORESTS

International Law & Policy

The dissemination of international environmental treaties, agreements, and


protocols has been tremendous in the past quarter century, amounting to over 250

45
international environmental law and policy treaties. The issues surrounding deforestation
and protection of old growth forests were not the focus of the early international summits
and agreements. In fact, the earliest environmental accords focused mostly on
commercially valuable flora and fauna (Weiss, 1998). Most of the first treaties and
summits concerned with environmental protection took place in the early 1970s.
In 1970, the United Nations Educational, Social, and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) established the Man and Biosphere Program (Royer, 1996). This program
suggested the protection and sustainable use of biosphere reserves around the globe. Later
in the same decade, the Stockholm Declaration presented a global agreement on
environmental problems. Although the Stockholm Declaration did not offer a set of
specific rules relating to the protection of forests, the meeting did signal the increasing
global concern regarding the protection of the environment. International summits such as
the World Conservancy Strategy of 1980 and the World Charter for Nature of 1982
followed the Stockholm Declaration. Such meetings however, did not set principles that
directly addressed the issues regarding forest protection, leaving much to desire to future
treaties.

International Tropical Timber Agreement

Sprouting from a concern over timber trade between producer and consumer
nations, the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA) was negotiated in 1983 and
later went into effect in 1985. The objective of the treaty was to promote fair trade
conditions between industrialized nations and developing countries. ITTA aims to promote
research and development to improve forest management, to encourage wood processing in
the producer nation, to improve market intelligence, to promote wood utilization, to
encourage industrial tropical timber exports, and to promote reforestation and sustainable
forestry practices (Weiss, 1998). A successor treaty to ITTA was put in effect in 1997, and
it focused slightly more on sustainable forest use. The governing body of ITTA is the
International Tropical Timber Council (ITTC), which oversees the International Tropical
Timber Organization (ITTO). Funding is dependent upon voluntary contributions, which
results on a limited budget that amounted to only $28.5 million in 1990 (MacKinlay &
VanderZaag, 1996).
Brazil joined ITTA in March 1985 with the primary interests of improving its
timber trade with consumer countries and of guarantying its place in the treaty. The
Division of Basic Products of the Ministry of Foreign Relations is in charge of
implementing the treaty and IBAMA aids in the selection of projects that will be supported
(Aragão & Bunker, 1998). The Brazilian environmental law, one of the most rigorous of
the world, is generally in accordance with the principles of the ITTA, although,
environmental law in Brazil is sparsely and inconsistently enforced. Although the Brazilian
government has adopted policy and regulations that coincide with general objectives of the
treaty of sustainable forestry management, lack of resources and technology allows
massive illegal deforestation to go on unpunished.

Another criticism is that consumer countries have more influence than producer
countries in the policy making process of the organization. MacKinlay & VanderZaag
(1996) argue that ITTA emphasizes timber consumption rather than conservation and it also
46
allows slanted voting powers to the consumer countries. A fundamental flaw in ITTA
regarding forest protection is the focus on timber and its value as a trade commodity rather
than a focus on the diverse values of tropical forests. ITTA was not designed to be a tool in
the protection and conservation of tropical forests, and it remains ineffective in the control
of tropical deforestation as it encourages timber harvesting.
Weiss (1998) claims ITTA has been highly ineffective, as shown by the low
compliance rates to guidelines, to timber trade reporting requirements, and to required
payments to ITTO. Lack of funding of ITTA projects, deficient regulation at a national
level, lack of involvement of state governments, limited support of tribes, forest dwellers
and NGOs, prevalence of advocates of consumer nation interests in the governing body of
ITTA, and focus on timber trade are all reasons why the treaty has been unsuccessful in
providing true sustainable forestry practices in Brazil.

Tropical Forestry Action Program

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is one of the largest United Nations
agencies with 183 member countries. FAO focuses on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and
rural development issues. FAO’s focus since its inception in 1945 has been on poverty and
hunger alleviation, however, with the growth of global deforestation, FAO started to
develop a sector dedicated to forestry in the 1980s. In 1985, FAO sponsored the Tropical
Forestry Action Program (TFAP) in conjunction with the UNEP, the World Bank, and the
World Resources Institute (WRI). The program has five main parts: forestry and land use,
forestry-based industrial development, fuelwood and energy, conservation of tropical forest
ecosystems, and institutions (MacKinlay & VanderZaag, 1996). TFAP was created as a
global program of forest conservation and development, and has as its objectives to gather
financial support to National Forestry Action Plans (NFAPs), which are projects that seek
sustainable forestry and action against deforestation. The TFAP has had a few positive
impacts, however, its limitations are significant and include its failure to involve Brazil in
the program.
FAO has the considerable participation of approximately 97 countries that represent
about 78% of all countries with tropical forest resources, with one of the most significant
non-participants being Brazil (MacKinlay & VanderZaag, 1996). The program has also
had the ability to increase development assistance to forestry from $500 million per year in
1975 to $1,093 million annually in 1988. The TFAP has had some constructive
achievements that include an extended international participation, growth in financial
assistance, and enhanced natural resources management (MacKinlay & VanderZaag, 1996).
For instance, in Sierra Leone, the NFAP has helped organize all forestry extension and
training programs and aided in the enhancement of the Wildlife Conservation Unit
(MacKinlay & VanderZaag, 1996). In Jamaica, the NFAP brought attention to the need of
a national land use plan, and encouraged the use of an environmental impact assessment
before any major projects that may affect the environment (MacKinlay & VanderZaag,
1996).

Civil Society and Non-governmental Organizations

47
An unexpected phenomenon has developed in the policing of governments, creating
of laws, and inquiring of societal institutions’ actions. This development is characterized
by the rising of citizen nonprofit organized activity, which is often seen in organized groups
such as Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs). According to Anheier & Salamon
(1998), NGOs are organized, private, nonprofit-distributing, self-governing, and voluntary.
NGOs participate in a variety of actions, which include policy and law making, business
and government review, research and dissemination of information, and social change in
general. NGOs and civil society challenge the idea of exclusive national sovereignty,
allowing instead a resourceful channel through which citizens can participate in
environmental law making at a national and international level.
NGOs function in an array of ways in the process of drafting and implementation of
international law. Purposes of these organizations encompass bringing weight to minority
voices (i.e., Indian tribes and forest dwellers), monitoring environmental impacts of human
activities, participating in resource allocation, identifying the relevant international law and
environmental issues, monitoring implementation of programs, creating international
standards and norms, and enforcing international standards (Alexandrowicz, 1996). NGOs
have been extremely instrumental in transmitting information about environment
degradation, in lobbying for environmental causes, and aiding in the enforcement of
international environmental law. The Internet and new communications technology have
created opportunities for individuals to mobilize very large numbers of people with very
little need for institutional infrastructure (Gamble & Ku, 2000). Gamble & Ku (2000)
explain: “Technology permits NGOs to organize large numbers from multiple sectors, and
to do so quickly, empowering NGOs in the international political and international law-
making arenas.”
Civil society organizations are generally seen by scholars as an opportunity for
social change, however, some believe otherwise. Gamble & Ku (2000) describe the
position where NGOs are believed to be threats to national sovereignty especially in
nations that “derive their authority by maintaining territorial boundaries to define the reach
of their authority.” By questioning restraints of national boundaries, these organizations
are considered a threat to the governments of the countries they act within. NGOs, Gamble
& Ku (2000) argue, may be used to advance both constructive and detrimental values in
society.

