Terciopelo ViperSpectacled CaimanAmerican Crocodile**Tropical rainforests are forests with tall trees, warm climates, and lots of rain. In somerainforests it rains more than one inch nearly every day of the year!Rainforests are found in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Central and South America. Thelargest rainforest in the world is the Amazon rainforest in South America.The Amazon Rainforest is located in the upper section of Brazil south of the Equator.The Amazon River is located 2 to 4 degrees south of the Equator. This is a TropicalRainforest instead of a Temperate Rainforest or a Fossil Rainforest. It is a TropicalRainforest because of the climate and its location near the equator. It is very humid andwet so there are lots of places for bugs! Some insects spread diseases.**Temperate Rainforest- The obvious element of climate in the temperate rain forest isprecipitation. At least 200 cm of it, perhaps up to 350 centimeters in warmer areas.The precipitation can fall in the form of rain or snow, with snow becoming more likely athigher elevations. The average annual temperature is above 0� C, largely influencedby the nearby ocean. The warmest of the temperate rainforests may have averageannual temperatures around 20� C.**Fossil Rainforest- Fossil forests are composed offossil trees, most often buried entirely within sedimentary rocks, in upright, slanting orflat positions. Fossil forests date from geological periods that include the Triassic,Jurassic, Carboniferous and Cretaceous eras.The Amazon-The Amazon River Basin is home to the largest rainforest on Earth. Thebasin -- roughly the size of the forty-eight contiguous United States -- covers some 40%of the South American continent and includes parts of eight South American countries:Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname, as well asFrench Guiana, a department of France.While the Amazon Basin is home to the worlds largest tropical rainforest, the regionconsists of a number of ecosystems ranging from natural savanna to swamps. Even therainforest itself is highly variable, tree diversity and structure varying depending on soiltype, history, drainage, elevation, and other factors. This is discussed at greater lengthin the rainforest ecology section.Amazon Mammals- The Amazon is home to more species of plants and animals thanany other terrestrial ecosystem on the planet -- perhaps 30% of the worlds species arefound there.
More than 300 species of mammal are found in the Amazon, the majority of which arebats and rodents.The Amazon is home to the worlds largest rodent, the capaybara which can weigh 200pounds (91 kg).Two species of freshwater dolphin live in the Amazon river.Edentates -- including sloths, anteaters, and armadillos -- are common residents of theAmazon rainforest and only exist in the New World.Amazon Birds- More than 1500 bird species are found in the Amazon Basin, whileSouth America as a whole is home to roughly one-third the worlds birds.Many birds found in the Amazon are northern or southern migrants, wintering in orpassing though the rainforest at certain times of the year.Amazon Reptiles- Many reptiles species are illegally collected an exported for theinternational pet trade. Live animals are the fourth largest commodity in the smugglingindustry after drugs, diamonds, and weapons.Amazon Amphibians- Frogs are overwhelmingly the most abundant amphibians in therainforest.More than 1000 species of frogs are found in the Amazon Basin.Unlike temperate frogs which are mostly limited to habitats near water, tropical frogs aremost abundant in the trees and relatively few are found near bodies of water on theforest floor. The reason for this occurrence is quite simple: frogs must always keep theirskin moist since almost half of their respiration in carried out through their skin. The highhumidity of the rainforest and frequent rainstorms gives tropical frogs infinitely morefreedom to move into the trees and escape the many predators of rainforest waters.Amazon Fish-The Amazon basin contains the largest number of freshwater fishspecies in the world -- more than 3,000 species.Amazon Insects-Over 90% of the animal species in the Amazon are insects.A single square mile of rainforest often houses more than 50,000 insect speciesSome scientists estimate that 30% of the animal biomass of the Amazon Basin is madeup of ants
