Rainforests: Home to Coffee, Chocolate, and Medicines
Chances are good that you've probably heard about rainforests. You can probably even come up with a picture in your head of what the rainforest is supposed to look like. But do you know how important the rainforests are to the world? Do you know how important the rainforests are to your everyday life? Today, the rainforests are a great resource for things like coffee, chocolate, and even medicine. However, there are many other reasons why learning about the rainforest and how to preserve it should be important to us as well as future generations.
What Is a Rainforest?
It might sound overly simple, but a rainforest is a type of forest that experiences a large amount of rainfall. Despite this requirement, there are two different types of rainforests. A tropical rainforest does not have a dry season, and the area is warm and moist all year. A temperate rainforest can experience cooler temperatures and even get snow. Rainforests can be found all over the world. The Amazon Rainforest, located in South America, is the largest rainforest, with more than 30 million people calling the space home.
- Four Layers of a Rainforest: Within the rainforest, there are several different layers, each with its own purpose and inhabitants.
- Where Are Tropical Rainforests Located? Use this site to learn more about the climate and location of various rainforests on Earth.
- Temperate Rainforest Ecosystems (PDF): It's important to know what makes a temperate rainforest different than a tropical rainforest.
Lots of different types of animals and insects can be found in the rainforest. Because the landscape features so many trees, many animals have adapted their lifestyle to spend lots of time up off the ground. This includes animals like chimpanzees and sloths. Other animals have another great way to get around the forest: They glide. Some lizards and frogs are able to use their bodies to glide through the air in open spaces. While we know about a lot of the animals in this area of the world, scientists believe that there could be new species that are still undiscovered.
- Revealing the Rainforest: From ants in the plants to birds that show off, common animals in the rainforest and their behaviors are described here.
- Animals of the Tropical Rainforest: From large primates to cats and birds to frogs, take a closer look at the animals that call the rainforest home.
The tropical rainforest is home to more than two thirds of the world's plant species. These plants need the humid climate in order to thrive. Just like the animals, some of the plants have adapted to the area by living off of the ground: Because of the lack of light and fertile soil, some plants live on other plants in order to survive. Coffee beans grow in this area of the world along with bananas, making the rainforest an important part of a well-balanced breakfast. Beautiful flowers like orchids and poinsettias are also common.
- The Virtual Rainforest: Check out this list of flowers that are commonly found within the rainforest.
- Rainforest Plants: These pictures display some of the varied plant life that calls the rainforest home.
- Amazon Forest Ecology: Learn more about the world's most biodiverse location by examining the structure of the rainforest and why soil composition and plant characteristics are so important.
Importance of Preserving Rainforests
Located far away, many people don't think much about the rainforests. However, it is important that everyone work together to preserve these portions of the world. There are several reasons why the destruction of these lands can affect everyone. As deforestation takes place, many plants and animals lose their homes, putting some at risk for extinction. At the same time, the trees being removed are responsible for producing oxygen for us to breathe. When this eco-system is disrupted, oxygen levels decrease and water levels can change, causing droughts.
- The Tropical Rainforest: What are the consequences of human use of the rainforest? Is sustainability a possibility?
- Your Coffee Can Save the Rainforest (PDF): Where coffee is grown and how it is harvested has an impact on the sustainability of the rainforests.
- Impact Zone: Amazon Rainforest: This site offers information about the importance of the Amazon for water as well as oxygen.
- Tropical Rainforests in Our Daily Lives: Ever wonder how much you come into contact with things from the rainforest on a daily basis? You might be surprised to learn that some of the things you eat, the medicine that you take, and even the furniture in your house may have originated in the rainforest.
- Biomes: Tropical Rainforest: Learn why the trees and plants in the rainforest tend to absorb all of the nutrients, leaving the soil acidic.
- Emergent Layer of the Rainforest: The Smithsonian offers information about the emergent layer, or the top layer, of the rainforest and how plants and animals must adapt to the environment.
- Rainforest Habitats: With lots of pictures to examine, you can read about the different rainforests and their inhabitants.
- Inhabitants of the Amazon Rainforest: Scientists are discovering that there may be even more animals that call the rainforest home than previously thought.
- Temperate Rainforest's Food Web: Ever wonder who eats what in the temperate rainforests? This chart allows you to see which animals live in the rainforest and where they fall on the food chain.
- Chocolate in the Rainforest: Learn more about cocoa seeds, how they turn into chocolate, and what impact this has on the rainforest.
- Medicinal Secrets of the Amazon Rainforest: Plants found in the Amazon Rainforest have yielded lots of medicinal knowledge that helps with diagnosing and treating different illnesses.
- El Yunque Forest: The only tropical rainforest in the U.S., El Yunque Forest is small but is biologically diverse when compared to other forests.
- Tropical Rainforest Biome (PDF): Read through this presentation that details where rainforests are located in the world along with other interesting details about these areas.
- The Understory Layer: Learn more about this layer of the rainforest and how the humidity works to keep some of the animals alive.