48
FLORA AND FAUNA

49
Research & Resources
(A Brief Profile)

Amphibians
Red-Eyed Tree Frog
Birds

Andean Condor
Blue-Crowned Motmot
Blue-Gray Tanager
Cock of the Rock
Great Curassow
King Vulture
Ocellated Turkey
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Rufous-Bellied Thrush
Tennessee Warbler
Insects
Blue Morpho Butterfly
Leafcutter Ant
Praying Mantid

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Mammals
Amazon River Dolphin
Amazonian Tapir
Black Howler Monkey
Brown-Throated Three-Toed Sloth
Capuchin Monkey
Collared Peccary
Honduran White Bat
Jaguar
Nine-Banded Armadillo
Ocelot
Spectacled Bear
West Indian Manatee
Yucatan White-Tailed Deer

Plants

Banana
Bromeliad
Cocoa Tree
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Coffee
Heliconia
Kapok Tree
Orchid
Poinsettia

AMPHIBIAN

52
Red-Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas)
Anatomy

Thanks to their big bulging red eyes, it's not hard to recognize red-eyed tree frogs!
This alien-like feature is a defense mechanism called "startle coloration." When the
frog closes its eyes, its green eyelids help it to blend in with the leafy environment.
If the nocturnal frog is approached while asleep during the day, its suddenly open
eyes will momentarily paralyze the predator, providing the frog with a few seconds
to escape. However, the frogs' eyes are not their only fashion statement! To match
the brilliance of their eyes, these frogs have bright lime green bodies that
sometimes feature hints of yellow or blue. According to their mood, red-eyed tree
frogs can even become a dark green or reddish-brown color. They have white bellies
and throats but their sides are blue with white borders and vertical white bars.
Their feet are bright red or orange. Adept climbers, red-eyed tree frogs have cup-like
footpads that enable them to spend their days clinging to leaves in the rainforest
canopy, and their nights hunting for insects and smaller frogs. Male red-eyed tree
frogs can grow up to two inches in length and females can grow up to three inches.
Habitat
First identified by herpetologist Edward Cope in the 1860s, the red-eyed tree frog is
found in the lowlands and on slopes of Central America and as far north as Mexico.
As with other amphibians, red-eyed tree frogs start life as tadpoles in temporary or
permanent ponds. As adult frogs, they remain dependent on water to keep their
skin moist, staying close to water sources such as rivers found in humid lowland
rainforests. Red-eyed tree frogs can be found clinging to branches, tree trunks and
even underneath tree leaves. Adults live in the canopy layer of the rainforest,
sometimes hiding inside bromeliads.
Diet
Red-eyed tree frogs are carnivores, feeding mostly on insects. They prefer crickets,
flies, grasshoppers and moths. Sometimes, they will eat smaller frogs. For tadpoles,
fruit flies and pinhead crickets are the meals of choice.
Threats
Frogs have historically been an indicator species, evidence of an ecosystem's health
or its impending vulnerability. Not surprisingly, the world's amphibian population
53
has experienced a decline in recent years; research indicates that factors include
chemical contamination from pesticide use, acid rain, and fertilizers, the
introduction of foreign predators, and increased UV-B exposure from a weakened
ozone layer that may damage fragile eggs. Though the red-eyed tree frog itself is not
endangered, its rainforest home is under constant threat.

BIRDS

Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus)


Anatomy

54
The Andean condor is the national animal of Colombia and is one of the largest
birds of prey in the world, weighing as much as 20 to 25 pounds. Adults can reach
heights of four feet, with a wing span of up to 10 feet. Males are typically larger
than females. Andean condors are mostly black with a fluffy white collar around
their neck and white patches along their wings. These birds have bald grayish red
heads, and the males have a fleshy lump at the front of their heads called a
caruncle. Their beaks are large and hooked, and they have large feet with sharp
claws, allowing them to easily tear apart their meals.
Habitat
At one time the Andean condor could be found along the entire western coast of
South America from Venezuela to the southern tip of Patagonia. Today, these
majestic birds inhabit only northern Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and
Chile. They spend their time in high mountains, lowland deserts, open grasslands,
along coastlines and in alpine regions. Unlike many other birds, the condor doesn't
build nests, but lays its eggs only once every two years among boulders or in caves
or holes. These places are typically harder for other predators to reach and offer
their eggs and chicks more safety.
Diet
Andean condors are scavengers and eat primarily carrion, or dead or decaying
flesh. Their excellent eyesight allows them to seek out dead or dying animals while
hovering high in the sky. They use their sharp, curved beaks and claws to remove
meat from carcasses or weak animals. To clean their bald heads after a meal, they
scrape them along the ground to remove any food scraps. Baby animals and eggs
are also occasionally part of the condor’s diet.
Threats
The Andean condor was placed on the Endangered Species List in 1973 and is in
danger of becoming extinct due primarily to over hunting. Many farmers shoot
these birds because they mistakenly believe the condors kill their livestock.
Pesticide poisoning through the food chain has also hurt populations. Thanks to
the repopulation efforts of many zoos, the Andean condor is finally beginning to
make a comeback.

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Blue-Crowned Motmot (Momotus momota)
Anatomy

Similar to all members of the motmot genus, the blue-crowned motmot has a large
head with down curved, short, broad beak, which is serrated along the upper edge.
Their tarsi (feet) are unique in that they are particularly short with a middle toe
almost completely fused to the inner toe and only one rear toe. Most of the species
of motmots have tail feathers that distinguish them from other birds. The center
taail feathers, which twitch like the pendulum of a clock when the motmot is
perched, have bare spines at the tip. This makes them easily recognizable. The
plumage of the blue-crowned motmot is shades of green and blue. They have red
eyes, a turquoise crown and black face. Motmot eggs are round and white and
incubate for three weeks. Their call is a double "hoot," similar to that of an owl.
Habitat
Motmots are found in Mexico, Central America, and most of South America in
rainforests, second-growth forests, forest edges, shady gardens and shaded coffee
farms. Motmots dig their nests in the shape of tunnels 5 - 14 feet long and four
inches in diameter with a nesting chamber at the end, which is 10 by 14 inches in
length. Both males and females begin excavating between August and October,
which is the rainy season when the soil is soft. Then they leave the nest, returning
the following March or April for breeding season. Both males and females share
parental responsibility. Motmots choose to live near water, for drinking and
bathing.
Diet
Motmots eat fruit, small reptiles and insects such as crickets, mealworms,
waxworms and earthworms.
Threats
Because they can live in many different forest types, ranging from rainforests to
shaded coffee farms, the blue-crowned motmot is not on the endangered list.
56
However, as shaded coffee farms and forests are destroyed, the survival of this
beautiful bird is threatened.

Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruviana)


Anatomy

A beautiful orange crest adorns the head of the cock-of-the-rock and brilliant
orange, black and white feathers cover its back and wings.
As with most birds, the female coloring is subtler.
Their strong claws and legs allow them to grip onto steep cliffs and rocks.
Habitat
Found in the Andes from Venezuela to Bolivia, the cock-of-the-rock lives only in
mountainous regions and builds its nests on the rocky surfaces of cliffs, large
boulders and caves.
Diet
The cock-of-the–rock’s diet consists mainly of fruit. Often, these colorful birds do
not digest the seeds of their fruity meals. Instead the seeds pass through their
digestive tracks and are eventually scattered along the ground, making these birds
extremely important seed dispersers. In addition to fruit, cocks-of-the-rock eat
insects and small vertebrates.
Threats
Many predators are attracted to the cock-of-the-rock's beautiful plumage. These
include birds of prey such as eagles and hawks, puma and jaguars and even boa
constrictors. The loss of habitat, predominantly from forestland being converted to
farmland, is a major threat to the survival of this brilliant bird.
57
Great Curassow (Crax rubra)
Anatomy

The great curassow is a 36-inch tall, hearty bird. All great curassows have a peak of
forward-curling feathers on their heads, and long tails. The base of the great
curassow's bill is yellow with a round bulge. The coloring of the females varies; they
can be black or chestnut-colored with black or white bars and their heads and
crest may be striped with black and white. The males are a lustrous blue or black,
and have white bellies. They have long lifespans (up to 24 years!) and a low rate of
reproduction.
Habitat
While the range of the great curassow extends from southern Mexico to western
Ecuador, their habitat is usually limited to national parks and reserves. They build
their nests of leaves and twigs in the forks and depressions of trees. The male
curassow leads his family and whistles when there are signs of danger. Females lay
two eggs at a time. Curassows are monogamous and travel in pairs or in small
groups. The group can communicate by grunting. Like chickens, they tend to run
rather than fly.
58
Diet
The curassow finds its food by foraging on fallen fruits, berries and seeds.
Additionally they may scrape the ground in search of insects or small animals.
Threats
Deforestation of tropical forests is the major threat to the survival of the great
curassow. Humans are a direct threat to the great curassow because the local
inhabitants hunt them for food. Besides humans, snakes are also their predators.

King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa)


Anatomy

The king vulture is one of the larger species of vulture. It can grow to be 32 inches
long. Unlike other vultures, which are dark in color, king vultures are creamy
white, with darker tail-features. The feathers around their heads and necks are
blue, red, orange and yellow. The skin drooping over their beak, called a wattle, is a
bright red-orange. Their beak is thick and strong, great for shredding flesh, and
their long thick claws are good for keeping a tight grip on their dinner.
Habitat
These large birds live in the uppermost branches of emergent canopy trees
anywhere from Mexico to central Argentina and Trinidad. They perch high up in
these trees so that they have a great view of what is going on below them. They
have excellent eyesight and rely on it to watch out for other vultures that have
59
spotted carrion. The king vulture's sense of smell is not as good as that of other
types of vultures, so they do not always use it to detect food. When it sees that
other scavenger birds have discovered a meal, they shoot down from the sky and
push the others out of the way. All of the other species vultures are quick to move
aside for the "king."
Diet
Like other scavengers, the king vulture does not kill its own food. Instead, it feasts
on the carcasses and remains of animals that have been killed by some other
means (known as carrion).
Threats
Though the species is not universally listed as endangered, the populations of king
vultures are in decline due to habitat destruction. These royal birds cannot survive
if the forests they call home disappear.

Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata)


Anatomy

Male ocellated turkeys look similar to the North American wild turkey, but have
more vibrant coloring and weigh significantly less than the North American bird.
Unlike North American turkeys, breast feathers of male and female ocellated
turkeys do not differ and cannot be used to determine sex.
60
The body feathers of both male and female ocellated turkeys are an iridescent
bronze-green, with males more brightly colored than females. Males weigh just over
ten pounds and average three feet in length. At around six pounds, females are
slightly smaller, though they gain weight during the mating season.
Both sexes have bluish-gray tails with a well-defined, eye-shaped, blue-bronze
colored spot near the end followed by bright gold tip. These spots give the ocellated
turkey its name, as the Latin word for eye is oculus.
Males and females have a blue-colored head and neck with distinctive orange to
red, warty growths that are more pronounced on males. The head of the male also
has a fleshy blue crown that is adorned with yellow-orange growths similar to those
on the neck. Ocellated turkeys also have a distinct eye-ring of bright red colored
skin, especially visible on adult males during the breeding season.
Habitat
The ocellated turkey is endemic to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala and
Belize, and can be found across an area extending 50,000 miles. Ocellated turkeys
are most often found in tropical deciduous and lowland evergreen forests as well as
clearings and abandoned farm plots.
Diet
Ocellated turkeys tend to remain in small groups, and their diet consists mainly of
seeds, berries, insects and leaves.
Threats
Large scale timbering operations followed by slash and burn agriculture in Central
America threatens the habitat of the ocellated turkey. The alarming rate of this
destruction is a major threat to the future of this beautiful bird.

Rufous-Bellied Thrush (Turdus rufiventris)


Anatomy

61
Also known as the red-bellied thrush, the rufous-bellied thrush belongs to the
family Turdidae, which also includes well-known birds such as the American robin,
the bluebird and the nightingale.
The rufous-bellied thrush is very easy to recognize with its bright, orange-red belly
and dark streaks along its white throat. Sometimes you may be able to spot a
yellow ring around its eyes. Thrushes have relatively long, slender legs and hop,
rather than walk, along the ground.
Habitat
The rufous-bellied thrush is found throughout southern and eastern Brazil,
Paraguay, Uruguay and neighboring parts of Bolivia and Argentina. It is one of the
best-known thrushes in this region and is commonly seen in woodland areas,
gardens, parks, backyards and the edges of forests. The rufous-bellied thrush
migrates north to the warmer tropical zone during the winter and returns to the
temperate zone when the climate in southern Brazil becomes warmer again. These
birds prefer to live alone or in pairs, and the female builds a cup-shaped nest made
from grass, leaves and moss and incubates two to six light-colored, spotted eggs.
These thrushes can live 25 to 30 years in the wild.
Diet
Rufous-bellied thrushes are mainly insectivorous, which means a large part of their
diet consists of insects and spiders. They also like to feed on oranges, mature
papayas and on the coconuts from several species of palm tree, spitting out the pits
after about an hour, which helps contribute to the distribution of these plants.
Threats
Like many thrushes, this bird has a very attractive song and for this reason, it is
often sold as a cage bird in Brazil. Habitat destruction due to deforestation is also
an ongoing threat to the lives of these birds. The rufous-bellied thrush became the
national bird of Brazil in October 2002 which may help to ensure its protection in
that country.

