A tropical rainforest biome is a huge geographical area filled with species of animals and plants that are unique to the rainforest climate. Biomes are sometimes called ecosystems, but both terms refer to the way the animals and plants in that ecosystem interact with the climate, soil, rocks, water, and the actual location on the globe.
Tropical rainforests are geographically located in close proximity to the equator, which accounts for the extremely humid and rainy conditions that are typical of the rainforest.
Let's work our way from the ground of the rainforest up to the top of the canopy.
Sunlight has a very difficult time reaching the forest floor; it might receive 1 to 2% sunlight at any given time. So, what grows here? Plants that need very little light can grow on the forest floor, but mostly you would find a thin layer made up of decomposing materials. The decaying materials include fruit, seeds, leaves, and branches. It's this matter that provides nutrients for the plants and trees in the rainforest.
This layer is dark since it receives only a bit more light than the forest floor - about 2% to maybe 15%. In this layer you would find low-light loving plants and trees. This layer isn't as thick as the upper layers. Did you know that many of the plants we grow in our homes come from the understory layer of the rainforest?
Unlike the open understory layer, the canopy layer is very dense; thus its name because it actually provides a live canopy over the lower layers of the rainforest. This layer occurs roughly 59 to 90 feet above the forest floor. Vines use the trees to climb, creating an interwoven mass of plants, tree branches and leaves.
The tallest of trees emerge from the canopy layer and actually get to see the sunlight. These trees are 130 to 250 feet high! They're kind of the protective layer since they take the brunt of the sun, moisture, winds, and humid hot temperatures.
It's difficult to imagine that thousands of acres of rainforest could truly be affected by a little construction here, some clearing there, but the rainforest is decreasing at an alarming rate due to many influences.
Logging is destroying large areas of the rainforest. Logging produces wood for manufacturing purposes, buildings, firewood, and charcoal.
More and more people are moving out of the cities and into the quieter areas of the country, which means they're encroaching on the rainforest little by little as they inhabit an acre here and an acre there.
Cattle ranchers are responsible for destroying literally millions of acres of lush rainforest in the name of making a living.
We can't leave out the commercial interests either - there are companies who come in and clear thousands of acres to plant commercial crops for export.
Additional causes of rainforest destruction include mining, wars, erosion, and natural disasters.
Sadly, if the destruction of the rainforest doesn't stop, we could soon be facing an oxygen shortage around the world! Our weather patterns and rainfall patterns will change dramatically.
We could be potentially destroying the answers to cancer and many other medical conditions be eliminating the unique plant and animal life in the rainforest.
The long-term ramifications of losing the rainforest in the name of the almighty dollar are not worth the short-term rewards.
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