Rainforests

Near Extinction?

Intro

Tropical rainforests used to cover nearly 14 percent of Earth's land surface. But because of humans, the total area of tropical rainforests has gone down to two percent of Earth's land surface. This creates a big problem in the world. With more than half the world's species living in tropical rainforests, there are many animals on the verge of extinction and many animals that have gone extinct already particularly birds. If more and more species continue to grow extinct, over half the world's animals will be gone. This will cause the animals that eat the extinct species to die off and eventually there would be no food for humans to eat.

Where are tropical rainforests?

Nearly half the world's tropical rainforests are located in Latin America near the Amazon River Basin. A third is located in Brazil. Many tropical rainforests are also in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands (25%) and West Africa and Madagascar in the Zaire Basin (18%).

plants

Plants that live in tropical rainforests include orchids, bromeliads, bambusa tulda, coconut tree, and the bougainvillea.

The bougainvillea has hooks that connect to their vines that they can connect to other plants to get sunlight. Also, they can grow in full sunlight to semi-shade and they have become a house plant so they can survive there too.

The Bambusa tulda, or Bengal Bamboo, can live in weather from 40 to 100 fahrenheit. This allows it to adapt to nearly any environment in that range that is moist/wet.

The coconut tree lives in hot areas that are frost free. They need to be near the sea so it can be in a moist environment.

Bromeliads can grow on almost anything, the ground, rocks, and other plants and trees. They also suck nutrients and moisture out of the air so they can probably live almost anywhere that is at least a little bit moist.

Orchids can grow underground, on rocks, in the soil, and on other plants and trees. They also suck moisture and nutrients out of the air. Some self-pollinate but others need insects to pollinate them. All orchids need to live in an area where mycorrhizae fungi grow so they can absorb water.

Animals

Animals that live in tropical rainforests include the sloth, boa constrictor, orangutan, chimpanzee, and the King Cobra.

The sloth produces an algae on their coat and they eat that and it provides camouflage. It eats leaves, bark, buds, and fruit so it has to live an a place where things can grow. They have curled fingers so they can hold on to branches.

The boa constrictor's tongue can smell to locate its prey and its mouth can sense heat to locate its prey.

The orangutan has strong arms for traveling, curved feet for extra balance, and opposable thumbs for grabbing branches.

The chimpanzee makes a nest of leaves high in the trees to avoid their predators and they use stone and wood to open nuts.

The King Cobra spits venom into its predator's eyes when it feels threatened. The venom is deadly when it gets in the blood stream. It also spits at its prey before it can run away.

Deforestation

The biggest threat to tropical rainforests is humans. Deforestation causes habitat loss, an increase in carbon dioxide, less animals in the ecosystem, and in fact, less medicine. Deforestation has cut the percent of tropical rainforests of Earth's land from 14% to 2%. Humans cut down about one acre of rainforests every second. Researchers estimate that within every four square miles of rainforest there are 1,500 species of plants, 750 species of trees, 125 mammals, 400 birds, 150 butterflies, 100 reptiles, and 60 amphibians. Every time humans cut down four square miles of rainforest, the trees and some plants are cut down and the rest of the plants and animals have to try and adapt to new environments after losing their habitat. Some animals will adapt, but other animals won't.

When humans cut down trees and plants there becomes a build up in carbon dioxide. With no trees or plants to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, the co2 just stays there. More and more co2 builds up and it can eventually turn lethal to the animals. Also with less plants, there is less for the animals to eat. The animals go extinct and suddenly there is a major hole in the food chain. Carnivores can no longer prey on the animals they had been eating so they can go extinct too. Eventually, with less animals in the rainforests, there is less for humans too eat too. That would be a disaster.

About 1/4 of medicine comes from plants in a rainforest. With humans cutting down those plants, we can use them as medicine, but that would be a one and done scenario. We would cut down call the plants we need, but then we wouldn't have any of that plant left so we wouldn't be able to make that medicine again. We need to stop cutting down the rainforests so we can preserve critical plants that we need for medicine.

Who is trying to help?

The REDD organization is trying to reduce deforestation by giving countries economic benefits if they reduce deforestation in their country. Other organizations like the Nature Conservancy, supports REDD and is trying to get more countries on board with it's plan.

Climate

The temperature in tropical rainforests averages around 80°F (26°C), but can get as low as 68°F (20°C) and as high as 93°F (34°C). Average precipitation ranges from 50 to 260 inches per year (125 to 660 cm), but can be as dry as 40 inches (100 cm) or be really wet and get 400 inches (1000 cm). Humidity stays between 77% and 88%.