Fascinating Tropical Rainforest Facts

Despite much exploration and scientific study, innumerable tropical rainforest facts are yet unknown to us. One thing we do know for sure is that we need to know more and the rainforests will always have more to teach us.

Rainforests around the globe can offer us unique insight into the history of our planet, both geologically and ecologically.

These amazing forests are all positioned near the equator, between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, which is why we call them "tropical". Year-round warmth from the Sun has made this belt around the Earth a refuge for animal and plant life, even through periods of drastic climate change such as ice ages.

While most plant and animal species elsewhere had to evolve to adverse weather conditions or face extinction, those in wet tropical areas have benefited from a stable climate and evolved through competition with each other.

Some of the most interesting tropical rainforest facts show the curious inter-relationships developed between different species for mutual survival, observable in rainforests around the world.

You can find rainforest conditions throughout the tropical band, wherever the climate is wet enough and the topography is right. Annual rainfall must be at least 80 inches, in a low-lying landscape usually below 3,000 feet, for a rainforest to develop and be sustained.

Today, these areas include parts of Africa, Madagascar, India, Southeast Asia, and Central America. The country with the most rainforest territory within its borders is Brazil, which hosts 60% of the Amazon rainforest.

Fun Tropical Rainforest Facts

People sometimes call the rainforest a jungle, but this is not always correct. Technically, the jungle is only part of the rainforest, and a less common part in fact. "Jungle" is a term that describes the overgrowth of plants beneath the canopy, but this growth is only enabled where more-than-normal sunlight reaches the undergrowth area.

Rainforests have more biodiversity than all other biomes on Earth combined. About 80% of unique species of plants and animals have been discovered in these rich environments.

Most of the ground nutrients of the forest are found only in the top 2 inches of the soil. This has caused the rainforest trees to grow their roots near and above the surface instead of reaching deeper into the dirt for minerals as trees do elsewhere.

There are multiple levels in a rainforest, from the highest emergent level of the trees to the understory and surface growth, each has evolved a mini-ecosystem of its own. Many creatures, like some sloths, never have to leave the treetops.

Plant leaves develop differently in the upper and lower levels of the rainforest. In the shade beneath the canopy, leaves grow larger and darker, often with the ability to pivot in order to collect more sunlight. Leaves in the emergent layer grow a drip-tip which allows more water to run off and reduces their vulnerability to mold and fungi. Even with drip-tips, it can take up to 10 minutes for the rain to travel through the trees.

New species of plants and animals are discovered every year in rainforests worldwide. In the summer of 2011, for instance, a World Wildlife Fund expedition discovered a new species of titi monkey in the Mato Grasso region of Brazil. Several species of bio-luminescent mushrooms were identified in 2009 by scientists in different rainforests, including Mycena luxaeterna in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Mycena silvaelucens in Borneo, Malaysia.

A rainforest environment can also exist on a mountaintop, fed by moisture in the air, rather than falling rain. Some "cloud forests" are found in Costa Rica and Jamaica. The Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary is a popular tourist site on the big island of Hawaii.

Plants in the rainforest have different life cycles, blooming and bearing their fruit at different times throughout the year, based on the normal weather patterns.

Many pharmaceutical drugs were derived from rainforest plants. Only a tiny fraction of rainforest flora has been studied for medicinal properties however.

Not-so-fun Tropical Rainforest Facts

The newly discovered titi monkey species mentioned above was found in an area called the "Deforestation Crescent", where much of the forest has been logged and cleared for cattle ranches over the past few decades.

Rare animals, like the Silvery Gibbon monkeys of Indonesia, are often targeted by poachers. There are only about 2,000 wild silvery gibbons estimated to exist today, and these monogamous monkeys don't breed so willingly in captivity.

There were 7 to 10 million natives living in the rainforest before European explorers arrived. Today there are comparatively very small pockets of indigenous people left. Many of those who still live in the forest have been greatly affected by modern civilization, but struggle to retain their ancestral knowledge and culture.

Rainforests cover only about 6% of the world's surface, but scientists say they once covered almost 15%. The remaining rainforests, they estimate, could be gone in a half-century.

More than an acre of forest is lost every second, when people and businesses are focused more on short-term profits and production than its long-term implications.

Despite the common understanding that trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere, some scientific studies paid for by large multinational corporations have tried to say Earth's rainforests are not the "lungs of the world", but rather "oxygen neutral" in an attempt to manipulate tropical rainforest facts with new and questionable terminology.

Rainforests have survived natural destruction by volcanoes and global climate change in the past, but widespread deforestation causes changes too quickly for plants and animals to adapt. Harmful human activities pose a greater risk of extinction and, unlike Earth's natural environmental processes, our impact can be controlled and minimized.

Worldwide concern about Earth's environment and ecosystem has inspired a great debate over modern civilization's role in the balance.

As every plant and animal has a place and a purpose in the delicate ecosystem, so do humans. We have more power to impact the planet on a large scale than any other creature, with that power comes responsibility

We can benefit more from expanding our understanding and discovering new tropical rainforest facts than we can by over-using the abundant physical resources of rainforest regions.

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