WHY DO RAINFORESTS HAVE SO MANY KINDS OF PLANTS AND ANIMALS?--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Tropical rainforests support the greatest diversity of living organisms on Earth. Althoughthey cover less than 2 percent of Earth’s surface, rainforests house more than 50percent of the plants and animals on Earth.Here are some examples of the richness of rainforests:Rainforests have 170,000 of the world’s 250,000 known plant species.the United States has 81 species of frogs, while Madagascar, which is smaller thanTexas, may have 500 species.An area of rainforest the size of two football fields (one hectare) may have more than400 species of trees, while an equal area of forest in the United States may have fewerthan 20.Europe has 570 butterfly species, while Manu National Park, a single reserve in Peru,has 1,300 species.Rainforests have an abundance of plants and animals for the following reasons:Climate: because rainforests are located in tropical regions, they receive a lot ofsunlight. The sunlight is converted to energy by plants through the process ofphotosynthesis. Since there is a lot of sunlight, there is a lot of energy in the rainforest.This energy is stored in plant vegetation, which is eaten by animals. The abundance ofenergy supports an abundance of plant and animal species.Canopy: the canopy structure of the rainforest provides an abundance of places forplants to grow and animals to live. The canopy offers sources of food, shelter, andhiding places, providing for interaction between different species. For example, thereare plants in the canopy called bromeliads that store water in their leaves. Frogs andother animals use these pockets of water for hunting and laying their eggs.It is important to note that many species in the rainforest, especially insects and fungi,have not even been discovered yet by scientists. Every year new species of mammals,birds, frogs, and reptiles are found in rainforests.Sea Turtles- Perhaps the creature that Nicaragua is best known for is the sea turtle.Each year thousands of endangered Loggerhead or Olive Ridley sea turtles can beobserved making the journey from the sea to the beach—where they spend one full
night digging and laying their eggs—and back to the deep waters of the Pacific Oceanonce again. Extensive efforts are being made by international conservationorganizations to preserve the dwindling numbers as much as possible at places such asLa Flor Wildlife Reserve.Fresh Water Animals- Other endangered animals include the freshwater Nicaraguabull shark found in Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River (connecting the lake to theCaribbean Sea). Population levels of this shark have declined and one rarely catches aglimpse of the rare shark. To counter the troubling downward population trend,Nicaragua has recently banned freshwater fishing of the Nicaragua shark and sawfish.Monkeys-The white-faced Capuchin Monkey has also been classified as endangered.The healthiest Capuchin Monkey troops in Central America can be found on Ometepe,the largest lake island in the world. The extremely low rate of development on the islandhas kept circumstances favorable for most of the animal species living there. Othermonkeys, such as Howler and Spider monkeys are actually increasing in number.Tropical Birds- The vast majority of animal species in Nicaragua enjoy a comfortableexistence in wide areas of unspoiled habitat. There are more than 700 species of birdsin the great lakes region of Nicaragua alone. Some of those birds, such as the blue-backed parrot and the scarlet macaw live there permanently while others only comedown to escape the colder climates from up north. Birds can be found throughout allNicaragua. Lacking heavy industry, even the capital city Managua offers a breedingplace for birds. With its many trees you can spot beautiful birds in the middle of the cityany time of day. The countryside, however, does offer even better birding sites. Forests,rivers, marshland and rocky volcano slopes can be filled with spectacular birds. Birdwatchers can enjoy easy access to several important wildlife reserves abundant withbirds of so many brilliant colors, shapes and sizes.Lizards- In addition to sea turtles, there are many land reptiles on Nicaraguan soil. Avariety of lizard species are among the most frequently seen reptiles, living in ruralareas, as well as in villages and cities. Green Iguanas are among the biggest lizards,and they can be seen warming up in the sun on rooftops, next to the road, or on walls.Their smaller cousins, the Black Iguanas, transform from green to brown as they matureand can be found enjoying the sun on streets or sidewalks or even at the beach. Lizardscalled Green basilisks can be found close to water, especially along the San Juan andEl Coco Rivers. Other lizards more common to urban environments are the small AsianHouse Geckos that chirp like birds and walk on walls and ceilings and catchmosquitoes, flies, and other insects most people consider pests. These little animalstypically appear at night, but they can be seen throughout the day, as well.