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INSECTS

Blue Morpho Butterfly (Morpho peleides)


Anatomy

As its common name implies, the blue morpho butterfly’s wings are bright blue,
edged with black. The blue morpho is among the largest butterflies in the world,
with wings spanning from five to eight inches. Their vivid, iridescent blue coloring is
63
a result of the microscopic scales on the backs of their wings, which reflect light.
The underside of the morpho’s wings, on the other hand, is a dull brown color with
many eyespots, providing camouflage against predators such as birds and insects
when its wings are closed. When the blue morpho flies, the contrasting bright blue
and dull brown colors flash, making it look like the morpho is appearing and
disappearing. The males’ wings are broader than those of the females and appear to
be brighter in color. Blue morphos, like other butterflies, also have two clubbed
antennas, two fore wings and two hind wings, six legs and three body segments --
the head, thorax and abdomen.
Habitat
Blue morphos live in the tropical forests of Latin America from Mexico to Colombia.
Adults spend most of their time on the forest floor and in the lower shrubs and
trees of the understory with their wings folded. However, when looking for mates,
the blue morpho will fly through all layers of the forest. Humans most commonly
see morphos in clearings and along streams where their bright blue wings are most
visible. Pilots flying over rainforests have even encountered large groups of blue
morphos above the treetops, warming themselves in the sun. The blue morpho’s
entire lifespan lasts only 115 days, which means most of their time is spent eating
and reproducing.
Diet
The blue morpho’s diet changes throughout each stage of its lifecycle. As a
caterpillar, it chews leaves of many varieties, but prefers to dine on plants in the
pea family. When it becomes a butterfly it can no longer chew, but drinks its food
instead. Adults use a long, protruding mouthpart called a proboscis as a drinking
straw to sip the juice of rotting fruit, the fluids of decomposing animals, tree sap,
fungi and wet mud. Blue morphos taste fruit with sensors on their legs, and they
"taste-smell" the air with their antennae, which serve as a combined tongue and
nose.
Threats
Blue morphos are severely threatened by deforestation of tropical forests and
habitat fragmentation. Humans provide a direct threat to this spectacular creature
because their beauty attracts artists and collectors from all over the globe who wish
to capture and display them. Aside from humans, birds like the jacamar and
flycatcher are the adult butterfly’s natural predators.

Leafcutter Ant (Atta spp. and Acromyrmex spp.)


Anatomy

64
Leafcutter ants practice advanced methods of sustainable agriculture, and operate
under one of the most studied social caste systems in the natural world. Naturalist
E.O. Wilson offered that leafcutters have perfectly evolved to address every small
need necessary for their survival over their 50 million years in existence. Different
ants are responsible for each step in the process of cultivation of fungi. According
to their size, ants fulfill specific roles such as defenders of the colony, caretakers of
the young, gardeners, foragers and leafcutters. Incredibly, there are even tiny ants
that straddle the backs of larger worker ants and defend them from carnivorous
flies. No survival task is left unassigned. Researchers marvel at the complex form of
sustainable agriculture that the ants practice. Careful not to overuse a single
vegetation source, leafcutters gather fragments from different plants and trees,
minimizing the vegetation's tendency to build up its defenses. Some ants are
equipped with a bacterium that acts as a pesticide on a particular mold, the largest
threat to their fungus gardens. The ants sparing use of this protectant has kept the
mold from developing a resistance, allowing the bacterium to remain an effective
defense over time.
Habitat
Found principally in Latin America and the Caribbean, leafcutter ants inhabit the
forest floor and construct an underground web of chambers where they "farm" and
harvest their staple food, fungus. They create underground fungus "gardens" by
clipping and gathering fresh vegetation and injecting the pieces with a fungal
secretion that digests the often poisonous plants into an edible and nutritious
mushroom form.
Diet
These ants consume more vegetation than any other animal group. Their own
fungal secretion, which they inject into the leaves, can change poisonous plants
into a nutritious meal.
Threats
The main natural predator of leafcutter ants is the armadillo. However, as leafcutter
ants are an integral part of the rainforest ecosystem, when the forests disappear, so
do they.

Praying mantid (Stagmomantis sp.)


Anatomy

65
The praying mantid's common name comes from its at-rest stance, with its forelegs
folded up, as if praying. These insects are masters of camouflage, using their
coloration to blend in with foliage, allowing them to hide from predators and to
better stalk their prey. They are adapted to not only blend in with the foliage, but to
mimic it, sometimes looking like leaves, grass, or stones. Praying mantids can
range from one to ten inches in size, have large heads, small grasshopper-like
mandibles, and large leg segments with their middle and hind legs being thinner
and their front legs containing spines that they use to capture their prey. They can
only move the top part of their bodies, which enables them to approach their prey
without startling it. Praying mantids have great eyesight and catch their prey with
their powerful forelegs, hold it in place, and devour it using their strong jaws. Their
antennae are short compared with the rest of their bodies and they have long
narrow wings that are folded in a fan-like way over their abdomen. Mantids are
hemi-metabolic, meaning they undergo simple metamorphosis that includes only
the egg, nymph, and adult stages, with the nymph being almost identical to the
adult but without wings and functioning reproductive organs. Females and males
can be identified by the number of abdominal segments they have. Females have
six and males have eight. Mantids are also one of the only insects that can turn
their heads.
Habitat
Praying mantids can be found throughout the world in tropical areas and sunnier
areas in temperate zones, including North America and southern Europe. There are
many species of mantids, but most are tropical, belonging to the Mantidae family.
Diet
As a mantid grows, its diet frequently changes. They will eat insects, such as
beetles, butterflies, grasshoppers, and other mantids, spiders, and small
vertebrates that include small frogs, lizards, mice, and hummingbirds.
Threats
Though their ability to camouflage helps protect them, praying mantids have many
predators, including birds and bats. Some mantid species have developed an ability
to hear the high-pitched sonar that bats use to navigate in order to be able to avoid
these predators.

66
MAMMALS

Amazon River Dolphin (Inia geoffrensis)


Anatomy

67
The Amazon River dolphin averages about 6.5 feet in length. They come in all
shades of pink, from a dull gray-pink, to rosy colored pink, to a bright pink like
that of the flamingo. This color variation is due to the clarity of the water in which
the dolphin lives; the darker the water, the pinker the dolphin will be. The sun's
rays cause the dolphins to lose their pink pigmentation. Murky water helps to
protect the dolphin's bright hue. These animals are also known to flush to a bright
pink when excited. There are several anatomical differences between the Amazon
River dolphin and other types of dolphins. For one, Amazon River dolphins are able
to turn their necks from side to side while most species of dolphin cannot. This trait
coupled with their ability to paddle forward with one flipper while paddling
backward with the other helps them maneuver when the river floods. These
dolphins will actually swim up over the flooded land and their flexibility helps them
to navigate around trees. Additional characteristics that set these dolphins apart
from other species are molar-like teeth that allow them to chew their prey and
bristle-like hairs at the ends of their snouts that help them search for food on the
muddy river bottoms.
Habitat
The Amazon River dolphin can be found in the Amazon River system as well as the
Orinoco River system. These river systems flow throughout South America,
specifically in the countries of Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia,
Guyana and Peru.
Diet
Amazon River dolphins feast on over 50 types of fish as well as crustaceans found
on the river bottom and the occasional turtle.
Threats
Human activity is the main threat to the Amazon River dolphin. Although these
dolphins have long been respected and unharmed because of the local belief that
they have magical powers, these beliefs are changing. Some humans see them as
competition and kill them so they will not have to share the river’s fish. The
dolphins often become tangled in the nets of fishermen and die. Additionally, the
building of hydroelectric dams in South American rivers, pollution, the loss of
habitat and decrease in food sources, all threaten this unique species of dolphin.

