Depletion and Destruction of Tropical Rainforests in the World

Tropical Rainforests: Today and Tomorrow

Tropical rainforests are the worlds last paradise, and without the contributions of mankind, they will diminish forever.

There are many types of tropical rainforests in the world. One of these is the lowland forest. Lowland forests are generally located at very low elevations (Sayre 9). They contain extremely tall tress with very small amounts of branch growth (Sayre 9). The lowland source of moisture relies mainly on the intermittent rain (Sayre 9). Another type of tropical rainforest is the cloud forest. Unlike the lowland forests, cloud forests are at very high altitudes such as mountains and steep hills (Sayre 9). Mist, damp clouds and excessive amounts of rain keep the forests wet (Sayre 9). Thick mosses and ferns often cover the high branches in the trees (Sayre 9). The cloud forests are the more typical forests and generally well known by the human eye.

The lowland forests and cloud forests account for only twelve percent of the Earth (Revington, Barry, Rosenhek & Seed). Generally located between five degrees North and five degrees South of the Equator, the tropical rainforests of the world are located in more than forty countries on multiple continents (Richards 159). Tropical rainforests span over Southeast Asia,

The Neotropics, and Central and West Africa (Sayre 8). Some exclusively extraordinary tropical rainforests are located in Zaire, Madagascar, Indonesia, and Brazil and along the Amazon River (Sayre 8).

Despite their locations, all tropical rainforests are hot and humid and have no dry season (Richards 159). The average temperature is between seventy-five and eighty-six degrees, depending on altitude (Sayre 9). The amount of precipitation in the tropical rainforest gives it its notorious reputation. Most tropical rainforests get more than on thousand inches of rain in a single year (Sayre 7). That is almost twenty times as much as New York City (Sayre 7).
In addition to the rain, one of the really important factors in the rainforest is watershed. Watershed is the process whereby rain is sponged up by the soil and trees and released into the rivers and streams over time (Revington, Barry, Rosenhek & Seed). Without proper watershed, the topsoil is damaged, which can result in hazardous run-off into waterways which can consist of animal excrement and several other natural chemicals that are tolerable on the forest floor, but not in the water (Revington, Barry, Rosenhek & Seed). The end result can be catastrophic for both aquatic and land wildlife. Two other natural tropical catastrophes are tropical cyclones and hurricanes. Tropical cyclones are similar to tornadoes in structure and destruction (Richards 194). They kill animals and destroy plants and trees, resulting in obstruction of the ordinary chain of life in the rainforest. They are low-pressure systems with very high-sustained winds and closed circulation (Richards 194). Hurricanes can have a tremendously horrible effect on coastal rainforests. With the high-speed winds and excessive rain, many tress are damaged, flooding can occur, watershed can be obstructed and wildlife can be killed (Richards 194).

Lightening is a natural and destructive occurrence in many parts of the world, but in the tropical rainforests, it can mean disaster. Despite popular belief, rainforests can easily catch on fire, even though they hold extremely high amounts of moisture and rain (Richards 193). Lightening can also cause holes in the forest canopy (Richards 193). If lightening strikes a tree, that tree can fall and cause small surrounding trees to fall also (Richards 193).

Most animals in the tall trees and the lower levels of the tropical rainforest, learn to survive easily in the scorching climate. One of the main groups of animals is the primates. Some particular primates that live in the tropical rainforests include apes, gorillas, chimpanzees and gibbons (Nichol 56). The lesser known of the primates include lemurs and sloths, which are both furry, tree climbing animals (Nichol 62). Frogs are well known to most people as being tropical amphibians (Emsley 116133). Most frogs in the rainforest are either extremely brightly colored or camouflaged to hide themselves from predators (Emsley 116-133). Other lesser-known animals of the tropical rainforest include rhinoceroses, duikers and many large felines such as leopards and jaguars which are typically thought of as African prarie animals (Emsley 116-133).

Among the various animals of the tropical rainforest live massive amounts of insects, great and small. The dominating group is the ants (Emsley 149). The most intriguing of the ants are the leaf-cutter ants. If a person looked at the ground in a tropical rainforest, he or she would see what appeared to be many pieces of running leaves, but in all reality it is the ants carrying leaves on their small backsides (Tangley 28). One of the other dominating groups of insects is the termites. Even though it may seem that the termites destroy the trees of the tropical rainforests, that is not true at all (Tangley 29). The termites only take a small link in the chain of life in their surrounding habitat (Tangley 29). They tend to feed on dead or dying trees (Tangley 29). Its been estimated that there are more ants, termites, bees and wasps, in pounds, than there are animals in the tropical rainforest (Tangley 29).

