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Tropical rainforests typically occur in the equatorial zone between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, latitudes that have warm temperatures and relatively constant year-round sunlight. Tropical rainforests merge into other types of forest depending on the altitude, latitude, and various soil, flooding, and climate conditions. These forest types form a mosaic of vegetation types which contribute to the incredible diversity of the tropics.
The bulk of the world's tropical rainforest occurs in the Amazon Basin in South America. The Congo Basin and Southeast Asia, respectively, have the second and third largest areas of tropical rainforest. Rainforests also exist on some the Caribbean islands, in Central America, in India, on scattered islands in the South Pacific, in 免费的pcvpn, in West and East Africa outside the Congo Basin, in Central America and Mexico, and in parts of South America outside the Amazon. Brazil has the largest extent of rainforest of any country on Earth.
Rainforests provide important ecological services, including storing hundreds of billions of tons of carbon, buffering against flood and drought, stabilizing soils, influencing rainfall patterns, and providing a home to wildlife and indigenous people. Rainforests are also the source of many useful products upon which local communities depend.
While rainforests are critically important to humanity, they are rapidly being destroyed by human activities. The biggest cause of deforestation is conversion of forest land for agriculture. In the past subsistence agriculture was the primary driver of rainforest conversion, but today industrial agriculture — especially monoculture and livestock production — is the dominant driver of rainforest loss worldwide. Logging is the biggest cause of forest degradation and usually proceeds deforestation for agriculture.
The rainforest section of Mongabay is divided into ten "chapters" (the original text for the site was a book, but has since been adapted for the web), with add-on content in the form of special focal sections (e.g. The Amazon, the Congo, REDD, pcvpn免费, Sulawesi, etc), appendices, and other resources.
There is also a version of the site geared toward younger readers at kids.mongabay.com.
Each rainforest is unique, but there are certain features common to all tropical rainforests.
- Location: rainforests lie in the tropics.
- Rainfall: rainforests receive at least 80 inches (200 cm) of rain per year.
- Canopy: rainforests have a canopy, which is the layer of branches and leaves formed by closely spaced rainforest trees some 30 meters (100 feet) off the ground. A large proportion of the plants and animals in the rainforest live in the canopy.
- Biodiversity: rainforests have extraordinarily highs level of biological diversity or “biodiversity”. Scientists estimate that about half of Earth's terrestrial species live in rainforests.
- Ecosystem services: rainforests provide a critical ecosystem services at local, regional, and global scales, including producing oxygen (tropical forests are responsible for 25-30 percent of the world's oxygen turnover) and storing carbon (tropical forests store an estimated 229-247 billion tons of carbon) through photosynthesis; influencing precipitation patterns and weather; moderating flood and drought cycles; and facilitating nutrient cycling; among others.
The global distribution of tropical rainforests can be broken up into four biogeographical realms based roughly on four forested continental regions: the Afrotropical, the Australiasian, the Indomalayan/Asian, and the Neotropical. Just over half the world's rainforests lie in the Neotropical realm, roughly a quarter are in Africa, and a fifth in Asia.
Dozens of countries have tropical forests. The countries with the largest areas of tropical forest are:
- Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Other countries that have large areas of rainforest include Bolivia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ecuador, Gabon, Guyana, India, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Congo, Suriname, and Venezuela.
|Total tree cover (30%)
|Total tree cover (30%)
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Tropical rainforests support the greatest diversity of living organisms on Earth. Although they cover less than 2 percent of Earth’s surface, rainforests house more than 50 percent of the plants and animals on the planet.
- Climate: because rainforests are located in tropical regions, they receive a lot of sunlight. The sunlight is converted to energy by plants through the process of photosynthesis. 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 of energy supports an abundance of plant and animal species.
- Canopy: the canopy structure of the rainforest provides an abundance of places for plants to grow and animals to live. The canopy offers sources of food, shelter, and hiding places, providing for interaction between different species. For example, there are plants in the canopy called bromeliads that store water in their leaves. Frogs and other animals use these pockets of water for hunting and laying their eggs.
