The Importance of Rainforests

Facts About Rainforests

This interior part of the Amazon rainforest is one of the most diverse corners of the Amazon basin. A hectare of forest typically contains 250 species of large trees.

Credit: Nigel Pitman | The Field Museum

Rainforests are found all over the world — in West and Central Africa, South and Central America, Indonesia, Southeast Asia and Australia — on every continent except Antarctica. They are vitally important, producing most of the oxygen we breathe and providing habitat for half of the planet’s flora and fauna.

The term “rainforest” has a wide classification. Typically, rainforests are lush, humid, hot stretches of land covered in tall, broadleaf evergreen trees, usually found around the equator. These areas usually get rain year-round, typically more than 70 inches (1,800 millimeters) a year, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Various types of forests, such as monsoon forests, mangrove forests and temperate forests, can be considered rainforests. Here’s what makes them different:

  • Temperate rainforests consist of coniferous or broadleaf trees and are found in the temperate zones. They are identified as rainforests by the large amount of rain they receive.
  • Mangrove rainforests are, like their name, made of mangrove trees. These trees grow only in brackish waters where rivers meet the ocean.
  • Monsoon rainforests are also called “dry rainforests” because they have a dry season. These get around 31 to 71 inches (800 mm to 1,800 mm) of rain. Up to 75 percent of the trees in dry rainforests can be deciduous.

Most rainforests are very warm, with an average temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) during the day and 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) at night.

A rainforest consists of two major areas. The very top part is called the canopy, which can be as tall as 98 feet to 164 feet (30 to 50 meters). This area is comprised of the tops of trees and vines. The rest, below the canopy, is called the understory. This can include ferns, flowers, vines, tree trunks and dead leaves.

Some animals stay in the canopy and rarely ever come down to the ground. Some of these animals include monkeys, flying squirrels and sharp-clawed woodpeckers, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Upper montane cloud forest during rainfall at Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia.
Upper montane cloud forest during rainfall at Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia.

Credit: L. A. Bruijnzeel and I. S. M. Sieverding

The rainforest is home to many plants and animals. According to The Nature Conservancy, a 4-square-mile (2,560 acres) area of rainforest contains as many as 1,500 flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 400 species of birds and 150 species of butterflies. The Amazon rainforest alone contains around 10 percent of the world’s known species.

Just about every type of animal lives in rainforests. In fact, though rainforests cover less than 2 percent of Earth’s total surface area, they are home to 50 percent of Earth’s plants and animals, according to The Nature Conservancy. For example, rhinoceroses, deer, leopards, gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, armadillos and even bears can be found living in rainforests across the world.

Many unusual animals and plants have been discovered in rainforests. For example, the fairy lantern parasite (Thismia neptunis) reappeared in the rainforest of Borneo, Malaysia, in 2018, 151 years after it was first documented. This plant sucks on underground fungi and doesn’t need sunlight to survive. “To our knowledge, it is only the second finding of the species in total,” the Czech team of researchers wrote in a paper, which was published Feb. 21, 2018, in the journal Phytotaxa.

Some of the animals are also unusual. For example, the tapir is a mammal that looks like a mix between an anteater and a pig and can be found in the rainforests of South America and Asia. The stunning silverback gorillalives in the rainforest of the Central African Republic. Forest giraffes, or okapi, a strange-looking cross between a horse and a zebra, also inhabit the African rainforest.

One particularly surprising rainforest find is a spider as big as a puppy. The massive South American Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) is the world’s largest spider, according to Guinness World Records. Each leg can reach up to 1 foot (30 centimeters) long, and it can weigh up to 6 ounces (170 grams).

Seventy percent of the plants identified by the U.S. National Cancer Institute as useful in the treatment of cancer are found only in rainforests, according to The Nature Conservancy. Scientists have identified more than 2,000 tropical forest plants as having anti-cancer properties. However, less than 1 percent of tropical rainforest species have been analyzed for their medicinal value.