Insects- Another group of animals also abundant in Nicaragua are the insects. Newspecies are often discovered in the unexplored corners of the rainforest; yet newspecies have also been found at relatively easily accessible sites. The different types offorest and other habitats combined with the tropical climate offer a perfect breedingground for butterflies, dragonflies and many other insects. Although one might considerthe abundance of insects as an unpleasant aspect of traveling in Nicaragua, theseinsects improve the biodiversity of the country and play a fundamental role in the eco-systems.Tropical Mammals- There are a number of unusual animals found in Nicaragua. Onesuch animal, the three-toed sloth, seems to smile at all times and may remain in viewfor longer than anyone cares to watch them since they move just one mile every sixhours. Another, the Tamandua anteater, is roughly four feet long and has massiveclaws capable of injuring large mammals. Another, the Armadillo, is a medium-sizedmammal that feeds on large grubs and insects and is covered with a protective bonyshell.Marine Mammals- The largest mammals on earth can also be seen in Nicaragua.Whales migrating from north to south, and back again, can be observed along thePacific Coast of Nicaragua. Between November and March. They are not a particularlycommon animal, but during the correct season you have a fair chance of observingthese magnificent animals from aboard a boat. Other popular sea mammals that canalso be seen are the dolphins, who will frequently show up to observe the humanspassing by.Marine Flora- Some of the most interesting attractions in the water off the coasts ofNicaragua are the reefs. In the Caribbean Sea, off Bluefields and the Corn Islands, youcan find rich, colorful reefs surrounded by spectacular fish and other sea animals. Nearthose smaller animals, one will often find bigger fish like sharks, rays, and barracudas. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE RAINFORESTThe beauty, majesty, and timelessness of a primary rainforest are indescribable. It isimpossible to capture on film, to describe in words, or to explain to those who havenever had the awe-inspiring experience of standing in the heart of a primary rainforest.Rainforests have evolved over millions of years to turn into the incredibly complexenvironments they are today. Rainforests represent a store of living and breathingrenewable natural resources that for eons, by virtue of their richness in both animal andplant species, have contributed a wealth of resources for the survival and well-being ofhumankind. These resources have included basic food supplies, clothing, shelter, fuel,spices, industrial raw materials, and medicine for all those who have lived in the majestyof the forest. However, the inner dynamics of a tropical rainforest is an intricate and
fragile system. Everything is so interdependent that upsetting one part can lead tounknown damage or even destruction of the whole. Sadly, it has taken only a century ofhuman intervention to destroy what nature designed to last forever.The scale of human pressures on ecosystems everywhere has increased enormously inthe last few decades. Since 1980 the global economy has tripled in size and the worldpopulation has increased by 30 percent. Consumption of everything on the planet hasrisen- at a cost to our ecosystems. In 2001, The World Resources Institute estimatedthat the demand for rice, wheat, and corn is expected to grow by 40% by 2020,increasing irrigation water demands by 50% or more. They further reported that thedemand for wood could double by the year 2050; unfortunately, it is still the tropicalforests of the world that supply the bulk of the worlds demand for wood.In 1950, about 15 percent of the Earths land surface was covered by rainforest. Today,more than half has already gone up in smoke. In fewer than fifty years, more than half ofthe worlds tropical rainforests have fallen victim to fire and the chain saw, and the rateof destruction is still accelerating. Unbelievably, more than 200,000 acres of rainforestare burned every day. That is more than 150 acres lost every minute of every day, and78 million acres lost every year! More than 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest isalready gone, and much more is severely threatened as the destruction continues. It isestimated that the Amazon alone is vanishing at a rate of 20,000 square miles a year. Ifnothing is done to curb this trend, the entire Amazon could well be gone within fiftyyears.Massive deforestation brings with it many ugly consequences-air and water pollution,soil erosion, malaria epidemics, the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, theeviction and decimation of indigenous Indian tribes, and the loss of biodiversity throughextinction of plants and animals. Fewer rainforests mean less rain, less oxygen for us tobreathe, and an increased threat from global warming.But who is really to blame? Consider what we industrialized Americans have done toour own homeland. We converted 90 percent of North Americas virgin forests intofirewood, shingles, furniture, railroad ties, and paper. Other industrialized countries havedone no better. Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, and other tropical countries with rainforestsare often branded as "environmental villains" of the world, mainly because of theirreported levels of destruction of their rainforests. But despite the levels of deforestation,up to 60 percent of their territory is still covered by natural tropical forests. In fact, today,much of the pressures on their remaining rainforests comes from servicing the needsand markets for wood products in industrialized countries that have already depletedtheir own natural resources. Industrial countries would not be buying rainforesthardwoods and timber had we not cut down our own trees long ago, nor would