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In the rainforest most plant and animal life is not found on the forest floor, but in the leafy world known as the canopy. The canopy, which may be over 100 feet (30 m) above the ground, is made up of the overlapping branches and leaves of rainforest trees. Scientists estimate that more than half of life in the rainforest is found in the trees, making this the richest habitat for plant and animal life.
The conditions of the canopy are markedly different from the conditions of the forest floor. During the day, the canopy is drier and hotter than other parts of the forest, and the plants and animals that live there have adapted accordingly. For example, because the amount of leaves in the canopy can make it difficult to see more than a few feet, many canopy animals rely on loud calls or lyrical songs for communication. Gaps between trees mean that some canopy animals fly, glide, or jump to move about in the treetops. Meanwhile plants have evolved water-retention mechanisms like waxy leaves.
Scientists have long been interested in studying the canopy, but the height of trees made research difficult until recently. Today the canopy is commonly accessed using climbing gear, rope bridges, ladders, and towers. Researchers are even using model airplanes outfitted with special sensors — conservation drones — to study the canopy.
The rainforest floor
The rainforest floor is often dark and humid due to constant shade from the leaves of canopy trees. The canopy not only blocks out sunlight, but dampens wind and rain, and limits shrub growth.
Despite its constant shade, the ground floor of the rainforest is the site for important interactions and complex relationships. The forest floor is one of the principal sites of decomposition, a process paramount for the continuance of the forest as a whole. It provides support for trees responsible for the formation of the canopy and is also home to some of the rainforest's best-known species, including gorillas, tigers, tapirs, and elephants, among others.
Tropical rainforests support some of the largest rivers in the world, like the Amazon, Mekong, Negro, Orinoco, and Congo. These mega-rivers are fed by countless smaller tributaries, streams, and creeks. For example, the Amazon alone has some 1,100 tributaries, 17 of which are over 1,000 miles long. Although large tropical rivers are fairly uniform in appearance and water composition, their tributaries vary greatly.
Rainforest waters are home to a wealth of wildlife that is nearly as diverse as the biota on land. For example, more than 5,600 species of fish have been identified in the Amazon Basin alone.
But like rainforests, tropical ecosystems are also threatened. Dams, deforestation, channelization and dredging, pollution, mining, and overfishing are chief dangers.
Tropical rainforests have long been home to tribal peoples who rely on their surroundings for food, shelter, and medicines. Today very few forest people live in traditional ways; most have been displaced by outside settlers, have been forced to give up their lifestyles by governments, or have chosen to adopt outside customs.
Of the remaining forest people, the Amazon supports the largest number of indigenous people living in traditional ways, although these people, too, have been impacted by the modern world. Nonetheless, indigenous peoples' knowledge of medicinal plants remains unmatched and they have a great understanding of the ecology of the Amazon rainforest.
In Africa there are native forest dwellers sometimes known as pygmies. The tallest of these people, also called the Mbuti, rarely exceed 5 feet in height. Their small size enables them to move about the forest more efficiently than taller people.
There are few forest peoples in Asia living in fully traditional ways. The last nomadic people in Borneo are thought to have settled in the late 2000's. New Guinea and the Andaman Islands are generally viewed as the last frontiers for forest people in Asia and the Pacific.
Every year an area of rainforest the size of New Jersey is cut down and destroyed, mostly the result of human activities. We are cutting down rainforests for many reasons, including:
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- agriculture for both small and large farms;
- land for poor farmers who don’t have anywhere else to live;
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- plantations, including wood-pulp for making paper, oil palm for making palm oil, and rubber;
- road construction; and
- extraction of minerals and energy.
In recent decades there has been an important shift in deforestation trends. Today export-driven industries are driving a bigger share of deforestation than ever before, marking a shift from previous decades, when most tropical deforestation was the product of poor farmers trying to put food on the table for their families. There are important implications from this change. While companies have a greater capacity to chop down forests than small farmers, they are more sensitive to pressure from environmentalists. Thus in recent years, it has become easier—and more ethical—for green groups to go after corporations than after poor farmers.
Rainforests are also threatened by climate change, which is contributing to droughts in parts of the Amazon and Southeast Asia. Drought causes die-offs of trees and dries out leaf litter, increasing the risk of forest fires, which are often set by land developers, ranchers, plantation owners, and loggers.
