In this term paper, I will explain the great importance of pollution around the world and discuss the effects of the tragedy of destructions and the effect that it is having on the earth. I will talk about the efforts being made to help curb the rate of rainforest destruction and the peoples of the rainforest, and I will explore a new topic in the fight to save the rainforest, habitat fragmentation. Another topic being discussed is the many different types of rainforest species and their uniqueness from the rest of the world.
First, I will discuss the many species of rare and exotic animals, Native to he Rainforest. Tropical Rainforests are home to many of the strangest looking and most beautiful, largest and smallest, most dangerous and least frightening, loudest and quietest animals on earth. There are many types of animals that make their homes in the rainforest some of them include: jaguars, toucans, parrots, gorillas, and tarantulas. There are so many fascinating animals in tropical rainforest that millions have not even identified yet. In fact, about half of the world species have not even been identified yet.
But sadly, an average of 35 species of rainforest animals are becoming extinct every day. So many species of animals live in the rainforest than any other parts of the world because rainforests are believed to be the oldest ecosystem on earth. Some forests in southeast Asia have been around for at least 100 million years, ever since the dinosaurs have roamed the earth. During the ice ages, the last of which occurred about 10,000 years ago, the frozen areas of the North and South Poles spread over much of the earth, causing huge numbers of extinctions.
But the giant freeze did not reach many tropical rainforests. Therefore, these plants and animals could continue to evolve, developing into the most diverse nd complex ecosystems on earth. The nearly perfect conditions for life also help contribute to the great number of species. With temperatures constant at about 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit the whole year, the animals don t have to worry about freezing during the cold winters or finding hot shade in the summers. They rarely have to search for water, as rain falls almost every day in tropical rainforests.
Some rainforest species have populations that number in the millions. Other species consist of only a few dozen individuals. Living in limited areas, most of these species are found nowhere else on earth. For example, the maues armoset, a species of monkey, wasn t discovered until recently. It s entire tiny population lives within a few square miles in the Amazon rainforest. This species of monkey is so small that it could fit into a persons hand! In a rainforest, it is difficult to see many things other than the millions of insects creeping and crawling around in every layer of the forest.
Scientists estimate that there are more than 50 million different species of invertebrates living in rainforests. A biologist researching the rainforest found 50 different of ants on a single tree in Peru! A few hours of poking around in a ainforest would produce several insects unknown to science. The constant search for food, water, sunlight and space is a 24-hour pushing and shoving match. With this fierce competition, it is amazing that that so many species of animals can all live together. But this is actually the cause of the huge number of the different species.
The main secret lies in the ability of many animals to adapt to eating a specific plant or animal, which few other species are able to eat. An example of such adaptations would be the big beaks of the toucans and parrots. Their beaks give them a great advantage over other birds with smaller beaks. The fruits and nuts from many trees have evolved with a tough shell to protect them from predators. In turn toucans and parrots developed large, strong beaks, which serves as a nutcracker and provides them with many tasty meals. Many animal species have developed relationships with each other that benefit both species.
Birds and mammal species love to eat the tasty fruits provided by trees. Even fish living in the Amazon River rely on the fruits dropped from forest trees. In turn, the fruit trees depend upon these animals to eat their fruit, which helps them to spread their seeds to far – off parts of the forest. In some cases both species are so dependent upon each other that if one becomes extinct, the other will as well. This nearly happened with trees that relied on the now extinct dodo birds. They once roamed Mauritius, a tropical island located in the Indian Ocean.
They became extinct during the late 19th century when humans overhunted them. The calvaria tree stopped sprouting seeds soon after. Scientists finally concluded that, for the seeds of the calvaria tree to sprout, they needed to be digested by the dodo bird. By force feeding the seeds to a domestic turkey, who digested the seeds the same way as the dodo ird, the trees were saved. Unfortunately, humans will not be able to save each species in this same way. Each species has evolved with its own set of unique adaptations, ways of helping them to survive.