poachers in the Amazon jungle be slaughtering jaguar, ocelot, caiman, and otter if wedid not provide lucrative markets for their skins in Berlin, Paris, and Tokyo. The Wealth of the RainforestsThe Amazon Rainforest covers over a billion acres, encompassing areas in Brazil,Venezuela, Colombia and the Eastern Andean region of Ecuador and Peru. If Amazoniawere a country, it would be the ninth largest in the world.The Amazon Rainforest has been described as the "Lungs of our Planet" because itprovides the essential environmental world service of continuously recycling carbondioxide into oxygen. More than 20 percent of the world oxygen is produced in theAmazon Rainforest.More than half of the worlds estimated 10 million species of plants, animals and insectslive in the tropical rainforests. One-fifth of the worlds fresh water is in the AmazonBasin.One hectare (2.47 acres) may contain over 750 types of trees and 1500 species ofhigher plants.At least 80% of the developed worlds diet originated in the tropical rainforest. Itsbountiful gifts to the world include fruits like avocados, coconuts, figs, oranges, lemons,grapefruit, bananas, guavas, pineapples, mangos and tomatoes; vegetables includingcorn, potatoes, rice, winter squash and yams; spices like black pepper, cayenne,chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sugar cane, tumeric, coffee and vanilla and nutsincluding Brazil nuts and cashews.At least 3000 fruits are found in the rainforests; of these only 200 are now in use in theWestern World. The Indians of the rainforest use over 2,000.Rainforest plants are rich in secondary metabolites, particularly alkaloids. Biochemistsbelieve alkaloids protect plants from disease and insect attacks. Many alkaloids fromhigher plants have proven to be of medicinal value and benefit.Currently, 121 prescription drugs currently sold worldwide come from plant-derivedsources. And while 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforestingredients, less than 1% of these tropical trees and plants have been tested byscientists.The U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified 3000 plants that are active againstcancer cells. 70% of these plants are found in the rainforest. Twenty-five percent of theactive ingredients in todays cancer-fighting drugs come from organisms found only inthe rainforest.
Vincristine, extracted from the rainforest plant, periwinkle, is one of the worlds mostpowerful anticancer drugs. It has dramatically increased the survival rate for acutechildhood leukemia since its discovery.In 1983, there were no U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers involved in researchprograms to discover new drugs or cures from plants. Today, over 100 pharmaceuticalcompanies and several branches of the US government, including giants like Merck andThe National Cancer Institute, are engaged in plant research projects for possible drugsand cures for viruses, infections, cancer, and even AIDS. The Disappearing RainforestsWe are losing Earths greatest biological treasures just as we are beginning toappreciate their true value. Rainforests once covered 14% of the earths land surface;now they cover a mere 6% and experts estimate that the last remaining rainforestscould be consumed in less than 40 years.One and one-half acres of rainforest are lost every second with tragic consequences forboth developing and industrial countries.Rainforests are being destroyed because the value of rainforest land is perceived asonly the value of its timber by short-sighted governments, multi-national loggingcompanies, and land owners.Nearly half of the worlds species of plants, animals and microorganisms will bedestroyed or severely threatened over the next quarter century due to rainforestdeforestation.Experts estimates that we are losing 137 plant, animal and insect species every singleday due to rainforest deforestation. That equates to 50,000 species a year. As therainforest species disappear, so do many possible cures for life-threatening diseases.Currently, 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide come from plant-derived sources.While 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, less that1% of these tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists.Most rainforests are cleared by chainsaws, bulldozers and fires for its timber value andthen are followed by farming and ranching operations, even by world giants likeMitsubishi Corporation, Georgia Pacific, Texaco and Unocal.There were an estimated ten million Indians living in the Amazonian Rainforest fivecenturies ago. Today there are less than 200,000.In Brazil alone, European colonists have destroyed more than 90 indigenous tribessince the 1900s. With them have gone centuries of accumulated knowledge of the
