What Makes a Rainforest a Rainforest?!
i. Introduction
Rainforests are the Earth’s oldest living ecosystems. Rainforests cover only six percent of Earth’s surface but contain more than one-half of the world’s plant and animal species. A rainforest is described as a tall, dense jungle. A rainforest is called a “rain” forest because the great amount of rainfall the forest receives each year. A rainforest has four different layers, the forest floor, the understory layer, the canopy layer, and the emergent layer.

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ii. Rainforest Layers
The forest floor consists of mud and dirt and is very dark. This is because the sun rarely reaches the forest floor. This layer has about zero to two percent of light. There are not many leaves on the ground and when there are leaves, they quickly decompose in about six weeks because of the moist climate. Most animals that live on the forest floor are called “recyclers”. The Madagascar hissing cockroach, scorpions, earthworms, beetles and the giant African millipede are considered recyclers. These animals put good nutrients or plant food back into the soil when they go to the bathroom. Since all the nutrients are on top of the soil, tree roots grow sideways so they absorb the nutrients needed to grow.
The Understory layer receives very little sunlight. The soil is very poor and low and nutrients. The plants seldom grow to twelve feet because the soil lacks necessary nutrients. The main plants that survive in this layer include vines, small trees, ferns, and palms. These plants have a difficult time with pollination because there is little to no air movement. The plants have evolved certain features to help them survive such as broad leaves to take in as much sunlight as possible. These plants do not produce flowers, which helps conserve energy. Many of these plants also have a slick, water repellant coating on their leaves that allows rain to run off easily so the plant does not rot or mold.
The canopy layer is found directly below the emergent layer. In this layer, seventy to ninety percent of life exists in the trees. The trees are very tall and form a ceiling for the rainforest. There are billions of leaves that cover the canopy layer. The leaves act as a solar panel that and provide the source of energy in this layer. The leaves convert sunlight into energy through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and simple sugars. This layer is the most active of all the layers. The canopy layer has a lot of fruits, seeds, flowers and leaves. Because of this, bountiful amount of food there are a lot of animals in this layer. This layer also shields the understory layer from harsh sunlight and weather. In the canopy layer the trees never touch. It may look like it from an airplane but they are each separated. The animals must be able to jump and leap from tree to tree to get around. When many of the animals eat the fruit off the trees they drop the seed on the forest floor. This allows the seed to grow into a new tree making a lot more fruit for the animals to survive on.
The Emergent layer is the tallest layer of the rainforest. The trees in this layer can be up to an incredible 150 feet tall and the trunks measure up to 16 feet around. Many of these trees have flowers with nectar in them which supplies food for many birds. The sunlight is plentiful in this layer. The trees in the layer have small, waxy leaves. The waxy coating helps the leaves to stay moist and not dry out with all the sunlight they receive. Most plants start growing from the forest floor then grow up a tree to the emergent layer where they can receive sunlight. This layer is very windy and seeds are easily spread all over the forest by the strong winds. Some of the trees loose many of their leaves for short periods of time because of the strong winds.

iii. Rainforest Soil
Rainforest soil is usually described as being thin, but that is not the truth. Soils from a rainforest are among the deepest in the world. Most tropical soils have been under forest cover for millions of years. Over many years of high rainfall conditions, tropical soils have been formed from the underlying rock. Tropical soils can be several meters deep but are strongly deprived of their nutrients and minerals from subsoil’s and broken down rock. This leaves the soil with very little nutrients and does not help with the above ground vegetation. The rainforest has lush vegetation because of the topsoils, which are made up of decaying animal remains and plant remains. The plant remains are broken down by soil organisms and converted back into nutrients which can then be used by the dense vegetation above ground. This is a cycle that happens continuously. The thin topsoil layer is considered the engine house for the food supply for the forest and is also responsible for the maintenance of the huge biomass.

iv. Rainforest Plants
A typical four-square mile patch of rainforest contains as many as 1,500 flowering plants, 750 trees, 400 species of birds, and 150 species of butterflies. Fifty percent of Earths plants and animals are located in the rain forest. About seventy percent of the plants identified by the U.S. National Cancer Institute are helpful in the treatment of cancer and are only found in rainforests. Scientists say that the twenty five percent of the world’s medicine is derived from rainforest plants. In the rainforest the plant species is so assorted that it ranges from vines, to flowers, shrubs, to trees and many more. For example, rainforest have Jambu, Lianas, Bromeliads, and strangler figs. The rainforest has such a huge diversity and variety of plants.

v. Rainforest Animals
Fifty percent of the earth’s animals are also found in the rainforest. The rainforest has an abundant amount of animals such as mammals, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods, birds, insects, the alligator, anaconda, apes, bat, bonobo, binturong, and many more. Many species of animals in the rainforest are close to the endangered list and some are extinct because of the acres of rainforest that are decreasing. Since there are so many different species of animal life, most animals have to protect themselves from predators. Some animals simply hide from their predators by going under rocks or leaves, going into tree hollows, or in any other niches they can find. Other animals use camouflage so they can blend into their environment. Some insects such as the lobster moth use the scaring method, because their larva looks like a scorpion, predators will leave it alone. Poisonous animals openly advertise their defense methods with their bright and flashy patterns. The Monarch butterfly is poisonous and when a predator eats the butterfly the animal will get sick and remember to stay away from that type of insect or animal again. Many non-poisonous butterflies try to mimic the poisonous butterflies so they will not get eaten. These insects and animals have grown to use their environment and their defense mechanisms to stay alive and survive each day.