While rainforests may seem like a distant concern, they are critically important for our well-being. Rainforests are often called the lungs of the planet for their role in absorbing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and producing oxygen, upon which all animals depend for survival. Rainforests also stabilize climate, house incredible amounts of plants and wildlife, and produce nourishing rainfall all around the planet.
- Help stabilize the world’s climate: Rainforests help stabilize the world’s climate by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Scientists have shown that excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from human activities is contributing to climate change. Therefore, living rainforests have an important role in mitigating climate change, but when rainforests are chopped down and burned, the carbon stored in their wood and leaves is released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
- Provide a home to many plants and animals: Rainforests are home to a large number of the world’s plant and animals species, including many endangered species. As forests are cut down, many species are doomed to extinction.
- Help maintain the water cycle: The role of rainforests in the water cycle is to add water to the atmosphere through the process of transpiration (in which plants release water from their leaves during photosynthesis). This moisture contributes to the formation of rain clouds, which release the water back onto the rainforest. In the Amazon, 50-80 percent of moisture remains in the ecosystem’s water cycle. When forests are cut down, less moisture goes into the atmosphere and rainfall declines, sometimes leading to drought. Rainforests also have a role in global weather patterns. For example researchers have shown that forests in South America affect rainfall in the United States, while forests in Southeast Asia influence rain patterns in southeastern Europe and China. Distant rainforests are therefore important to farmers everywhere.
- Protect against flood, drought, and erosion: Rainforests have been compared to natural sponges, moderating flood and drought cycles by slowing run-off and contributing moisture to the local atmosphere. Rainforests are also important in reducing soil erosion by anchoring the ground with their roots. When trees are cut down there is no longer anything to protect the ground, and soils are quickly washed away with rain. On steep hillsides, loss of forest can trigger landslides.
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Rainforests are disappearing very quickly. The good news is there are a lot of people who want to save rainforests. The bad news is that saving rainforests will be a challenge as it means humanity will need to shift away from business-as-usual practices by developing new policies and economic measures to creative incentives for preserving forests as healthy and productive ecosystems.
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Thus the future of the world's rainforests in very much in our hands. The actions we take in the next 20 years will determine whether rainforests, as we currently know them, are around to sustain and nourish future generations of people and wildlife.
Deaths of Yanomami babies from COVID-19 bring anguish to mothers (Mon, 03 Aug 2020 11:55:03)
- Three indigenous babies from the Yanomami Indigenous group who died with suspected COVID-19 infection were buried in a cemetery in the city of Boa Vista, in Brazil’s Roraima state, far from their villages.
- Their mothers don’t speak Portuguese and likely had no understanding of what would happen to their children’s bodies.
- It is a Yanomami tradition to cremate their dead, and the ritual can take more than a year to complete.
- Indigenous people are now reluctant to seek medical treatment for fear that their bodies will not be returned to the community if they die. A local NGO says the handling of the case shows continued disrespect for Indigenous culture.
Forest crimes persist in Peru following Indigenous leader’s murder (Mon, 03 Aug 2020 09:11:21)
- The leader of an Indigenous community in Peru’s Huánuco region was murdered when he went fishing earlier this year. Despite this, criminal groups have reportedly continued to operate in the area.
- The death of Arbildo Meléndez Grandes is one of a series of environmental crimes reported since the COVID-19 state of emergency began in Peru.
- Operations against illegal mining and logging have been carried out in the Madre de Dios, Loreto and Ucayali regions in recent months.
No choice: Why communities in Paraguay are cutting down forests to survive (Fri, 31 Jul 2020 15:43:16)
- Illegal deforestation for marijuana cultivation is a growing problem for eastern Paraguay’s protected areas.
- Sources say much of the clearing is done by indigenous community members and small farmers who are beset by poverty and have no other options.
