Rain Forest


Simply stated the word "ecology" means the relationship of
living things to their surrounding and to each other. The
rainforest is on of the biggest and best examples of a
flourishing ecosystem. With the almost unlimited amount of
species found within the rainforest something new is bound
to be found every time one is looked at. In this essay I
hope to outline and explain the various species of plants,
animals, people and others that make up the structure of a
rainforest. Obviously with species in these numbers it is
literally impossible to explain every detail there is to
know about a rainforest, but hopefully I will have given
you a better understanding in the end.
A rainforest is a complicated structure which is put
together from an unlimited amount elements that all work
together. A hole anywhere in this system can cause a
breakdown that effects the entire structure.
The bottom of the rainforest is the soil upon which
everything must grow. Wherever rainforests are found, sandy
red coloured soil can be found as well. This soil contains
few nutrients, which is why attempting to grow any sort of
crops would be futile. On top of this soil is a thin layer
of humus, which simply said is the compost made from the
millions of dead animals and plants of the forest. When
things such as leaves and animals die their remains are
quickly broken down by a limitless amount of tiny
organisms. Some insects that do just this sort of thing
include: beetles, ants, termites and a host of others. With
all of this death happening so quickly you would expect a
sort of rotten smell to be in the air. This, however, is
not the case. This is simply because everything that is
dead in the forest is broken down so fast. One example of
how true this is would be to kick a fallen tree. Chances
are it would crumble to pieces because termites had chewed,
and knawed there way through it in a matter of hours.
All living things requires three things in order to
survive. They are food, moisture, and warmth. These things
are provided in abundance in the rainforest. This explains
why anything that has been dead for more than an hour is
well on it's way to being broken down. The result of this
is a brown, pleasant smelling compost containing seeds and
other remains which makes up the thin layer of topsoil from
which all plants in the forest grow. This layer is only a
few inches deep and as soon as it rains, which happens
often, this thin topsoil is washed away into the nearest
river. This results in a loss of many seeds which have been
released from larger plants. Those not lost in the rain can
be eaten by such species as agoutis, weevils and other
animals. All of these things paint a picture of how hard it
is for a seed to germinate and grow into a mature plant.
The plants of a rainforest take up such an incredible
amount of space, that trying to identify them all would be
like to trying to name every person in Toronto. It just
can't be done. Of the approximate THIRTY MILLION plants,
and animals in the world about TWO THIRDS are only able to
survive in the rainforests. When you think of a rainforest,
the first thing that most likely comes to your mind is a
green steamy hell that is miles away from anything that you
are used to. However we tend to forget how much of our
daily lives involve the rainforests. Such common items as
Mahogany, coffee, and peanuts all originally made their
homes in the jungle. Another obvious example of this comes
in the form of fruits. Tropical fruits are everywhere.
Bananas, Mango's and Avacado's just to name a few, line the
shelves our stores and supermarkets. The jungle does not
just provide a source of food though, it also contributes
to something of much greater importance. The field of
medicine owes a lot to the enormous "gene bank" that the
rainforest supplies. Treatments for such things as
Leukaemia (Madagascar Periwinkle), AIDS (Catanospermine)
gives new hope to these terminal diseases.
Perhaps the most noticeable life form within the forest are
the trees themselves. Most trees in the rainforest are
evergreens however some, such as the wild Kapok are
deciduous and will shed their leaves. Many of the trees and
plants found within the forest have adapted to the
environment around them. A good example of this is the
leaves of rainforest trees. They typically have leaves
which possess drip dips which are used to channel falling
water to the roots below.
This ensures that the roots get enough water, and also
prevents the leaves from rotting in such a wet atmosphere.
One of the more interesting plants which has adapted to
it's environment is the bromeliad. These plants begin life
as a small shrub growing on the branches of larger trees.
They use these branches as a form of support to reach
sunlight at the canopy. Eventually aerial roots begin to
grow and will inevitably reach the ground. Once this
happens many of the roots will cross and enclose the trunk
of the host tree. When you picture this in your mind you
may get the impression that this plant begins to strangle
it's host to death. This is not the case however as it
causes no harm.
