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Rainforest is defined as a luxuriant, dense forest rich in biodiversity, found typically in

tropical areas with consistently heavy rainfall. Rainforest are located in a belt around the Earth
near the equator. They are recognized worldwide as containing the richest source of plants and
animals and are believed to contain nearly three-quarters of all the varieties of life on Earth. This
is remarkable because rainforests cover only about six percent of the Earth's land surface.
In tropical rainforest, various types of plants that grow in various layers. The four main
layers are the emergent layer, upper canopy, the understory, and the rainforest floor. Emergent
Trees reach high above the average tree height of the rainforest canopy. These trees can grow to
heights of 200 feet or more. Emergent trees do not generally grow close to one another, and will
endure different conditions than other trees of the rainforest. They will receive more sunlight
and less moisture because they are not confined to the shady and humid conditions that exist
beneath the rainforest canopy. Animals that inhabit emergent trees include a variety of insects,
some species of bats and some species of birds including Harpy Eagles.
The rainforest canopy is composed of trees that grow to heights between 100 - 150 feet.
The canopy is home to a large biodiversity of plant and animal life. Animals that inhabit the
rainforest canopy include Lemurs, Spider Monkeys, Sloths, Toucans, Orangutans and Parrots.
Some of these animals find most or all of their food high in the trees of the canopy so that they
will rarely, if ever, need to go to the rainforest floor. The canopy also acts as a reverse umbrella
for the rainforest. It traps moisture and humidity underneath the leaves of its trees and also
blocks out sunlight.
The understory is the layer of the rainforest between the canopy and the forest floor.
Here, the leaves of trees and plants are broad and large so that they can capture what little light
gets through the canopy. The understory is dark and humid, and has a large amount of insect
life. The rainforest floor only receives between 1 - 2% of the sunlight that hits the upper layers of
the rainforest. Very little plant life grows here as a result. Although the ground is covered by a
layer of decomposing vegetation, the top soil is surprisingly poor in nutrients. The rainforest
floor is very humid due to the evaporation of water from the leaves and shrubs that are found in
this layer. This humidity will help speed up the process of decomposition of the matter. A wide
variety of life including insects and larger animals inhabits the rainforest floor. Some of the
larger animals that live in this layer include Jaguars, Bengal Tigers, Okapis, and Southern
Cassowaries.
The tropical rain forest is the biome with the greatest amount of species diversity. The
rainforest may contain more than 1000 various species. The diversity of rain- forest vegetation
has led to the evolution of as diverse community of animals. Most rain- forest animals are
specialists that use specific resources in particular ways. Some rain forest animals have
amazing adaptations for capturing prey, and other animals have adaptations that they use to
escape predators. Decomposers on the rainforest floor break down organic matter and return the
nutrients to the soil, but plants quickly absorb the nutrients. The nutrients are removed so
effectively from the soil in a tropical rain forest that water running out of the soil may be as clear
as distilled water. Many of the trees from above ground roots, called buttresses or braces,
which grow sideways from the trees and provide the trees with extra support in the thin soil.
The benefits that the rainforest gives humans are fresh fruits and vegetables which
provide vitamin A, B, C, & D. These fresh fruits include avocados, coconuts, figs, oranges,
lemons, grapefruit, bananas, guavas, pineapples, mangos and tomatoes. These fresh vegetables
include corn, potatoes, rice, winter squash and yams. The spices include black pepper, cayenne,
chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sugar cane, turmeric, coffee and vanilla and nuts including
nuts and cashews.
Forest plants are rich in secondary metabolites, particularly alkaloids. Biochemists
believe alkaloids protect plants from disease and insect attacks. Many alkaloids from higher
plants have proven to be of medicinal value and benefit. Vincristine, extracted from the
rainforest plant, periwinkle, is one of the world's most powerful anticancer drugs. It has
dramatically increased the survival rate for acute childhood leukemia since its discovery. In
1983, there were no U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers involved in research programs to
discover new drugs or cures from plants. Today, over 100 pharmaceutical companies and several
