The Rain Forest – Example of a Flourishing Ecosystem 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 environment. 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 …