When considering the rainforests environment one could
assume that seeds from trees will germinate quickly, where
there is sufficient light, grow quickly, flower, produce
seeds, and die in a fairly short period of time. This is
not always the way of the trees within a rainforest though.
Studies in such countries as Malaysia have shown tree ages
ranging from 60-500 years old. The oldest tree found in
that area comes in at 800 years old. This evidence shows
that plants can live a long life if they occur in the right
On the jungle floor finding flowering plants is rare seeing
as only about one to two percent of the light at the top of
the canopy reaches the forest floor. This is why we must
look to the life above to find most of the forest's plant
life. Once the path of vision has been directed upwards
towards the canopy, the rainforest takes on a whole new
shape. The canopy of a rainforest is what makes the forest
work, for it is here that the trees can photosynthesise in
the sunlight, without which they could not survive. It is
the busiest part of the forest but the importance of the
system below, on the ground cannot be forgotten. The canopy
of a rainforest is packed with birds, insects, animals and
other forms of life. This is in response to the amount of
fruit and flowers everywhere. An important thing to realize
about that canopy is that all the tops of the trees do not
combine with each other. The boundary of each tree top
stops a short distance from the leaves of a nearby tree.
This natural occurring event is known as crown shyness and
is thought to be a defense against leaf munching
caterpillars. The world of plants within a rainforest is
every bit as fascinating and complicated as the animals
around them.
This brings us to the exiting and abundant world of animals
within the rainforest. Rainforests are beaming with animal
life. Almost all of the animal groups are represented here.
The only group which is almost lacking are the large
mammals. One of the most common and active animals found in
the forest are monkeys. There is a whole range of them to
be found. With this range in type also comes a difference
in size. Some of the larger ones are located here, as well
as the smallest in the world. The pigmey marmoset is so
small is could easily fit into a coffee mug, with room left
over for sugar and milk. Most of these monkeys make their
home, and get their food high up in the treetops. Here they
make use of branches and loose vines as there way of
travel. Often times monkeys will fall the equivalent
distance of a three story building to get where they are
going. If they miss a branch on the way down they will
simply grab the next available one. A close relative of the
monkey is the lemur. This creature is best known for it's
ringed tail, and although it also makes its home in the
forest, a greater amount of time is spent on the ground.
This makes them a lot easier to observe, but in contrast
makes them an easier target for predators. Monkeys are not
the only forest creatures which live their life high in the
trees, there is also an abundant amount of bird life. While
this form of life is both beautiful and plentiful, most are
hard to observe because they are hidden from the ground.
Some species such as the Heron can be seen from the ground
quite easily, because they love water and will flock to it.
The appearance of birds in a particular area is seasonal
and is dependant on the availability of food. A tree that
is just coming into bloom will attract birds from miles
around because of the source of food. One of the more
enchanting bird's of the rainforest is the Hummingbird. The
general outlook on these birds is that they are small. This
is true in most cases, however the largest of it's kind the
"Giant Hummingbird" is as big as a sparrow. In comparison
the sword billed hummer is one of the smallest birds, but's
it's beak is larger than it's body. Beaks on hummingbirds
come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each one made for
the particular bird's need for obtaining nectar. Although
the hummingbirds main source of food is the nectar from
flowers, it can also feed on the many insects of the
forest. Hummingbirds are the only birds with the ability to
fly backwards and when in flight their wings will beat
anywhere from fifty to two hundred times a second. The
energy required for this causes the hummingbird to
continuously feed throughout the day. Another bird of the
forest that cannot be forgotten is the Parrot. Their loud
calls and tendency to stay in groups makes them easy to
spot. Parrots are most commonly loved for their brightly
coloured plumage (feathers).
With all of these animals found in the treetops, there are
also a numerous amount on the ground. One of the more
riveting animals to be found on the ground is the tapir.