Rainforests are found on every continent except Antarctica. Map shows tropical rainforests in dark green and temperate rainforests in light green.
Rainforests are found on every continent except Antarctica. Map shows tropical rainforests in dark green and temperate rainforests in light green.

Credit: Ville Koistinen

Humans and animals rely on the rainforest to make the majority of Earth’s oxygen. One tree produces nearly 260 lbs. of oxygen each year, according to the Growing Air Foundation, and 1 hectare (2.47 acres) of rainforest may contain over 750 types of trees.

A tree uses carbon dioxide to grow. A living tree draws in and stores twice as much carbon dioxide than a fallen tree releases. But when the tree is cut down, it releases its stored carbon dioxide. For example, dead Amazonian trees emit an estimated 1.9 billion tons (1.7 billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications in 2014. The same trees typically absorb about 2.2 billion tons (2 billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide makes up around 82.2 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Out of the 6 million square miles (15 million square kilometers) of tropical rainforest that once existed worldwide, only 2.4 million square miles (6 million square km) remain, and only 50 percent, or 75 million square acres (30 million hectares), of temperate rainforests still exists, according to The Nature Conservancy. Ranching, mining, logging and agriculture are the main reasons for forest loss. Between 2000 and 2012, more than 720,000 square miles (2 million square km) of forests around the world were cut down — an area about the size of all the states east of the Mississippi River.

Deforestation around the world also decreases the global flow of water vapor from land by 4 percent, according to an article published by the journal National Academy of Sciences. Water constantly cycles through the atmosphere. It evaporates from the surface and rises, condensing into clouds. It is blown by the wind, and then falls back to Earth as rain or snow. In addition, water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, according to NASA. Even a slight change in the flow of water vapor can disrupt weather patterns and climates.

“Rainforests are under increasing threats for many reasons, including logging, clearing for crops or cattle, and conversion to commercial palm oil plantations,” Jonathan Losos, director of the Living Earth Collaborative and William H. Danforth Distinguished University Professor for the Department of Biology, at Washington University in St. Louis, told Live Science. “On top of that, the changing climate is having adverse effects on rainforest health. Last year was an especially bad one for the Amazon, with a substantial uptick in the rate of deforestation.”

On the other hand, Losos said, there are some glimmers of hope:

  • The two countries with the largest amount of rainforest – Indonesia and Brazil – have both acknowledged the importance of these forests and have taken innovative and aggressive efforts to halt deforestation.
  • There is a growing understanding that halting deforestation and reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are closely linked; new, large-scale efforts are under way to address both concerns.
  • While there is a continued decline in primary rainforests, a bright spot is the fact that in many tropical countries, there is an extensive regeneration of secondary forests, which are critical to supporting much of these countries’ biodiversity.

 

  • from:    https://www.livescience.com/63196-rainforest-facts.html

The Majesty of Trees

Woman Spends 14 Years Photographing the World’s Oldest Trees

These incredible photographs honoring our Earth’s Ancient Trees were collected over 14 years by San Francisco California photographer Beth Moon.  She traveled the globe in search for the oldest trees and even ventured into the more remote locations.

“Many of the trees I have photographed have survived because they are out of reach of civilization; on mountainsides, private estates, or on protected land. Certain species exist only in a few isolated areas of the world.  For example; there are 6 species of spectacular baobabs, found only on the island of Madagascar. Sadly, the baobab is now one of the three most endangered species on the island.” (source)

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Unfortunately, one of the only reasons many of these trees are still alive is because they are out of the reach of civilization.  They are growing on land that is private, protected, or hard to travel too.  It is sad to think that nature has to hide its treasures to keep them safe from the greed of the world.

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Beth chose trees for her photos based on their size, age, and historical significance.  She did a lot of research before taking the photo’s which adds to their rich quality.