68
Amazonian Tapir (Tapirus terestris)
Anatomy

Amazonian tapirs (also known as lowland or Brazilian tapirs) are one of the largest
mammals found in South America. Weighing in at anywhere between 350 to 600
pounds, adult tapirs have rather corpulent bodies. Unusual in appearance, tapirs
have thick necks, stumpy tails, and large ears. Short trunks, used for lifting food
into their mouths, are also characteristic of the tapir. They are a tan to dark brown
color, and have a ridge with a fringe of hair running along the backs of their necks.
Baby tapirs are born with spotted and striped coats for camouflage; this will darken
as the tapir ages. The 3-4 toes on each foot are spread out to help them navigate on
soft, muddy ground. Tapirs have a sharp sense of smell and hearing that are useful
in evading predators.
Habitat
The Amazonian tapir is found in South America, from northern Colombia to
northern Argentina and southern Brazil on the eastern side of the Andes
Mountains. Tapirs are generally most active at night, although they are often active
during the day. Known for their reclusive, solitary lifestyles, tapirs are difficult to
see in the wild. Although they appear to be sedentary, tapirs are able to cover great
distances in the forest. Adaptable to different habitats, tapirs may be found in
swamp and hillside areas, savannah, and in cloud forests and rainforests.
Preferring moist areas, they are often found near waterways where they can feed,
rest and bathe.
Diet
Amazonian tapirs are considered browsing herbivores, feeding on herbaceous
vegetation and fruits (with a particular affinity for bananas). As they swim well and
can walk on pond bottoms, they will also feed on aquatic plants.
Threats
Being such a large mammal means also being a great source of protein for people.
Tapirs are widely hunted by indigenous people in the forest. Although they are
rather large, tapirs are quite defenseless, and it is believed that pumas, jaguars and
alligators may prey on small tapirs. Low reproductive rates and habitat loss, due to

69
deforestation, have also diminished populations. Amazonian tapirs are considered a
highly vulnerable species.

Black Howler Monkey (Alouatta pigra)


Anatomy

Howler monkeys are among the largest primates in the Neotropics. They can grow
to be 22 to 36 inches tall when standing. And, their tails are about the same size in
length as their bodies. Male howlers are black, while females are brown. They have
prehensile tails that they can use to grab onto branches. They make loud
vocalizations to mark their territory, thus earning their name. Their howls, which
resemble a strong wind blowing through a tunnel, have been heard over two miles
away by researchers. While most individuals do not live for more than 15 years in
the wild, it is possible for howlers to reach over 20 years in age.
Habitat
Howler monkeys are found only in the rainforests of the Americas. They live in tall
rainforest trees in groups of between 4 and 19 members. They travel from tree to
tree in search of food -- walking from limb to limb, rather than jumping. While not
particularly perky primates, they are most active during the day (diurnal), sleeping
high in rainforest trees at night.
Diet
Howlers are strict vegetarians, eating only flowers, fruits and leaves. In Belize,
special community managed protected areas have been established to keep people
from over-harvesting the fruit and flowers that the howlers need to survive.
Threats
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Howlers have both natural and human-induced threats to their existence. The
black howler monkey, known as the "baboon" in Belize, is endangered throughout
much of its range due to hunting and habitat destruction. As forests are cleared,
howlers, who need several acres of forest per troop to survive, are becoming
increasingly rare. Throughout the region in which they are found, howlers are
hunted both for food and for sport. Some experts believe that howlers could become
extinct within the next 35 years.

Brown-Throated Three-Toed Sloth (Bradypus variegatus)


Anatomy

This cat-sized mammal, typically weighing 8 - 9 pounds, has a round head, a short
snout, small eyes, long legs, tiny ears and a stubby tail. Sloths have long, coarse
fur that is light brown in color, but often appears green due to the blue-green algae
that grow there. Instead of toes, their front and hind feet have three curved claws
that allow them to easily hook onto tree branches and hang upside-down. Sloths
can rotate their heads nearly 90 degrees, and their mouths are shaped so they look
like they are always smiling. Males are distinguishable from females because they
usually have a bright yellow or orange patch of fur located between their shoulders.
Habitat
The three-toed sloth is an arboreal animal, inhabiting the tropical forests of Central
and South America. Their algae-covered fur helps camouflage the sloth in its forest
environment. Sloths spend nearly all of their time in trees, descending to the
ground only once a week to defecate.
Diet

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Sloths are herbivores (plant eaters), feeding on a low-energy diet of leaves, twigs
and fruit. Because of their slow movement and metabolism, it can take up to a
month for a sloth to digest a single meal.
Threats
Sloths are among the slowest-moving animals on Earth; they can swim but are
virtually unable to walk. This makes them an easy target for jaguars, eagles and
people that hunt sloths for their meat. The brown-throated three-toed sloth
population is threatened by deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and human
encroachment. In addition, their restricted diet prevents them from thriving in
captivity.

Capuchin Monkey (Cebus capucinus)


Anatomy

Agile and lean, capuchin monkeys weigh only 3 - 9 pounds (1.36 - 4.9 kilograms).
The fur of the capuchin monkey varies, but is most commonly seen with cream or
light tan coloring around the face, neck and shoulders. The rest of its coat is dark
brown. The hair is shorter and darker on the capuchin's back than on other parts
of its body. The face of this cute monkey will range from white to pink in color. The
tail is long, covered in hair and is partially able to wrap around branches.
Habitat

72
The exact range of the capuchin monkey is not known, although it is assumed that
they inhabit a large range in Brazil and other parts of Latin America. Capuchin
monkeys usually live in large groups (10 - 35 individuals) within the forest,
although they can easily adapt to places colonized by humans. Each group is wide-
ranging, as members must search for the best areas to feed. They communicate
with each other using various calls. Capuchins can jump up to nine feet (three
meters), and they use this mode of transport to get from one tree to another. To
mark their territories, capuchin monkeys leave a scent by soaking their hands and
feet in urine. Remaining hidden among forest vegetation for most of the day,
capuchin monkeys sleep on tree branches and descend to the ground only to find
drinking water.
Diet
A typical diet for capuchin monkeys includes fruit, insects, leaves and small birds.
They are particularly good at catching frogs and cracking nuts, and it is suspected
that they may also feed on small mammals.
Threats
Capuchin monkeys are very clever and easy to train. Because of this, they are used
to help people who are quadriplegics in many developed countries. They have also
become popular pets and attractions for street entertainment, and are hunted for
meat by local people. As they have a high reproductive rate and flexibility of
habitat, loss of the forest does not negatively impact the capuchin monkey
populations as much as other species. Natural predators include jaguars and birds
of prey.