- A joint project between the Paraguayan government and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations seeks to provide more opportunities for rural communities, but has been stymied by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Double blow to Colombian Amazon and Indigenous groups from armed militants, COVID-19 (Fri, 31 Jul 2020 12:22:15)
- Staff from the National Nature Parks of Colombia (PNN) have been forced by former FARC rebels and other illegal armed groups to abandon 10 Amazonian parks that cover nearly 9 million hectares (22 million acres) and are home to an estimated 43,000 undiscovered species.
- The absence of PNN staff has negatively impacted surrounding campesino and Indigenous communities, as well as the monitoring of natural resources, threatened species, and climatic and hydrological information, which are all vital for decision-making and generating alerts.
- Indigenous communities in Colombia’s Amazon play a vital conservation role, but COVID-19 has been especially devastating to them.
- Infections have been reported among 33 of the region’s 60 Indigenous groups, 13 of which were already in danger of physical and/or cultural extermination.
For tool-wielding chimps of Ebo Forest, logging plan is a ‘death sentence’ (Thu, 30 Jul 2020 15:59:02)
- Ebo Forest is the largest intact forest system in southwestern Cameroon, spanning more than 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres), and providing refuge to a multitude of rare species, including Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, drills, and a tiny and enigmatic population of western gorillas.
- The Cameroon government recently approved a logging concession for Ebo Forest, which would allow trees in 68,385 hectares (169,000 acres) of the region to be harvested, despite opposition from conservationists and local communities.
- Ebo Forest was previously slated to be transformed into a national park, an effort spearheaded by WWF, but plans were dashed in 2013, reportedly because of lack of funding.
- Conservationists worry that logging, and any concomitant activities, such as illegal forest destruction and poaching, will place considerable pressure on endangered and critically endangered species, and that the biodiversity of the forest would be compromised.
Goldminers overrun Amazon indigenous lands as COVID-19 surges (Thu, 30 Jul 2020 13:36:04)
- Reports filed by NGOs including the Socioenvironmental Institute (ISA) and Greenpeace Brazil say that a major invasion of indigenous reserves and conservation units is underway, prompted by miners well backed with expensive equipment supplied by wealthy elites.
- Miners are emboldened, say the NGOs, by the inflammatory anti-indigenous and anti-environmental rhetoric of the Jair Bolsonaro administration which has sent a clear signal so far, that it has no major plans of stopping the invasions or penalizing the perpetrators.
- Through June of this year, deforestation by mining within conserved areas represented 67.9% of total tree loss in Legal Amazonia. From January to June, illegal mining destroyed 2,230 hectares (5,510 acres) of forest inside conservation units (UCs) and 1,016 hectares (2,510 acres) inside indigenous territories (TIs).
- The miners’ onslaught also poses a serious COVID-19 threat. The virus has so far infected at least 14,647 indigenous people and caused 269 deaths on indigenous lands. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro is pressing for passage of legislation authorizing mining on indigenous lands; presently the bill is stalled in the house of deputies.
In syntropic agriculture, farmers stop fighting nature and learn to embrace it (Thu, 30 Jul 2020 10:58:52)
- Brazilian-based Swiss agronomist and cocoa farmer Ernst Götsch has created a model of organic farming that he says can replace the Green Revolution that was driven by advances in agrichemistry.
- His syntropic farming system imitates nature and is based on successful agroforestry methods.
- It is climate-friendly, ecologically sustainable and above all cost-efficient, attracting a growing number of soy farmers in Brazil interested in implementing it.
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- A jaguar nicknamed “Short-Tail” was caught on camera in both Belize and Guatemala, making him the first individual confirmed to cross the international boundary between the two countries.
- This finding highlights the importance of international, transboundary collaboration to study and protect jaguars.
- Jaguars are threatened by habitat loss, deforestation, loss of prey, and illegal hunting.
Upgrade of Indonesian palm oil certification falls short, observers say (Wed, 29 Jul 2020 08:41:35)
- The Indonesian government’s planned update to its palm oil sustainability certification program doesn’t do enough to protect Indigenous communities from land grabs or prevent the destruction of forests, groups say.
- The Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) scheme prohibits the conversion of Indigenous lands to oil palm plantations, but relies on the official framework for recognizing Indigenous land claims that covers only a tiny fraction of such areas.