vi. Rainforest Climate
The tropical rainforest is a region of year-round warmth. Rainforests average about 50 to 260 inches of rain fall each year. Rainforest belong to the tropical wet climate group and have an average humidity between 77 and 88 percent. The temperature of the rain forest rarely gets higher than 93 degrees Fahrenheit or rarely drops below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Tropical rainforest produce 40% of our earth’s oxygen. This climate is found near the equator. That means that there is more direct sunlight hitting the land and sea than anywhere else. The sun warms the land and sea and the water evaporates into the air. The warm air holds a lot of water vapor. As the air rises, it cools. That means it can hold less water vapor. Then as warm air meets cold air, condensation takes place and the vapor forms droplets and clouds form. The clouds then produce rain. It rains more than ninety days a year and the strong sun usually shines between the storms. The water cycle repeats often along the equator.

vii. Rainforest Trees
A tropical rainforest has a diverse amount of trees than any other place in the world. Scientists have counted about 100 to 300 species in one 2 1/2-acre area in South America. Seventy percent of the plants in the rainforest are trees. About one-fourth of all the medicines we use come from rainforest plants. Curare comes from a tropical vine, and is used as an anesthetic and to relax muscles during surgery. Quinine, from the cinchona tree, is used to treat malaria. A person with lymphocytic leukemia has a 99% chance that the disease will go into remission because of the rosy periwinkle. More than 1,400 varieties of tropical plants are thought to be potential cures for cancer.
All tropical rainforests resemble one another in some ways. Many of the trees have straight trunks that don't branch out for 100 feet or more. There is no sense in growing branches below the canopy where there is little light. The majority of the trees have smooth, thin bark because there is no need to protect them from water loss and freezing temperatures. It also makes it difficult for epiphytes and plant parasites to get a hold on the trunks. The bark of different species is so similar that it is difficult to identify a tree by its bark. Many trees can only be identified by their flowers.

viii. Endangered Species
There are hundreds of animals in the rainforest that are on the endangered species list or already extinct. For example, the Golden Lion Tamarind Monkey, Toucans, Parrots, Jaguars, Gorillas, Poison Dart Frogs, Manatees, Bengal Tigers, Harpy Eagles, and Orangutans are only a few examples of species soon to be extinct. The Golden Lion Tamarind Monkey is one of the most endangered species of all animals. This animal is almost extinct because of its wonderful fur. The fur of this monkey can be sold by poachers on the black market for 20,000 dollars. Loss of habitat is the main reason for most of the rainforest’s endangered species. These animals are losing their habitat mainly due to man’s development. Animals are also becoming endangered from being hunted and commercial trapping for animal trade. Bengal Tigers are on top of the endangered list due to poaching and loss of habitat. Save the Tiger Fund is an excellent charity trying to spread the world and help keep these tigers from becoming extinct. Most of the endangered species have a charity or foundation that does their best to help them from becoming extinct. For example, there is the Dian Fossey Gorilla fund, Chimpanzee Central, The Peregrine Fund, and the Orangutan Foundation International. All of these foundations do their very best to raise money for their endangered species and make people aware of their surroundings and inform them on each particular animal.

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Golden Tamarind Monkey
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Bengal Tigers

Rainforest around the world are estimated to contain eighty percent of the green flowering plants that exist. Scientists estimate that every 2.5 acres of rainforest contains more than seven hundred and fifty types of trees and about 1,500 species of higher plants. The numbered of endangered rainforest plants is vast and would be very hard to attempt to even list because there are so many. With the loss of each acre of the rainforest due to farming, logging, and other developments, hundreds of species disappear forever. Orchids and the Rafflesia Flower are two of endangered plants. There are about 25,000 different types of Orchids in the wild and most are threatened, endangered, or extinct. Poaching and habitat destruction are the biggest threats to Orchids. Orchids are being sought after because of their exotic beauty. Orchids are found worldwide but the majority of them are found in the tropics. Orchids have been protected since 1970 by the CITES Convention On International Trade In Endangered Wild Flora and Fauna. This treaty is signed by 120 countries to help keep Orchids safe. The Rafflesia Flower is mainly found in the shady lowland tropical rainforest. The Rafflesia flower has the largest bloom of any other flower and is one of the world’s rarest and endangered plants. The Rafflesia flower is about one meter wide and weighing about six pounds. This flower is completely dependent on a vine called the Tetrastigma that grows in the rainforest. This is a disembodied flower that drains nourishment and gains physical support from its host vine. The full grown Rafflesia flower only lives for about a week before it dies, which makes this flower extremely rare.

ix. Helpful Foundations
ICUN is the International Union for Conservation of Nature. ICUN is a membership organization that is made up of more than 1,000 organizations, 10,000 individual scientists and experts. This foundation helps the world find pragmatic solutions to the most pressing environment and developmental challenges. ICUN recognizes that global production and consumption patterns are destroying our support system, nature. Nature is being destroyed at dangerously high rates and ICUN is working to prevent such damage. IUCN works by valuing and conserving nature, effective and equitable governance of natures use, and deploying nature- based solutions to global challenges in climate, food, and development.

x. Conclusion
The rainforest is very unique and important for our environment. The rainforest gives people and animals more than 40% percent of our oxygen that we need. The rainforest also has more than fifty percent of our animals and plants of the world. The rainforest plants have a huge impact on the medicine of the world today, with curing diseases and sickness. Every day, the rainforest is being damaged and destroyed by new businesses and corporations. People need to be aware of how much the rainforest gives to our environment and realize its importance to human, animal, and plant life. Nearly ninety percent of people that live in extreme poverty depend on forest for their livelihoods. Every second a piece of rainforest the size of a football field is mowed down, that is over thirty one million football fields of rainforest a year. Humans need to be more aware of their surroundings and the lives and environment around them. We need to conserve the rainforest, along with the plants and animal species that help us live our everyday lives.
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