Honduran White Bat (Ectophylla alba)

With an average length of 3.7 - 4.7 cm, Honduran white bats are tiny for a bat.
True to their name, they have a fluffy white coat. Their ears, face, nose and parts of
their legs and wings are bright orange. Almost no hair grows on their black wings.
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Since their nose protrudes from their face in a triangular shape, scientists call
members of their family "leaf-nosed bats." There is a thin, black membrane covering
their skull that might provide the bats with protection from ultraviolet radiation -- a
natural form of sunscreen!
Habitat
Honduran white bats live only in the lowland rainforests of eastern Honduras,
northern Nicaragua, eastern Costa Rica and western Panama. They live in
rainforests that have heliconia plants. By cutting along the veins of heliconia
leaves, these bats force the leaves to collapse into upside-down V-shaped "tents"
that might shelter only one bat, or as many as twelve bats. When they roost, they
hang close together upside down in the center of the leaf. The tents help protect
them during the daytime from rain, the hot sun and predators. In fact, the bats
choose leaves that are six feet off the ground -- high enough to be out of the reach
of terrestrial predators. Also, the stems of heliconia plants are not very strong, so
any predator brushing against the leaf causes the bats' tent to shake. This alerts
the bats to danger and they fly quickly away. Why do Honduran white bats have
bright white coats? Why are they not green like the leaves they hide inside? When
the sun shines through the leaves of their tent, it makes the bats' white coat appear
green, making them hard to spot! However, their tent is not home sweet home for
long. The bats rarely return to the same tent for more than a day.
Diet
During the day, Honduran white bats roost under their tents. At night, they emerge
to search for food. However, these creatures are not looking to suck your blood --
they only eat fruit or vegetation.
Threats
Since Honduran white bats live mainly under heliconia leaves, rainforest
destruction is a serious threat. For this species to survive, rainforests in the
Central American lowlands that have heliconia must remain standing. Natural
predators may include opossums, snakes and other carnivorous animals.

Jaguar (Panther onca)

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Jaguars can reach up to six feet in length -- from their nose to the tip of their tail --
and stand up to three feet tall at the shoulder. The average male jaguar weighs
about 120 pounds, but some individuals can weigh as much as 300 pounds. At
birth most jaguars weigh only two pounds. Jaguars are most famous for their
beautiful spotted coats. The spots are broken rosettes, rather than true spots like a
leopard. These allow the jaguar to hide amongst the grasses, bushes and trees that
dominate its habitat. The rare all-black (melanistic) jaguar is what we commonly
refer to as a black panther.
Habitat
Jaguars are found in rainforests, seasonally flooded forests, grasslands, woodlands
and dry deciduous forests throughout their range. Jaguars spend much of their
time on the ground. They use their padded paws to move silently through the forest
floor. Although not quite as agile as a leopard, jaguars are capable of climbing trees
to hunt or to rest.
Diet
Jaguars are mostly nocturnal hunters. They use their excellent vision and sharp
teeth to ambush prey and crush their skulls. Jaguars are known to eat more than
85 species of prey, including armadillos, peccaries, capybara, tapir, deer, squirrels,
birds and even snails. Not confined to hunting on land, jaguars are adept at
snatching fish, turtles and young caiman from the water. They are even able to
hunt monkeys and other tree-dwellers who occasionally wander to lower branches.
Unfortunately, jaguars compete with humans for most of their prey. In many
regions they are shot on sight because of fear, concern for livestock or competition
for prey.
Threats
Unlike many other species, the jaguar faces no natural threat from rival cats or
other predators -- with the exception of humans. At the height of their decline in
the 1960s and 1970s, more than 15,000 jaguars were killed each year for their
beautiful fur. While trade in jaguar fur has been reduced by consumer awareness
campaigns, they continue to face pressure from hunters. In addition, the loss of
habitat is increasing the frequency of contact between people and jaguars.
There are believed to be 15,000 jaguars alive in the wild today. If jaguars are to
exist in the future, scientists believe it will be through a combination of special
protected areas and increased community awareness.

Nine-Banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)


Anatomy

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Dressed in a suit of armor, the head, body, legs and tail of the nine-banded
armadillo are protected by a large number of bony plates. Armadillos spend most of
their time in burrows under the ground. Accordingly, their sense of smell far out-
powers their vision and hearing. About the size of a domestic cat, these creatures
have elongated, pointed noses and long, sticky tongues used for catching insects.
Their short, strong legs have sharp claws that come in handy when digging
burrows.
Habitat
Found from South and Central America to Oklahoma, the armadillo tends to live in
forests near swampy areas. These adaptive creatures can live anywhere that is
warm and has plenty of food. They prefer forests, rainforests, tropical forests,
savannas and grasslands where the soil is good for digging burrows.
Diet
Armadillos' favorite foods are insects. Their special tongue allows them to consume
up to 40,000 ants in one meal! They also enjoy feeding on small animals, bird eggs,
roots, fruits and even rotting animal flesh (called "carrion").
Threats
Even with their suit of armor, bears, coyotes, wild cats, foxes and dogs feed on
armadillos. But cars continue to pose the biggest threat, and many are killed
crossing the road each year. Loss of habitat is forcing increasing interactions
between people and armadillos, further threatening the survival of these curious-
looking creatures.

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West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus)
Anatomy

Manatees, slow and gentle giants of the ocean, can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and
grow to about 10 feet in length. They have small heads and rotund bodies.
Manatees are very solitary animals that spend their entire lives submerged, feeding
on marine grasses. When they surface to breathe, only their bristly nostrils poke
above the surface of the water.
Habitat
West Indian manatees live in the waters surrounding the southern United States,
the Caribbean Islands, eastern Central America and off of the northeast coast of
Brazil. They can be found in both fresh and marine waters, muddy or clear. They
seem to prefer water between three and seven feet deep. They will not go in water
over 20 feet deep or where the current is more than three miles per hour.
Diet
These creatures are the only marine mammals that are strictly herbivorous. They
eat a wide variety of plants, preferring mostly sea-grass leaves. They have a
tendency to stay away from the more bitter tasting plants. They have even been
known to dig with their flippers to get roots. As far as water goes, no one is sure if
they need to drink fresh water to survive, but some manatees have been seen
drinking from hoses to quench their thirst!
Threats
Tragically, the main cause of the depletion of manatee populations is human
activity. Manatees are slow moving underwater animals. With the increase in
boating activity there has been an increase in manatee death and injury from boat
propellers. The boaters do not see the manatees underwater and the manatees
cannot swim away quickly enough. They can also get caught in the nets of
fishermen. There are some that hunt the manatee for its meat. The friendly nature
of the creature, which often results in them approaching divers or swimmers, also
makes them an easy target for hunters.

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PLANTS

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Banana (Musa acuminata)

Contrary to popular belief, banana plants are not trees but giant herbs, which
reach their full height of between 10 and 20 feet after only a year. Every banana
blossom develops into a fruit, which is ripe enough for consumption after about
three or four months. After producing fruit, the plants' stems die off, and are
replaced by new growth. The number of bananas produced by each plant varies.
However, ten or more bananas growing together forms a "hand." Banana stems
have on average 150 "fingers" and weigh nearly 100 pounds. The trunks of banana
plants are not woody but composed of sheets of overlapping leaves wrapped tightly
around one another, a design feature that enables them to conserve water. Because
banana plants are approximately 93 percent water, even moderate winds can knock
them down and destroy entire plantations. Powerful storms devastated banana
crops throughout Honduras when Hurricane Mitch swept through the country on
October 26, 1998.
Habitat
Bananas are indigenous to the tropical portions of India, Southeast Asia and
northern Australia, and were brought to South America by the Portuguese in the
early 16th century. Today, banana plants grow in the humid, tropical regions of
Central and South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia where there are high
temperatures and rainfall. Modern agricultural technologies also enable people to
cultivate banana plants in non-tropical regions such as California in the United
States.
Significance to Humans
Grown in every humid, tropical region on Earth, bananas are the fourth largest
fruit crop in the entire world and the most popular fruit in the United States. In
Central and South America, bananas are vital to the economy. Most bananas sold
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in the United States originated there. Banana leaves are used worldwide as cooking
materials, plates, umbrellas, seat pads for benches, fishing lines, clothing fabric
and soles for inexpensive shoes.
But, for much of its history, the banana industry was notorious for environmentally
destructive and socially irresponsible farming practices. As companies attempted to
keep production high and costs low, they tended to cultivate only single crops in
their plantations. The lack of biodiversity made the plants susceptible to disease,
which farm managers controlled using frequent applications of pesticides that
would leak into drinking water, pollute irrigation canals and endanger the health of
workers, their families and communities.