branches of the US government, including giants like Merck and The National Cancer Institute,
are engaged in plant research projects for possible drugs and cures for viruses, infections, cancer,
and even AIDS.
Rainforests store water like a huge sponge. Trees draw water from the forest floor and
release it back in to the atmosphere in the form of swirling mists and clouds. Without rainforests
continually recycling huge quantities of water, feeding the rivers, lakes and irrigation systems,
droughts would become more common, potentially leading to widespread famine and disease.
They absorb the carbon dioxide that we exhale, and provide the oxygen we need to breathe.
When rainforest trees are burnt they release carbon dioxide, which pollutes the atmosphere and
contributes to global warming. Deforestation is in fact considered the second major driver of
climate change, responsible for 18-25% of global annual carbon dioxide emissions.
Soil in the rainforest is very poor in nutrients. This is because the nutrients are stored in
the vast numbers of trees and plants rather than in the soil. Tree roots bind the soil together,
while the canopy protects the soil from heavy rains. When a tree dies and its trunk falls to the
forest floor, it decays and the nutrients it contains are recycled. However, if trees are removed
from the forest, the nutrients are removed with it, along with the protection provided by the tree
roots and the forest canopy. The unprotected soil is then simply washed away in heavy rains,
causing blockages and floods in lowland rivers, while leaving upland rivers dry.
Rainforests are seriously affected by oil companies searching for new oil deposits. This is
incredibly damaging as often large roads are built through untouched forests in order to build
pipelines and extract the oil. This encourages settlers to move into hitherto pristine forests and
start slash-and-burn farming or cutting more timber for sale or the production of charcoal. Once
established, the oil pipelines which transport the oil often rupture, spouting gallons of oil into the
surrounding forest, killing wildlife and contaminating the water supplies of local villages.
The World Bank and large companies invest money in developing countries to build
dams for the generation of electricity. This can involve flooding vast areas of rainforest. Dams
built in rainforest areas often have a short life because the submerged forest gradually rots;
making the reservoir water acidic, which eventually corrodes the dam turbines. The dams can
also become blocked with soil washed down from deforested highlands in heavy rains. This can
cause great problems, such as flooding.
Indigenous Indians also use "slash and burn" farming techniques, but on a small scale.
For centuries they have used a sustainable system where, when they finish using one small patch
of land, they move away to a different area and allow the forest to regenerate. Since the area
cleared is small, the soil does not dry out and therefore the forest clearance is localized and
temporary rather than extensive and permanent.
In summary, the rainforest is a vital lifeline of Earth, as well as one of the most unique
ecosystems of our planet. It contains a wide variety of plants, animals and people, and all are
important to the equilibrium of nature. While it is not too late to save the rainforest ecosystems
of the world, there is still much work to be done if we will succeed in protecting this valuable
resource. Some solutions to protect the rainforest is to recycle everything you can: newspapers,
cans, glass bottles and jars, aluminum foil, motor oil, scrap metal, etc. Try to use phosphate-free
laundry and dish soaps. Use cold water in the washer whenever possible. Don't use electrical
appliances for things you can easily do by hand, like opening cans. Re-use brown paper bags to
line your trash can instead of plastic liners. Re-use bread bags, butter tubs, etc.







Bibliography

Rainforest Facts". Rain-tree.com
The Tropical Rain Forest. Marietta College. Marietta, Ohio. Retrieved
14 August 2013.
Lewis, S.L., Phillips, O.L., Baker, T.R., Lloyd, J. et al. 2004 Concerted
changes in tropical forest structure and dynamics: evidence from 50
South American long-term plots Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. 359
"Impact of Deforestation Extinction". Rainforests.mongabay.com.
Retrieved 2012-08-26.
Vidal, John (20 May 2005). "Rainforest loss shocks Brazil".
guardian.co.uk (London). Retrieved 7 July 2010
Bourgeon, Patrick S. (1983). "Spatial Aspects of Vegetation Structure".
In Frank B. Golley. Tropical Rain Forest Ecosystems. Structure and
Function. Ecosystems of the World (14A Ed.). Elsevier Scientific. pp.
2947
Environmental Textbook






Importance of the Rainforest
By:
Victor Reid
School: STAR Early College
Class: Environmental Science
Teacher: Mr. C. Byers
Grade: 12
th

Date: 2-27-14