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“Beth Moon’s stunning images capture the power and mystery of the world’s remaining ancient trees. These hoary forest sentinels are among the oldest living things on the planet and it is desperately important that we do all in our power to ensure their survival. I want my grandchildren – and theirs – to know the wonder of such trees in life and not only from photographs of things long gone. Beth’s portraits will surely inspire many to help those working to save these magnificent trees.” – Dr. Jane Goodall (source)

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Nature is one of the most precious things we have left on this earth.  Trees, especially ancient trees produce huge amounts of life-giving oxygen while providing homes for animals.

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Humans have subtly moved further away from balance with nature over the past few hundred years.  If we don’t change our ways we will add to the destruction of these natural habitats and do damage that is beyond repair.

 

If we want to preserve these incredible sights for future generations we have to learn to live in harmony will all life.

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“It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest.” – Buckminister Fuller

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Renewable energy technologies are being discovered and improved every day.  Big groups are working to defund big oil and stop the deforestation industries in order to save these incredible trees.

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Humans all over the globe are waking up and realizing that big change is needed to save and preserve beautiful ancient trees such as these.

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If we look at our daily lives we are so wasteful as a species.  We produce so much trash and consume much more than we need.  Many things that we would assume isn’t related to trees actually add to the deforestation problem worldwide.

For example, 80% of all deforestation in the Amazon is for the beef industry. 

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Were you also aware that the rain forests are disappearing at a rate of around 6000 acres an hour.  That is the same as 4000 football fields worth of trees being killed every hour.  That is an insane amount of consumption of something that took decades or more to grow.

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Humans are the one’s causing the problem and we have the responsibility to solve it.  Two ways that you can start making a difference today is to spread awareness of the problem and make sure that you cut your consumer habits down as much as possible.

Research ways to start living in a way that is as renewable as possible.  Recycle, stop using plastic, cut back or completely eliminate meat, and make sure to get involved whenever you can with groups that are trying to change this world for the better.

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Perhaps with enough people we will hit the tipping point and start making this world a better place before we loose many of these priceless treasures.

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These images are just a small part of the wonder and treasure that this earth holds.  There are lessons in these enchanting trees.  Wisdom beyond our lifetime that will be priceless to future generations.

How we choose to honor life is very telling of our character and value as a conscious beings.

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We are making a difference in this world, I know it feels like only a handful of people are fighting this fight.  The truth is that thousands of people are waking up and demanding change every single day.

What it really comes down to is us.  We need to start demonstrating to the world what it looks like to live sustainable lives that are in harmony with nature.

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“I believe these symbolic trees will take on a greater significance, especially at a time when our focus is directed at finding better ways to live with the environment, celebrating the wonders of nature that have survived throughout the centuries. By feeling a larger sense of time, developing a relationship with the natural world, we carry that awareness with us as it becomes a part of who we are. I cannot imagine a better way to commemorate the lives of the world’s most dramatic trees, many which are in danger of destruction, than by exhibiting their portraits.”

FROM:     http://themindunleashed.org/2015/10/woman-spends-14-years-photographing-the-worlds-oldest-trees.html

Forests – Vanishing Species

Study Reveals the Sad Truth: There Are Only Two Truly Intact Forests Left on Earth

We are used to thinking that a forest that is carved up by roads and settlements can still be called a forest. However, the results of a new study suggest quite the opposite, claiming that forest fragmentation has lasting detrimental effects on our planet’s ecosystems. In other words, a fragmented forest ceases to be a good natural habitat for wild animals and plants, which has a long-term negative impact on the ecosystem and the environment in general. Moreover, the study concludes that there are only two truly intact forests left on Earth – the rainforests of the Amazon and the Congo.

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and involved 24 scientists from different countries led by Nick Haddad, a professor at North Carolina State University. Their task was to analyze the results of the experiments which have been conducted on five continents for decades and were aimed to simulate the effects of human activity on forests.

The researchers studied the impact of forest fragmentation on wildlife and came to astonishing and, at the same time, disappointing conclusions. It appears that the habitat fragmentation leads to 13 to 75 percent decrease in plant and animal diversity! It basically reduces the ability of animals and plants to survive and can even distort the food chain, as smaller patches of forest tend to have an increase in the predator population.