Every animal has the ability to protect itself from being someone s next meal. To prevent the extinction of a species each and every species must develop a defense tactic. The following are just a few of Mother Nature s tricks. The coloring of some animals acts as protection from their predators. Insects play some of the best hide-and-go-seek in the forest. The walking stick is ne such insect; it blends in so well with the palm tree it calls its home that no one would notice unless it s moved. Some butterflies, when they close their wings, look exactly like leaves.
Camouflage also works in reverse, helping predators, such as boa constrictors, sneak up on unsuspecting animals and surprise them. The tree-toed sloth is born with brown fur, but you would never know this by looking at it. The green algae that makes its home in the sloths fur helps it to blend in with the tops of the trees, the canopy, where it makes it s home. But even green algae isn’t the only thing living in a sloth fur; it is literally bugged with a variety of insects. 978 beetles were once found living on one sloth. The sloth has other clever adaptations.
Famous for its snail-like pace; it is one of the slowest moving animals on earth. It is so slow that it often takes up to a month to digest it s food. Although its tasty meat would make a good meal for jaguars and other predators, most do not notice the sloth as it hangs in the trees, high up in the canopy. Other animals don t want to announce their presence to the whole forest. Armed with dangerous poisons used in life threatening situations, their bright colors arn predators to stay away. This enables them to survive everyday emergency situations.
The coral snake of the Amazon, with its brilliant red, yellow, and black coloring, is recognized as one of the most beautiful snakes in the world, but it is just as deadly as it is beautiful. The coral snake s deadly poison can kill in seconds. Other animals know to stay away from it. The poison arrow frog also stands out with its brightly colored skin. It’s skin produces some of the strongest natural poison in the world, which indigenous people often use for hunting purposes. It’s poison is now being tested for use in modern medicine.
In a single raiforest habitat, several species of squirels can live together without harming one another. This bewilders many people, Louise Emmons found. Why can nine species of squirrels live together Well, in a brief summary each of the nine species is a different size; three have specialized diets or habitats, which leaves six species that feed on nuts, fruits and insects, and so potentially compete for food. A closer look showed that three of the six, a large, a medium, and a small one live in the forest canopy and never come to the ground.
The largest squirrel feeds mainly on very large, hard nuts, and he smaller ones eat smaller fruits and nuts. The other three species, again a large medium and small one live in the ground and eat fruits and nuts of the same species as their canopy neighbors, but only after they fall to the ground. Tropical rainforests are bursting with life. Not only do millions of species of plants and animals live in rainforests, but many people also call the rainforest their home. In fact, Indigenous, or native, people have lived in rainforests for thousands of years.
In North and South America they were mistakenly named Indians by Christopher Columbus, who thought that he had anded in Indonesia, then called the East Indies. The native people of the rainforest live very different lives than us. In this section, I will explain how very different our lives differ than from the indigenous people of the rainforest. Although many indigenous people live very much like we do, some still live as their ancestors did many years before them. These groups organize their daily lives differently than our culture. Everything they need to survive, from food to medicines to clothing, comes from the forest.
FOOD Besides haunting, gathering wild fruits and nuts and fishing, Indigenous people lso plant small gardens for other sources of food, using a sustainable farming method called shifting cultivating. First they clear a small area of land and burn it. Then they plant many types of plants, to be used for food and medicines. After a few years, the soil has become too poor to allow for more crops to grow and weeds to start to take over. So they then move to a nearby uncleared area. This land is traditionally allowed to regrow 10-50 years before it is farmed again.
Shifting cultivation is still practiced by those tribes who have access to a large amount of land. However, with the growing number of non-Indigenous farmers and the shrinking rainforest, other tribes, especially in Indonesia and Africa, are now forced to remain in one area. The land becomes a wasteland after a few years of overuse, and cannot be used for future agriculture. Most tribal children don t go to schools like ours. Instead, they learn about the forest around them from their parents and other people in the tribe. They are taught how to survive in the forest.
