Rainforest are subject to extremely high amounts of annual rainfall, and are usually located in tropical regions. There are two different kinds of rainforests – tropical and temperate. Tropical rainforests are usually very dense, and full of broad leaf trees. They are located 10° north or south of the equator, and are known as the “world’s largest pharmacy”. This is due to the fact that over one quarter of medicinal drugs and medicines used today originate from its plants. Temperate rainforests have an annual precipitation (rainfall) of at least 140cm, have an average annual temperature ranging between 39 and 54° F, and have closed canopies of trees that cover at least 70% of the sky.
Rainforests are home to half of all living plant and animal species on Earth. It is estimated that there are as many as 80 different species of trees per acre. There is also an extremely diverse range of animal life found throughout the rainforest. The majority of these animals have had to evolve and adapt to survive in those tropical environments, and as such are unable to survive outside of their specific ecosystem. Some of these animals are toucans, parrots, sloths, gorillas and lemurs. Also, the vast majority of plants and vegetation used medicinally are found in the Earth‘s rainforests. With all of this, it is astounding that rainforests only cover 6% of the entire Earth‘s surface.
There are also a number of native cultures that live in and depend on the unique ecosystems of the rainforest. Most of these people have had little to no contact with any outside civilisations, and after hundreds of years with only the rainforest animals as neighbours; it is no surprise that they would be unable and unwilling to assimilate to modern times. These tribes have relied on the rainforest for every aspect of their lives, and are the most knowledgeable of anyone of the medicinal herbs and plants in that ecosystem. Unlike those who take from the rainforest without considering the dangerous effects they could be inflicting, the native tribes are able to cultivate the land without upsetting the balance of the rainforest animals’ and plants’ ecosystems.
Over the years, the rainforests have been severely and negatively impacted by human interference. Some of the most detrimental activities include deforestation, logging, and urban development. As the world’s population continues to rise, we will no doubt see more deforestation and devastation in this valuable ecosystem.
As a result of these activities, a number of plant and animal species native only to the tropical climates of the rainforest are now extinct, endangered or severely threatened. Medicines that have yet to be discovered are may be lost to us forever as a result of deforestation.
Knowing this, a number of organizations across the globe are working hard to do what they can to protect what’s left of this remarkable, and extremely fragile, ecosystem. Some of the most well known of these organizations are The Rainforest Alliance Network and The Nature Conservancy. Visit their websites for more information on rainforest animals, and what we can do to protect them and their unique and valuable habitat. Read more on the protection of the rainforest at http://www.butwhy.com.au/why-is-protecting-the-rainforest-so-important