At the same time, forests with more edges have reduced core ecosystem functions, such as the ability to sequester carbon dioxide, which plays an important role in alleviating the climate change effects, and display a decline in productivity and pollination.

Thus, forest fragmentation affects the integrity of the natural habitat – that is why such forests exhibit a decline of wildlife. According to the results of the study, the most significant losses took place in the smallest patches of forest and closest to a habitat edge. What is even more disappointing is that more than 70% of the world’s forests lie within one kilometer of a habitat edge!

Nearly 20 percent of the world’s remaining forests are the distance of a football field, or about 100 meters, away from forest edges. Seventy percent of forest lands are within a half-mile of forest edges. That means almost no forests can really be considered wilderness,” said professor Haddad.

The researchers also emphasize that the effects of forest fragmentation may remain unnoticed for years and only get worse over time. It was found that, on average, fragmented forests have more than a 50% decrease in plant and animal species abundance within just 20 years!

The effects of current fragmentation will continue to emerge for decades. We still haven’t seen the full extent of what our slicing and dicing of the forests has wrought,” the researchers said.

Well, it is another study to show how terribly we, humans, treat our own planet… When will the humanity realize that, if we don’t change our attitude towards the nature and the environment, we will soon have no planet at all? The only way to save the environment and ourselves is to live in harmony with nature rather than to continue ruining and exhausting it with our activity. I hope the humanity will come to this understanding before it is too late.

from:    http://themindunleashed.org/2015/04/study-reveals-the-sad-truth-there-are-only-two-intact-forests-left-on-earth.html

Palm Oil Harvest Killing Orangutans

The video Procter & Gamble don’t want you to see

Original story at greenpeace.org

While Procter & Gamble were advertising about motherhood, companies that produce palm oil for P&G have been making orphans out of orangutans. Everyone needs to know that deforestation to create palm oil plantations means orangutans are senselessly orphaned. Together, we can get P&G to commit to only using forest-friendly palm oil. The video Procter & Gamble don’t want you to see. Is this what they call “sustainable” practices?

from:    http://now.motherearthnews.com/zine/featured/the-video-procter–gamble-dont-want-you-/72784c46776636716c786b2b495157335572527535413d3d

Huge Jump in Amazon Deforestation

Amazon deforestation jumps 28% in a year

Deforestation has risen exponentially after years of decline, with environmentalists attributing this change to the easing of laws in Brazil.
By Ananth Baliga   |   Nov. 15, 2013 at 12:11 PM
Deforestation in the Amazon has reached a new high after years of declining numbers, owing to the easing of environmental laws in Brazil.(CC/Alex Rio Brazil)
Nov. 15 (UPI) — Brazil has acknowledged a 28 percent rise in deforestation of the ecologically sensitive Amazon forest, between August 2012 and July 2013.The rise has been blamed on changes made to Brazil’s forest protection law. The country uses to sattelite imagery to track the decline of the country’s forest cover and is particularly shocking considering it recorded its lowest deforestation levels last year.

Initial statistics point to 2,255 sq miles of forest lost as compared to 1,765 sq miles lost in the previous 12 months. This rise ends a streak of declining deforestation which began in 2009 but does not come close to the loss in 2004 — nearly 10,500 sq. miles of forest were lost.

Environmentalists say the controversial reform of the forest protection law in 2012 is to blame for the trend in Brazil. The changes reduced protected areas in farms and declared an amnesty for areas destroyed before 2008.

Environment Minister Izabella Teixeir called the destruction of the Amazon “unacceptable” and a “crime,” but denied allegations that President Dilma Rousseff‘s administration was to blame.

“This swing is not related to any federal government fund cuts for law enforcement,” she said.

A majority of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions has been linked to the rapid deforestation of the Amazon. These figures undermine the pledge made by Brazil in 2009 to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80% by the year 2020.

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Science_News/Blog/2013/11/15/Amazon-deforestation-jumps-28-in-a-year/9911384535388/#ixzz2kx1HIZBk