They learn how to hunt and fish, and which plants are useful as medicines or food. Some of these children know more bout rainforests than scientists who have studied rainforests for many years. The group of societies known as Europeans includes such cultures such as Spanish and German. Similarly, the broad group, Indigenous peoples includes many distinct culture groups, each with its own traditions. For instance, plantains (a type of banana) are a major food source for the Yanonami from the Amazon while the Penan of Borneo, Southeast Asia, depend on the sago palm (a type of palm tree) for food and other uses.
All Indigenous people share their strong ties to the land. Because the rainforest is so important for their culture, they want to take care of it. They want to live what is called a sustainable existence, meaning they use the land without doing harm to the plants and animals that also call the rainforest their home. As a wise Indigenous man once said, The earth is our historian, our educator, the provider of food, medicine, clothing and protection. She is the mother of our races. (11) Indigenous peoples have been losing their lives and the land they live on ever since Europeans began colonizing 500 years ago.
Most of them died from common European diseases which made Indigenous people very sick because they had never had these diseases before. A disease such as the flu could possibly kill an indigenous person because he/she has not been exposed to this disease before. Many Indigenous groups have also been killed by settlers wanting their land, or put to work as slaves to harvest the resources of the forest. Others were converts to Christianity by missionaries, who forced them to live like Europeans and give up their cultural traditions. Until about forty years ago, the lack of roads prevented most outsiders from exploiting the rainforest.
These roads, constructed for timber and oil companies, cattle ranchers and miners, have destroyed millions of acres each ear. All of the practices force Indigenous people off their land. Because they do not officially own it, governments and other outsiders do not recognize their rights to the land. They have no other choice but to move to different areas, sometimes even to the crowded cities. They often live in poverty because they have no skills useful for a city lifestyle and little knowledge about the culture. For example, they know more about gathering food from the forest than buying food from a store.
It s like being forced to move to a different country, where you knew nothing about the culture or language. Indigenous groups are beginning to fight for their land, most often through peaceful demonstrations. Such actions may cause them to be arrested or even to lose their lives, but they know that if they take no action, their land and culture could be lost forever. Kaypo Indians, for example, recently spoke to the United States Congress to protest the building of dams in the Amazon, and were arrested when they arrived back in Brazil, accused of being traitors to their own country.
In Malaysia, the Penean have arrested for blocking logging roads. Many people living outside of rainforests went to help protect the Indigenous eople s culture. They understand that Indigenous people have much to teach us about rainforests. Since we (the US and other countries) have been working with the Indigenous People and other rainforest protection agencies, we have learned many things about the forest, including it ecology, medicinal plants, food and other products.
It has also showed us how crucial it is for the Indigenous people of the rainforest to continue their daily and traditional activities because of their importance in the cycle if the rainforest. It has shown us that they have the right to practice their own lifestyle, and live pon the land where there ancestors have lived before them. (2) One such example of a invasion of the Ingenious people s privacy is a new so called emergency called the Cofan Emergency. This dispute is about an Indigenous tribe called the Cofan.
Historically, the Cofan occupied some half a million acres of rainforest along the Aguarico River in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Because their traditional territory has been significantly reduced through invasions by oil companies such as Texaco, the Cofan now live in five small, discontinuous communities. However, they still utilize and protect a egion of about 250,000 acres, including two reserves in the Amazon. In addition to displacing the Cofan and other indigenous groups, oil development, which began in this region over thirty years ago, has also caused serious environmental destruction.
The deforestation of some two million acres of rainforest and contamination of the regions waterways has resulted in the loss of plant and animal diversity, and drastically affected the social and economic well-being of local Indigenous peoples. This devastation continues. Last year, ten new concessions were licensed to international oil companies in he Ecuadorian Amazon, opening an additional five million acres of forest to oil development. One of these oil blocks, Block 11 awarded to the US-based Santa Fe Energy, lies within Cofan territory and will directly affect at least three communities.