There are many other intriguing types of insects beyond the ants and termites. One of these is very interesting and out of the ordinary. This insect is the firefly, but these are not just the ordinary fireflies in a persons backyard or in the woods (Newman 5). These fireflies are an enormous three inches long and have lighted tails as large as a penlight (Newman 5).

Some of the more detestable pests of the tropical rainforest floor are worms, flies, maggots and beetles (Tangley 27). There are hundreds of different species of variously colored beetles (Tangley 27). Most of these insects live off of the excrement of larger animals (Tangley 28). There are also many types of arachnids and stinging creatures (Tangley 28). There is even a certain type of bird-eating tarantula that has a leg span of approximately seven inches (Tangley 28). Among the spiders live scorpions, thought of as desert creatures, and carnivorous millipedes and centipedes (Tangley 28).

Many of the tiny insects of the tropical rainforests, are often the cuisine for the colorful birds of the tropical rainforests. There are more than one thousand five-hundred species of birds in the rainforest (Tangley 35). The toucan is the most common symbol for the tropical rainforest in magazines and in the media with its multi-colored feathers and long striped beak (Tangley 35). Some of the other exotic birds include the scarlet macaw, the rainbow lorikeet, the violanceous trogon, and the bird of paradise (Tangley 35). There are also birds that live on the tropical rainforest floor. A few of these birds include pheasants, peacocks and many other flightless birds that live off of berries, fruits and insects (Nations 36). In Southeast Asia, there is a bird called the jungle fowl that is a direct ancestor of the domesticated chicken (Nations 36). In other words, it is very possible that the chickens that people know in America, may have originated in the tropical rainforest. Another interesting and unique bird is the nightjar. This bird is camouflaged and unlike most birds, is nocturnal (Nichol 19). The thrushes, orioles, warblers and tangers are all birds that Americans feed in their backyard (Nations 63-64). However, these birds also migrate to the Latin tropical rainforests for the winter, which is where they spend more than half of their life (Nations 63-64). Most people have no idea that their feathery friends also belong to the tropical rainforest.

Amidst the animals, birds and insects of the tropical rainforest there are extremely numerous amounts of plants and flowers. There are three general types of plants that typify the tropical rainforest Interview). One of these is the orchid. Orchids grow off of other plants at the base of tree trunks but arent considered to be parasites because they dont receive any nourishment from the host plant (Interview). Therefore, it is called an epiphyte (Interview). Orchids generally have a sweet smell and are very brightly colored (Interview). A few examples of these flowers are passion flowers, heliconias, grandsflorums, erythrinas and sapidas (Emsley 161-163). These flowers are often shaped in just the right manner as to let only certain nectar-seeking bees to enter (Interview). These certain bees pollinate cause more orchids to grow. This shape is very important for pollination. If other types of bees received the nectar from the orchids, the quantity of orchids would drop due to lack of pollination (Interview).

Another group of plants in the tropical rainforest is the bromeliads (Interview). Like the orchids, bromeliads grow from the base of tree trunks and are attached by tiny roots (Interview). The broad leaf bases are grouped together to form a type of tank (Interview). This tank is the central water holder and can hold anywhere from one half pint to over twelve gallons (Interview). The bromeliad is a small world to other plants and animals because they live on the plant or in the water (Interview). This central water tank is enriched with plant debris, decaying insects and animal droppings (Interview). Most bromeliads produce small, bright, nectar-bearing flowers usually fed upon by small birds (Interview).

The last main group of plants is the vines, also known as lianas. These plants start out rooted in the ground. As they grow, they entwine themselves around tree trunks and branches moving upward. The lianas may wrap themselves around many trees in their journey towards the sun. If a vine somehow falls, it simply starts back up the nearest tree. It is said that these vines are thick, springy and strong enough to support an adults weight. Many lianas contain water which is accessible with a machete or other large knife.