- It also fails to explicitly call for the protection of secondary forests, allowing an area greater than the size of California to potentially be cleared for more plantations.
- There is also no provision for independent monitoring of the ISPO certification scheme itself that would provide credibility and oversight to the system.
2019 was the deadliest year ever for environmental activists, watchdog group says (Wed, 29 Jul 2020 06:09:42)
- In a new report, the watchdog group says that at least 212 environment and land defenders were killed across the world in 2019.
- The deadliest countries were Colombia and the Philippines, with 64 and 43 killings respectively.
- Despite making up only 5% of the world’s population, representatives of Indigenous communities accounted for 40% of those killed.
- Killings related to agribusiness jumped by 60%, to 34 in 2019 – researchers say as consumption of commodities like beef and palm oil increases, so too will deadly conflict over land.
What makes a Sumatran tiger different? Candid Animal Cam heads to southeast Asia (Tue, 28 Jul 2020 03:24:35)
- Every Tuesday, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.
Marijuana farms expand in Paraguay reserve despite gov’t crackdowns (Mon, 27 Jul 2020 18:34:27)
- Approximately 600 metric tons of marijuana was seized by agents of Paraguay’s National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD) in an operation in the heart of the forests of Morombí Reserve, between the departments of Canindeyú and Caaguazú.
- Over eight days, some 70 officers destroyed 202 hectares of marijuana and dismantled 23 camps set up by drug traffickers.
- But sources say this is just the tip of the iceberg and many more illegal marijuana farms are pockmarked throughout Morombí, increasing by the day. Satellite data support this, showing the reserve’s deforestation rate skyrocketed in 2019 and continues to climb into 2020.
Scientists launch ambitious conservation project to save the Amazon (Mon, 27 Jul 2020 12:17:21)
- The Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA), an ambitious cooperative project to bring together the existing scientific research on the Amazon biome, has been launched with the support of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
- Modeled on the authoritative UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, the first Amazon report is planned for release in April 2021; that report will include an extensive section on Amazon conservation solutions and policy suggestions backed up by research findings.
- The Science Panel for the Amazon consists of 150 experts — including climate, ecological, and social scientists; economists; indigenous leaders and political strategists — primarily from the Amazon countries
- According to Carlos Nobre, one of the leading scientists on the project, the SPA’s reports will aim not only to curb deforestation, but to propose an ongoing economically feasible program to conserve the forest while advancing human development goals for the region, working in tandem with, and in support of, ecological systems.
Investigation links meat giant JBS to Amazon deforestation (Mon, 27 Jul 2020 07:24:09)
- An investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, The Guardian and Reporter Brasil has uncovered evidence that a driver working for the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS, was involved in transporting cattle from a farm that has been fined for forest destruction to another farm that directly supplies JBS.
- Photographs from the social media account of the truck driver appear to show him in a convoy bearing the JBS logo transporting “skinny” cattle from Fazenda Estrela do Aripuanã, a ranch in the northwest of Mato Grosso state that has previously been fined for illegal deforestation, to another farm that directly supplies JBS.
- JBS said it was investigating the incident; it added that the driver worked for an “independently-run transport service.”
Niobium mining in Brazilian Amazon would cause significant forest loss: Study (Fri, 24 Jul 2020 11:31:25)
- A recent study found that large-scale niobium mining proposals, if carried out in the remote northwest portion of the Brazilian Amazon, would likely cause significant forest loss and threaten biodiversity and fragile ecosystems.
- The study comes as President Jair Bolsonaro pushes for an expansion of industrial mining on indigenous lands and his administration turns a blind eye to expanding illegal mining that is threatening indigenous communities in the northern Amazon.
- There are two known niobium deposits in the region, at Seis Lagos and at Santa Isabel do Rio Negro, located in the Rio Negro River basin. The Brazilian portion of the Rio Negro River basin is home to 23 Indigenous groups, including the Yanomami people, and holds vast tracts of undisturbed rainforest, rich in biodiversity.
- The recent niobium study offers an example of how science can be proactive in analyzing the environmental impact of infrastructure development well before it happens, hopefully helping guide policy decisions to prevent deforestation, pollution, the spread of disease and other problems.