In order to protect the remaining intact rainforest areas of their homeland and the adjacent ecological reserves, the Cofan are seeking $5,000 to purchase an outboard motor and a video camera, in order to coordinate between disperse communities and document the destruction caused by oil development. Cofan leaders plan to work with their communities and document the destruction caused y oil development. Also they planned to work with their communities to organize against further environmental destruction by the oil companies.
This grant will also cover for legal costs to demarcate the Cofan community lands. In the next section of this term paper, I will be discussing a subject relating to the rainforest called habitat fragmentation. Fragmentation of a habitat, by its very nature, reduces the total amount of area of the original habitat type. Two researchers, Ann Keller and John Anderson suggest that the absolute habitat loss of pristine habitat and the educed density of resources associated with fragmentation potentially impacts the biota (the plant and animal life of a region) more than any single factor.
Habitat fragmentation affects the flora and fauna (plants and animals) of a given ecosystem by replacing a naturally occurring ecosystem with a human-dominated landscape which may be inhospitable to a certain number of the original species. However, in direct contrast to the ocean as a geographic barrier, the human landscape matrix is typically accessible to plants and animals, in that they are able to easily disperse across it, if not reside in t. On the other hand, the human landscape may directly contribute to the extinction of species by slanting the ecosystem balance of species which are highly adaptable to changing conditions.
For example, the increased amount of human-dominated landscape allows certain species to grow phenomenally, which can result in harm to species which rely exclusively on very scarce areas. A commonly referred to example of this is a bird called the brown-headed cowbird. This bird is best characterized as a nest parasite because it because it replaces the eggs of another species with eggs of their own, llowing the other species to incubate and raise their young. Their increased numbers have had negative effects on the reproductive successfulness of many forest-dwelling birds.
In addition to titling the ecosystem balance in favor of species which are highly adaptable, the loss of habitat associated with habitat fragmentation may simply cause the other, less adaptable species rates to decline. A man named James Saunders documents one remarkable example of how changing large expansive areas of the birds of the wheatbelt of western Australlia as a result of fragmentation. He showed that 41% of the birds native to the region have ecreased in range or abundance since the 1900 s and indicated that almost all of these changes resulted directly from habitat fragmentation and the decline in abundance of native vegetation.
Although some species have increased in abundance, he noted that many more species have been adversely affected than have benefited. Importantly, the species that typically increase in abundance or range when habit fragmentation occurs are those which are adapted for being adaptable. In other words, their resource needs can be met by a variety of conditions, and thus often by human activities by reducing their competition with other pecies. Because of this, these species which benefit by human activities are not the ones we need to manage for and protect.
Instead, we need to protect those species which are adapted solely for survival in the rapidly disappearing unfragmented habitat. Besides physically changing a part of the original habitat, decreasing the size of the original habitat can reduce the biological diversity of an area in several ways. Reducing biodiversity of an area may occur if habitat fragments are smaller than the home range of the animal with the largest home range that existed within the intact ecosystem. Many birds have large home ranges because they require patchily distributed resources.
For example, one breeding pair of ivory billed woodpeckers require five to six square miles of undisturbed contiguous bottomland forest, and a single European goshawk requires twenty to forty-five miles for his home range. If a habitat fragment exists that is smaller than the minimum area required by a given species, individuals of that species will not likely be found within that habitat fragment. For example, the Louisiana waterthrush is rarely found in small woodlots because they require open water within their home range, and ost small woodlots do not have year-round streams or ponds.
If a species requires two or more habitat types, they are often susceptible to local extinction due to habitat fragmentation, because often they are unable to freely move between the different habitat types. The blue-grey gnathatcher moves from decidous woodland to chapparral (a warm area) during the breeding season, and if one of the two habitat types can not be readily accesed, they are very susceptable to local extinction. Loss of any species from a community may have secondary effects that revrberate throughout the ecosystem.