There is a downside to all of this brilliance and exceptional beauty. All of it is disappearing at a rate drastically increasing everyday. This rate is presently at seventeen million hectares a year, which is a little under an acre (Revington, Barry, Rosenhek & Seed). This is the equivalent of the area of Switzerland (Revington, Barry, Rosenhek & Seed). Another way to express this detrimental depletion would be to say that the tropical rainforest is quickly destroyed at a rate of one hectare a second, or a football field a second (Revington, Barry, Rosenhek & Seed). At a minimum, forty species of animals die off every single day (Revington, Barry, Rosenhek & Seed). Many years ago, during World War II, many tropical rainforests were destroyed to make roads for transporting men and ammunition (Richards 487). Also, many of the new powersaws and bulldozers pose a threat to the tropical rainforests (Richards 487). So many tropical paradises are depleted just to be replaced by secondary communities (Richards 457). Building these communities kills everything from treeless scrub, to grasslands and ferns, right up to the really tall trees of the tropical rainforests (Richards 457).

Another man-made form of destruction is pollution. Polluting the air, land and water kill animals and plants, which in the end, kills the whole forest as the chain of life is broken down. If a factory is built any number of miles from a tropical rainforest, it can detrimental to that forest. The air could be severely polluted by the waste and also, wastes may be dumped into the nearby waterway. All of these smaller things really do add up to being the main cause of tropical rainforest depletion.

In the 1970s, the worlds consumption of hardwoods quadrupled (Richards 487). Since the tropical rainforest has an abundant source of hardwood, this leads to a mass destruction of the tropical rainforests. The trees in the rainforest have been used so much because they make sturdy, quality building materials. So many of the trees and so much of the natural beauty are destroyed for things as simple as making furniture and building houses.
Another critical wood destroyer is fire. In 1982, a tremendous fire in Borneo annihilated much of the tropical rainforest located there (Richards 488). Another problem has been agriculture. Large farmers come in and destroy the tropical rainforests to plant cash crops (Richards 458). The reason for this is the well nourished, moist, rich and untouched soil located in the tropical rainforest (Revington, Barry, Rosenhek & Seed). The final reason for tropical rainforest depletion is tourism. There are so many people who tour rainforests every year, that paths are cleared and souvenirs are pried from their true home in the tropical rainforest (Revington, Barry, Rosenhek & Seed).

The depletion of tropical rainforests can be solely blamed on economy. Though it is believed that the tropical rainforests are rampaged for wood, there are many other money-making resources in the forests. Nuts, fibres, fruits, ratlans, gums, resins, rubber, pesticides, animal furs and foods are included in that list of resources (Richards 490). Also included are all of the drugs found in tropical rainforests. Cortinsones, contraceptives, antibacterials and anticancer drugs are all very abundant in tropical rainforests (Richards 491).

So many times, loggers devastate tropical rainforests by chopping down all but a few trees (Revington, Barry, Rosenhek & Seed). And those few trees end up being dilapidated by logging machinery and vehicles (Revington, Barry, Rosenhek & Seed). The logging trucks dig trenches in the soil and leak oil (Revington, Barry, Rosenhek & Seed). With the help of rain, this soil erodes into the streams and rivers killing fish and many animals. Currently, hardwood is being
cleared for exporting to other places in the world (Richards 490). The reasoning behind all of these economic manglers is simply money, and large amounts of it.

The future of the tropical rainforest does not look so bright. Scientists believe that within the next thirty to fifty years, the tropical rainforests will vanish completely (Richards, 560). This is why the tropical rainforest is in desperate need of everyones help. One of the best ways to
fight against the destruction of tropical rainforests is to be educated (Revington, Barry, Rosenhek & Seed). Once one person is educated, they can tell people about the problems facing the tropical rainforests.

There are many organizations that help educate people and protect the tropical rainforests. One of those is The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). They have done their part by raising money and setting up national group funds which are made by charities (Nichol 177). Another organization is The Rainforest Foundation (Nichol 177). This group was founded by the well known singer, Sting (Nichol 177). One of the most notable efforts to stop depletion was made by Sting himself when he stood up to the Brazilian government in Rio to try to arrest officials for destroying the Amazon Rainforest (Nichol 177).

Unless determined efforts are put forth, the tropical rainforests of the world will disappear in the life time of those now living, except for a few inaccessible areas and small tropical rainforest reserves that are maintained for timber (Richards 489). It has been suggested that all of the remaining tropical rainforests should be suitably managed and logged only under very selective and protective terms (Richards 489). However, due to lack of money, most tropical rainforests are not capable of being protected at all (Richards 493).