Coffee (Coffea spp.)

Though it can grow up to 30 feet tall in the wild, the coffee plant is considered to be
a bush or shrub. It may grow with a single stem, but often it develops multiple
stems by branching at the base. The coffee plant is an evergreen, with a light gray
bark and five-inch leaves that are dark green and glossy. Coffee flowers are small,
white and fragrant, helping to attract pollinating insects. When the flowers fall off
the plant, berries begin to develop in their place, ripening from a dark green to a
bright crimson. Two small green coffee beans, surrounded by skin and pulp, are
found inside of the berry. It takes 6 - 8 years of growth for a plant to be in full fruit
production. Coffee plants can live to be 100 years old.
Habitat
Coffee is a shade-loving plant that thrives in areas of high altitude, where there is a
wet and dry season. Originating in Ethiopia and Sudan, today more than two-thirds
of the world’s coffee is grown in Latin America.
Significance to Humans

80
Coffee is the second most valuable commodity today in international commerce
after oil; $2 billion worth is traded every year. In every country in the world, people
are drinking coffee. The two economically important species of coffee are C. Arabica
and C. Robusta.
Coffee was traditionally grown in the shade of trees. However, in the 1970s, coffee
farmers began planting dwarf shrubs that produced higher yields and required no
shade, resulting in the clearing of the shade trees. But the dwarf shrubs require
fertilizers, pesticides and constant care. In addition, many species of migratory
birds suffer as their winter tropical habitat is converted from forests to full-sun
coffee farms.
Did You Know?
Legend has it that the energizing effects of coffee were first discovered by a goat.
Thousands of years ago in what is now Ethiopia, an Abyssinian herder noticed that,
after his goats ate the bright red berries of the coffee plant, the animals became
quite energetic. He showed his discovery to some monks at a nearby monastery,
who then brewed the berries into a beverage to keep them awake during evening
prayers. Thus, the first cups of coffee were born. From Ethiopia, coffee spread
across Arabia, and eventually found its way into cups around the world.

Orchid (Orchidaceae)

Popular around the globe for their beauty and variety, orchids are the largest family
of plants in the entire world. There are 25,000 - 30,000 different species of orchid,
at least 10,000 of which can be found in the tropics. Orchid species can differ
greatly from one another, with extreme variations in size, weight and color. While
some orchids may only be the size of a nickel when in bloom, others may weigh up
to one ton with petals as long as 30 inches, and sprays of small flowers 12 - 14 feet
long. Orchid blossoms appear in almost every imaginable color except for true
black. In general, the floral arrangement of all orchid species is the same, with each
orchid flower having six parts. The outer three flower parts are green "sepals," and
the inner three flower parts are beautifully colored "petals." Some orchids live
underground (subterranean), some grow on rocks (lithophytes), and some grow in

81
the soil, but most are epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants and trees.
Orchids tend to obtain their nourishment from the air, rain or moisture in the soil.
While some are self-pollinating, most rely on specific insects or birds for pollination.
Another unique fact about the orchid is that the plant compensates for its lack of a
true water-retentive root system by working with a certain type of fungi called
mycorrhizae fungi during some portion of their life cycle. During this period, the
fungi grow partly inside orchid roots, helping the plant to absorb water and
minerals. The orchid "repays" the fungi by producing some nutrients during
photosynthesis that help the fungi to survive. This kind of relationship, where two
organisms help one another, is called a symbiotic relationship.
Habitat
Orchids are extremely adaptable, and grow in almost all climates except for frigid
and arid extremes. Orchid groups are both pantropical, able to grow in different
tropical countries, and endemic, only found in specific countries or habitats. Most
orchid species grow in tropical forests, but others can be found in semi-desert
regions, near the seashore and in the tundra. The majority of neotropical orchid
species can be found in southern Central America, northwest South America, and
countries that lie along the Andes Mountains.
Did You Know?
Because most orchids depend on a single species of bird, bee or other insect for
pollination, if that species is eliminated, the particular orchid that depends on that
species becomes threatened by extinction. Thus, habitat fragmentation and
rainforest destruction may eventually prove devastating to the great number of
orchid species in existence today.

Kapok Tree (Ceiba pentandra)

A giant in the rainforests, the kapok tree can reach up to 200 feet in height,
sometimes growing as much as 13 feet per year. Due to its extreme height, the
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kapok, or ceiba tree, towers over the other rainforest vegetation. The trunk can
expand to nine or 10 feet in diameter. In the nooks and grooves of this huge plant
live a diverse number of species including frogs, birds and bromeliads. The kapok
tree is deciduous, shedding all of its leaves during the dry season. As its seeds are
easily blown into open areas, kapok trees are some of the first to colonize open
areas in the forest. The white and pink flowers of the kapok tree emit a foul odor
that attracts bats. As the flying mammals move from flower to flower feasting on the
nectar, they transfer pollen on their fur, thus facilitating pollination. The kapok tree
does a great job at spreading its seeds, producing anywhere between 500 and 4,000
fruits at one time, with each fruit containing 200 seeds. When these fruit burst
open, silky fibers spread the many seeds all over the forest.
Habitat
The kapok tree is found throughout the Neotropics, from southern Mexico to the
southern Amazon and even to parts of West Africa. Because the unopened fruit
won't sink when submerged in water, many believe the fruit of the kapok tree
floated its way from Latin America to Africa.
Significance to Humans
The majestic kapok tree has many uses for humans. Its wood is lightweight and
porous; good for making carvings, coffins and dugout canoes. The silky fibers that
disperse the seeds are too small for weaving but make great stuffing for bedding
and life preservers. Soaps can be made from the oils in the seeds. Other parts of
the giant tree are used as medicines.

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CASE STUDY:

AMAZON RAIN
FOREST

The Amazon rainforest is the biggest forest in the world and is also the last big space
covered with tropical plants and animals. The Amazon forest territory is a tropical rainforest
that is located in the north side of the South American continent and is shared by 9 countries:
Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, French Guiana and Guiana.
Travel through the forest can be difficult, and a guide or a river tour are the best options to see
the natural wonders of the rain forest.