medicinal value of rainforest species. As their homelands continue to be destroyed bydeforestation, rainforest peoples are also disappearing.Most medicine men and shamans remaining in the Rainforests today are 70 years oldor more. Each time a rainforest medicine man dies, it is as if a library has burned down.When a medicine man dies without passing his arts on to the next generation, the tribeand the world loses thousands of years of irreplaceable knowledge about medicinalplants.Largest Collection of Plant and Animal SpeciesThe Amazon Basin was formed in the Paleozoic period, somewhere between 500million and 200 million years ago. The extreme age of the region in geologic terms hasmuch to do with the relative infertility of the rainforest soil and the richness and uniquediversity of the plant and animal life. There are more fertile areas in the Amazon Riversflood plain, where the river deposits richer soil brought from the Andes, which onlyformed 20 million years ago.The Amazon rainforest contains the largest collection of living plant and animal speciesin the world. The diversity of plant species in the Amazon rainforest is the highest onEarth. It is estimated that a single hectare (2.47 acres) of Amazon rainforest containsabout 900 tons of living plants, including more than 750 types of trees and 1500 otherplants. The Andean mountain range and the Amazon jungle are home to more than halfof the worlds species of flora and fauna; in fact, one in five of all the birds in the worldlive in the rainforests of the Amazon. To date, some 438,000 species of plants ofeconomic and social interest have been registered in the region, and many more haveyet to be catalogued or even discovered.Scarring and Loss of DiversityOnce a vast sea of tropical forest, the Amazon rainforest today is scarred by roads,farms, ranches, and dams. Brazil is gifted with a full third of the worlds remainingrainforests; unfortunately, it is also one of the worlds great rainforest destroyers,burning or felling more than 2.7 million acres each year. More than 20 percent ofrainforest in the Amazon has been razed and is gone forever. This ocean of green,nearly as large as Australia, is the last great rainforest in the known universe and it isbeing decimated like the others before it. Why? Like other rainforests already lostforever, the land is being cleared for logging timber, large-scale cattle ranching, miningoperations, government road building and hydroelectric schemes, military operations,and the subsistence agriculture of peasants and landless settlers. Sadder still, in manyplaces the rainforests are burnt simply to provide charcoal to power industrial plants inthe area.
Key to Tomorrows Cures?Rainforests currently provide sources for one-fourth of todays medicines, and 70percent of the plants found to have anticancer properties are found only in therainforest. The rainforest and its immense undiscovered biodiversity hold the key tounlocking tomorrows cures for devastating diseases. How many cures for devastatingdisease have we already lost?Two drugs obtained from a rainforest plant known as the Madagascar periwinkle, nowextinct in the wild due to deforestation of the Madagascar rainforest, have increased thechances of survival for children with leukemia from 20 percent to 80 percent. Thinkabout it: eight out of ten children are now saved, rather than eight of ten children dyingfrom leukemia. How many children have been spared and how many more will continueto be spared because of this single rainforest plant? What if we had failed to discoverthis one important plant among millions before human activities had led to its extinction?When our remaining rainforests are gone, the rare plants and animals will be lostforever-and so will the possible cures for diseases like cancer they can provide.No one can challenge the fact that we are still largely dependent on plants for treatingour ailments. Almost 90 percent of people in developing countries still rely on traditionalmedicine, based largely on different species of plants and animals, for their primaryhealth care. In the United States, some 25 percent of prescriptions are filled with drugswhose active ingredients are extracted or derived from plants. By 1980 sales of theseplant-based drugs in the United States amounted to some $4.5 billion annually.Worldwide sales of these plant-based drugs were estimated at $40 billion in 1990.Currently 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide come from plant-derived sources fromonly 90 species of plants. Still more drugs are derived from animals andmicroorganisms.More than 25 percent of the active ingredients in todays cancer-fighting drugs comefrom organisms found only in the rainforest. The U.S. National Cancer Institute hasidentified more than 3,000 plants that are active against cancer cells, and 70 percent ofthese plants are found only in the rainforest. In the thousands of species of rainforestplants that have not been analyzed are many more thousands of unknown plantchemicals, many of which have evolved to protect the plants from diseases. These plantchemicals may well help us in our own ongoing struggle with constantly evolvingpathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi that are mutating against ourmainstream drugs and becoming resistant to them. These pathogens cause seriousdiseases, including hepatitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and HIV, all of which arebecoming more difficult to treat. Experts now believe that if there is a cure for cancerand even AIDS, it will probably be found in the rainforest.
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