These strange looking beasts resemble giant pigs and range
in colour from brown to black and white. This peculiar
animal was even used in a Sherlock Holmes adventure in "
The Giant Rat of Sumatra " which involved a tapir that went
around savagely killing people. In actual fact tapirs are
harmless vegetarians. They do however have massive teeth
that they use to rip apart the leaves that make up their
Not all creatures that roam the ground are giant pigs
though. Two other types of animals that find their home on
the jungle floor are the millipede, and the centipede. Both
invertebrates average approximately 10-13 cm in length. The
two are often mistaken for each other, but are dramatically
different from one another. The millipede is a harmless
vegetarian that feeds on various plant life found on the
forest floor. The centipede on the other hand is vicious
carnivore that runs like crazy and has the ability to
inject a poisonous venom into it's prey. The largest of
it's kind, the Giant Centipede can reach lengths of up to
thirty centimetres, and is not an animal that is toyed with.
From creepy crawlers to cats, the rainforest hosts a
variety of wild jungle cats. The largest of them being the
tiger, although not far behind in size is the jaguar. The
jaguar has a tendency to be more aquatic than the tiger,
which is not surprising considering it's habitat in the
Amazon jungle is as much water as it is land.
Snakes make up another portion of the wild life and are
generally a mistaken species. After learning about them you
tend to wonder why so many people fear this animals with
such a passion. Of the world's snakes only ten percent are
venomous, and of these most would prefer to leave you alone
as long as they are not provoked. Snakes are one of the
hardest species to spot in the rainforest as they have the
perfect camouflage for the forest, and thus makes them
excellent predators.
One of the more commonly overlooked aspects of the ecology
of a rainforest is humans. It is typical for people to
think that humans have little or no role in the rainforest.
In reality over there are over two hundred million tribal
people in the world, most of which make their homes in the
rainforest. Many of the people around us seem to think that
these people are ignorant, when in fact the opposite is
true. "Forest Dwellers" as they are commonly called are
brilliant naturalists, mainly because of their great
knowledge, and use of, the plants and animals within their
environment. The greatest use and perfection of this
combination has to be given the Pygmies. The Pygmies are a
West African tribe that are said to have the greatest
ability to use what is around them, from their peers and
others. They seem to have a special knack for this skill,
which is often times attributed to "Magic" and the "Gods".
They are, surprisingly the smallest tribe in physical
height in the world. The largest of their people measures
in at a mere five feet tall.
A common way for hunting in the forest is through the use
of poison tipped arrows, and blow darts. When firing either
of these at it's prey a native will take a considerable
amount of time because of the work involved in creating
one. Making a fine quality arrow, or dart complete with
poison can take several hours. The poison is used with the
weapon so that the animal will not merely be injured
(allowing it a chance to escape) but killed. Another
popular way to kill prey is through a method called
"noosing" in which a rope resembling a noose will be made
from vegetable fibres. When the victim steps into the noose
it is suspended in mid-air with the noose tied tightly
around it's body. The natives do not only rely on animals
as there only source of food though. The many plants of the
forest including fruit are used in their ever day diets.
This is done increasingly when animal game is scare. The
people of the forest will use anywhere from about 80-100
percent of the plant life around then when needed. They do
realize however, that they must conserve the environment
that they live in and will only do this when necessary.
These plants that are found around then will also be used
for the various cures, and treatments needed for the sick
around them. Natives are regarded in the highest respect as
botanists because of this amazing ability to use the plants
of the forest for medical purposes. The reasons above
clearly show why the native people of the rainforests play
such an important role in the continuing ecosystem of the
In summary it can be said that a Rainforest is an ecosystem
with an abundant amount of differing species that rely on
the things around them to go on living. All of these
species in some way or another either directly, or
indirectly influence each other. A hole or damage in this
system will then in turn effect the entire system in one
way or another. The rainforest hosts an almost unlimited
amount of species, and within these species includes over
two thirds of the entire plant population. This is so
because these plants can only survive in the conditions
provided by a rainforest. As well as plants the rainforest
contains numerous amounts of animal life ranging from
something as small as and harmless as a Hummingbird to
something as large and ferocious as a tiger. Along with all
these plant and animal species comes something that is
commonly over looked in the rainforest, and they are
humans. There are over two million tribal people living in
the world and a great deal of them live within the
rainforest. They use the materials found here to supply
there food, make their weapons and cure their sick. All of
these things come together to form one of the most
complicated ecosystems of the world, and this form comes in
the shape of the ecology of a rainforest. 


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