For example, loss of a top predator from an area because the fragment is too small can cause numbers of small omnivores to increase, which in turn may cause excessive predation pressureon songbird eggs and hatchlings, ultimately resulting in reproductive sucess. Tropical communities are oftem more susceptable to loss of biological diversity than temperate communuities, because tropical species typically are found in lower densities, are less widely distributed, and often have weaker dispersal capabilities. Many tropical species have evolved in that they have changed their roles that they play in the rainforest.
An example of this occurance is the cassowary, an Austrailan rainforest frugivore, (or an animal that primarily feeds on fruit) is extremely susceptable to local extinction by habitat fragmentation because its habitat requirement of large coniguous rainforest areas is compounded by its unique plant-seed despersal evolvment. This large, flightless bird wanders nomadically in search of very large seeds, many of which need to be digested before they will germanate. You lll rember that earlier another example of this situation in which the dodo bird became extinct. The dodo bird digested seeds of the calvaria tree.
But when the dodo ird became extinct due to overhunting by humans, the calvaria tree, which made the seeds to be digested by the dodo bird to sprout it s plants started not to sprout seeds. In the Rainforests, their are many such instances like this. But unfortunately, many of them go unnoticed and thus, each day many of the rainforest plants and animals go extinct. Besides being home to extinction-prone species, tropical communities are prone to destruction and fragmentation because of their physical location, overlapping with the geographical birders of the third world nations.
In these nations, citizens often rely on the revenues raised from rainforest imber or cattle raised on cleared land for survival. This constant pressure on rainforest communities leads to excessive habitat fragmentation. Small isolated fragments result, leading to an altered ecosystem balance. On the tropical island of Java, where almost all of the original habitat remaining exists in reserves, a group of ecologists have assessed the status of all of the birds of prey found in the rainforest habitat. Nearly all the raptors were extremely rare outside the reserves, as expected.
They also found that the larger the reserve was, the denser the birds populations were within the reserve. Interestingly, a scientist named Lovejoy (I couldn t find his first name) in 1986 found a similar phenomena with Amazonian birds in the Biological Dynamics of forest project (BDFF) in Brazil. The primary goal of the project is to discover how rainforest communities respond after an intact ecosystem is split into different size fragments. They found a crowding effect, in which the abundance of birds in a forest fragment increased significantly directly after deforestation of the adjacent area.
The increased number of birds was attributed to the migration of birds from the newly clear-cut area to the orest fragment. This crowding effect decreased with increasing size of a forest fragment. Both tropical and temperate communities, however, are prone to the same problems of inbreeding and loss of genetic variability, which results from isolating subpopulations of plants and animals from each other due to habitat fragmentation. If too large a distance exists between two fragments and a species are unable to disperse across the area in between, the population is essentially divided.
Inbreeding may result if the subpopulation in a given fragment is small. This has not been directly documented, but it is possible. Size of a fragment and the amount of edge are inextricably linked. Abrupt edges often results form fragmenting and ecosystem, in contrast to the more gradual natural ecotones. Edge positively impacts many species of plants and animals, but as mentioned previously, the species which benefit typically are those which do not require human protection and management because they can easily meet their resource need outside of the intact ecosystem.
The scientists from the BDFF project point out one exception. Tamarins and marmosets, both species in need of protection, flourish in small tropical ainforest reserves because of the luxurian growth of early successional plant species, and the lack of large predators which are unable to exist in the smaller reserves. Certainly, a system of only small reserves would not suffice to protect the genetic heritage of biological diversity in the tropical rainforest, but a heterogeneous mosaic of large and small reserves may provide the best alternative.
Although edge has typically been associated with an increase in species richness, researchers are increasingly documenting how edge effects negatively impact the native plants and animals. The BDFF researchers pointed out that lthough the number of species may be higher in edge that the adjacent interior habitat, species diversity is usually not. Diversity takes into account not only raw number of species, but the relative abundance of the species present.