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The largest part of is located in Brazil (60%) and covers almost half of that country.
The space covered with the forest is 5.5 million square kilometers (3.4 million square miles ).
When the Old World explorers reached the Americas they were all looking for gold, silver
and gems. The Portuguese explorers that colonized Brazil believed that somewhere in that
huge forest they would find the "Eldorado", an entire city made of gold that has an almost
intangible value. This hoax came along with the myth that the Eldorado was guarded by the
women warrior race of the Amazons.
All this heat, rain and humidity make these forests a very rich ecosystem or habitat
for many organisms. A rainforest has trees, like any other forest, but they are very different
from the temperate forest you are used to seeing in colder places like in US, Europe and parts
of Asia. There are 120 foot trees, thousands of different species of plants, and all sort of
rainforest animals including the red eyed tree frog, insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians and
mammals. The rainforest canopy is home to thousands of animal species..
Amazonia is a huge and very complex place where nature created a
unique set of biological and geological cycles, hardly seen in other places,
and where mankind developed different cultures, languages, and art. The
mysteries and awe around the Amazon jungle is something we should know
and need to protect. There are several programs where on can buy an acre to
save the land from harm.
Deforestation is the conversion of forested areas to non-forested
areas. The main sources of deforestation in the Amazon are human
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settlement and development of the land. Prior to the early 1960s, access to
the forest's interior was highly restricted, and the forest remained basically
intact. Farms established during the 1960s was based on crop cultivation
and the slash and burn method. However, the colonists were unable to
manage their fields and the crops because of the loss of soil fertility and
weed invasion. The soils in the Amazon are productive for just a short period
of time, so farmers are constantly moving to new areas and clearing more
land. These farming practices led to deforestation and caused extensive
environmental damage.
Between 1991 and 2000, the total area of forest lost in the
Amazon rose from 415,000 to 587,000 km², with most of the lost forest
becoming pasture for cattle. Seventy percent of formerly forested land in the
Amazon, and 91% of land deforested since 1970, is used for livestock
pasture In addition, Brazil is currently the second-largest global producer of
soybeans after the United States. The needs of soy farmers have been used
to validate many of the controversial transportation projects that are
currently developing in the Amazon. The first two highways successfully
opened up the rain forest and led to increased settlement and deforestation.
The mean annual deforestation rate from 2000 to 2005 (22,392 km² per
year) was 18% higher than in the previous five years (19,018 km² per year)
At the current rate, in two decades the Amazon Rainforest will be reduced by
40%

Conservation and climate change


Environmentalists are concerned about the loss of biodiversity
which will result from destruction of the forest, and also about the release of
the carbon contained within the vegetation, which could accelerate global
warming. Amazonian evergreen forests account for about 10% of the world's
terrestrial primary productivity and 10% of the carbon stores in ecosystems
— of the order of 1.1 x 1011 metric tonnes of carbon. Amazonian forests are
estimated to have accumulated 0.62 ± 0.37 tons of carbon per hectare per
year between 1975 and 1996.
One computer model of future climate change caused by
greenhouse gas emissions shows that the Amazon rainforest could become
unsustainable under conditions of severely reduced rainfall and increased
temperatures, leading to an almost complete loss of rainforest cover in the
basin by 2100. However, simulations of Amazon basin climate change across
many different models are not consistent in their estimation of any rainfall
response, ranging from weak increases to strong decreases. The result
indicates that the rainforest could be threatened though the 21st century by
climate change in addition to deforestation

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Anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases broken down by sector for
the year 2000
.
n 1989, environmentalist C.M. Peters and two colleagues stated there
is economic as well as biological incentive to protecting the rainforest. One
hectare in the Peruvian Amazon has been calculated to have a value of
$6820 if intact forest is sustainably harvested for fruits, latex, and timber;
$1000 if clear-cut for commercial timber (not sustainably harvested); or
$148 if used as cattle pasture
As indigenous territories continue to be destroyed by deforestation
and ecocide, such as in the Peruvian Amazon indigenous peoples' rainforest
communities continue to disappear, while others, like the Urarina continue
to struggle to fight for their cultural survival and the fate of their forested
territories. Meanwhile, the relationship between nonhuman primates in the
subsistence and symbolism of indigenous lowland South American peoples
has gained increased attention, as has ethno-biology and community-based
conservation efforts.

87
From 2002 to 2006, the conserved land in the Amazon Rainforest has
almost tripled and deforestation rates have dropped up to 60%. About
1,000,000 square kilometres (250,000,000 acres) have been put onto some
sort of conservation, which adds up to a current amount of
1,730,000 square kilometres (430,000,000 acres)

Remote sensing
The use of remotely sensed data is dramatically improving
conservationists' knowledge of the Amazon Basin. Given the objectivity and
lowered costs of satellite-based land cover analysis, it appears likely that
remote sensing technology will be an integral part of assessing the extent
and damage of deforestation in the basin. Furthermore, remote sensing is
the best and perhaps only possible way to study the Amazon on a large-
scale.
The use of remote sensing for the conservation of the Amazon is also
being used by the indigenous tribes of the basin to protect their tribal lands
from commercial interests. Using handheld GPS devices and programs like
Google Earth, members of the Trio Tribe, who live in the rainforests of
southern Suriname, map out their ancestral lands to help strengthen their
territorial claims. Currently, most tribes in the Amazon do not have clearly
defined boundaries, which make their territories easy targets for commercial
poaching of natural resources. Through the use of cheap mapping
technology, the Trio Tribe hopes to protect its ancestral land.
In order to accurately map the biomass of the Amazon and
subsequent carbon related emissions, the classification of tree growth stages
within different parts of the forest is crucial. In 2006 Tatiana Kuplich
organized the trees of the Amazon into four categories: (1) mature forest, (2)
regenerating forest [less than three years], (3) regenerating forest [between
three and five years of regrowth], and (4) regenerating forest [eleven to
eighteen years of continued development The researcher used a combination
of Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and Thematic Mapper (TM) to accurately
place the different portions of the Amazon into one of the four
classifications.

Impact of Amazon drought


In 2005, parts of the Amazon basin experienced the worst drought
in 100 years, and there were indications that 2006 could have been a
second successive year of drought A 23 July 2006 article in the UK
newspaper The Independent reported Woods Hole Research Center results
showing that the forest in its present form could survive only three years of
drought. Scientists at the Brazilian National Institute of Amazonian
Research argue in the article that this drought response, coupled with the
effects of deforestation on regional climate, are pushing the rainforest
towards a "tipping point" where it would irreversibly start to die. It concludes

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that the forest is on the brink of being turned into savanna or desert, with
catastrophic consequences for the world's climate.

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CONCLUSION

An area of a rainforest the size of


a football field is being destroyed
each second.
Giant bamboo plants can grow
up to 9 in a day.
The trees of a tropical rainforest
are so densely packed that rain
falling on the canopy can take as
long as 10 minutes to reach the
ground.

90
In the moist rainforests of South
America, sloths move so slowly
that algae are able to grow in
their fur.

Some rainforest monkeys are omnivores, eating both


animals and plants.
More than 2,000 different species of butterflies are
found in the rainforests of South America.
The forests of Central Africa are home to more than
8,000 different species of plants.
Flying animals of Asian rainforests include frogs,
squirrels and snakes.

80% of the flowers in the Australian rainforests


are not found anywhere else in the world.

Bats are essential for the pollination of many


tropical foodstuffs such as bananas and mangoes.

1 out of 4 ingredients in our medicine is from


rainforest plants.

About 2,000 trees per minute are cut down in the


rainforests. let's do everything we can to save them..

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