The rainforest is about life. Rain forests are wooded areas that receive more than 78 inches of rainfall a year and have temperatures that never reach freezing; the ecosystem that houses the largest amount of biodiversity on the planet.
Importance of the Rainforest
The role of the rainforest transcends scientific definitions. Even though only 7% of the world’s original rain forests remain, more than half of the planet’s species still live there. This wealth of life benefits us every day. Scientists are constantly discovering new uses for endemic plants, including many breakthrough drugs, while still less than one percent of the world’s rainforest have been explored for pharmaceutical properties.
Simply put, rainforests are the Earth’s lungs. Through photosynthesis, they pull carbon out of the atmosphere (storing it in the roots, stems, leaves and branches of the plants) and transform it into life-giving oxygen while at the same time helping recycle and clean our water supplies. The wholesale destruction of rain forests is directly responsible for the current buildup of carbon in our atmosphere. Rainforests also keep our planet cool by combating the effects of the greenhouse effect.
Additionally many food items you enjoy every day originally came from rainforest across the globe. Coffee, several kinds of nuts, and scores of fruits and spices grew naturally in rainforests before humans cultivated them as crops.
Due to deforestation, some 100 species will become extinct every day – many of them are still undiscovered and their qualities will be lost forever. We at the Rainforest Adventures are fighting to reverse this trend.
Parts of a Rainforest
There are four basic levels to the rainforest, all of which can be viewed in our rain forest tours:
- At the bottom is the forest floor, where countless types of insects make their home. The largest forest animals also live in this area.
- Above the ground but below the leaves is the understory. Because trees shoot skyward in search of light and space, the trees block the majority of sunlight from ever reaching the forest floor. Some parts of the rainforest receive only one or two percent of the sun’s original intensity. The understory is dark and cool.
- The forest canopy is the upper part of the trees, where branches spread out and leaves reach upward. Insects, birds, reptiles and mammals all call the canopy home. Rainforest canopies absorb up to 90 percent of the available sunlight.
- Finally, emergents are very tall trees that rise high above the forest canopy. Many birds and insects live in these skyscrapers of the rainforest. These creatures, just like the trees themselves, are quite different from those found in lower levels of the rainforest.
Here are some interesting facts about the tropical rain forests.
- In the tropical rainforest, a high percentage of plant families, genus and species are located in the canopy.
- The tropical rainforest canopy experiences more drastic changes in temperature and humidity than the majority of hot deserts.
- It has been shown that the evolution of prehensile tails in mammals is closely related to the abundance of lianas in the rainforest.
- The soil in the topical rainforest is generally quite poor. Nutrients are found in the vegetation, especially in large trees.
- There are species of plants that have not been seen again in tropical rainforests that have been altered. Here lies the importance of preserving our virgin forests.
- In spite of covering just 7% of the Earth's land, tropical rainforests are home to more than 50% of all the plant and animal species on the planet.
- Rainforests cover 2% of the Earth's surface, or 6% of its land mass, yet they house over half the plant and animal species on Earth. They originally covered at least twice that area.
- Rainforests are being destroyed at a staggering rate. According to the National Academy of Science, at least 50 million acres per year are lost, the size of England, Wales and Scotland combined.
- Despite the small land area they cover, rainforests are home to more than half of the 5 to 10 million plant and animal species on the globe. Rainforests also support 90,000 of the 250,000 identified plant species. Scientists estimate that there are at least 30,000 as yet undiscovered plants, most of which are rainforest species.
- One fourth of the medicines available today owe their existence to plants. Seventy percent of the plants useful in cancer treatment identified by the National Cancer Institute are found only in the rainforest.
- A typical four square mile patch of rainforest contains as many as 1500 species of flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 125 mammal species, 400 species of birds, 100 of reptiles, 60 of amphibians, and 150 different species of butterflies. One square meter of fallen leaves, when analyzed, turned up 50 species of ants alone.
Rainforest Conservation Through Sustainable Park Excursions
Teaching tourists more information about the rainforest is a goal of ecotourism parks in many parts of the world. Rainforest Adventures has 5 locations in the coolest destinations in Central America and the Caribbean that offer the opportunity for visitors and locals alike to learn more about our ecosystem and our natural resources especially the tropical rain forests. We have sustainability programs that encourages everyone to help in forest conservation and nature preservation.