Another potentially adverse effect of edge is that it inherently reduces the size of the habitat interior because of the many physical changes which occur where and edge is compared to a human dominated area. Most documented cases of edge effects are from forest edges, so I will focus on them. In addition to the luxuriant growth of shade-intolerant vegetation at a forest edge in esponse to the increase in available light, a seed rain ombards the forest interior, often from introduced exotics.
The increased exposure to wind causes a higher rate of treefalls and tree mortality, and temperature and humidity are quite different at the edge than in the forest interior. These physical changes affect the plants and animals of the habitat. Lovejoy and others, in the BDFF project in Brazil, found that the understory birds tend to avoid artificial edges. They found 38% fewer birds 10 meters from clearing than 50 meters into the forest, and 60% fewer birds 10 meters from a clearing than 1 km nto undisturbed forest.
An interesting item is that they did not find a lower abundance of birds around natural edges, such as interior treefall gaps. Several authors that I have read have suggested that the abundance of birds decreases near an artificial edge due to decreased Nest success. Nest success near edge decreased because of the increase in generalist predators and brood parasites. As mentioned earlier, populations of brown-headed cowbirds, a brood parasite, have increased tremendously as a direct result of human activity, these birds have a negative impact on the nesting success of forest songbirds hat nest near the forest edge.
Studies show that while vegetational changes may extend from 300-600 meters into a fragment. This makes sense when one considers that although generalist predators such as raccoons, cowbirds, and chipmunks may concentrate their activity near the edge, they certainly also can frequent the forest interior, often to the damage of those species which rely exclusively on forest interior. To reduce how far edge effects penetrate into a natural habitat, a biologist Bernard Harris, proposed a system of long-rotation islands, in which and old-growth center is surrounded by various age stands of timber.
This system provides some edge for those species which benefit from it, while minimizing the amount of edge between the old-growth center stand and the surrounding stands. Now, to the final section of this term paper, the role that environmentalists play and some of the reasons that they are trying to save it. Rainforests cover less that two percent of the Earth s surface, yet they are home to some 40 to 50 percent of all life forms on our planet, as many as 30 million species of plants, animals, and insects. The Rainforests are quite simply, the richest, oldest, most productive, and most complex ecosystems on Earth.
As biologist Norman Meyers notes, Rainforests are the finest celebration of nature as ever known on the planet, and never before has nature s greatest orchestration been so threatned. (4) His quote is quite true. The following facts listed are direct proof of how the Tropical Rainforests are being depleted. Global Rates of Destruction 2. 4 acres per second: equivalent to two U. S. football fields 149 acres per minute 214,000 acres per day: an area larger than New York City 78 million acres per year: an area larger than Poland In Brazil 5. 4 million acres per year -9 million indigenous people inhabited the Brazilian rainforest in 1500.
In 1992, less than 200,000 Species Extinction Distinguished scientists estimate and average of 137 species of life forms are driven into extinction every day or 50,000 each year. While you were reading the above statistics, approximately 90 acres of rainforest were destroyed. Within the next hour approximately six species will become extinct. While extinction is a natural process, the alarming rate of extinction today, comparable only to the extinction of the dinosaurs, is specifically human-induced and unpreceeded. Experts agree that the number one ause of extinction is habitat destruction.
Quite simply, when habitat is reduced, species disappear. In the Rainforests, logging, cattle ranching, mining, oil extraction, and hydroelectric dams all contribute to rainforest destruction and produce many undesired effects in the environment such as global warming, depletion of the ozone layer, and depletion of the earth s natural resources. But now, there may be some help for the rainforest. Until recently, few vacationers would even dream of visiting a rainforest. But travelers are now abandoning the traditional beach vacation to visit remote, unspoiled areas all ver the world.
They try to avoid the fast pace and congestion of the traditional tourist centers, opting instead for more adventure, stimulation and a desire to learn while on vacation. This growing trend of travel has come to be known as ecotourism. Though there are many definitions of ecotourism, the term is most commonly used to describe any recreation in natural surroundings.