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Ecological Importance of the Rainforest

Written by volunteer Kevin Tsao

Whether you believe it or not, tropical rainforests have so many benefits to our ecosystem. The role that this type of biome plays in your life is often larger than you think.

The Rainforest Layers

Interestingly enough, there are 4 layers in a rainforest: the emergent layer, the canopy layer, the understory layer, and the forest floor. The tallest trees make up the emergent layer. Animals found in the emergent layer include butterflies, bats, eagles, monkeys, and other birds of prey. Next up, the thickest layer consisting of the tops of most trees is the canopy layer. Most animals and birds navigating the emergent layer to seek the bright light are harbored by the canopy layer. Then we have the understory layer. Interestingly enough, the understory layer serves as the origin of many of the most popular houseplants. As this layer is found between the canopy and ground, this section is considerably dark due to the fact that this layer receives only around 2 to 15 percent of the sun’s rays. Animals found in the understory layer include lizards, big cats, and snakes. Last, but not least, we have the forest floor, also known as the ground level of the rainforest. Because the forest floor receives very little sunlight, dead plant, and animal matter is the primary source for the survival of animals in this layer.

An abundance of wildlife as well as climate stability is all made possible by the rainforest biome. Rainforests bring biodiversity because of all the diverse plant and animal species that they house.

The Rainforest and Indigenous Communities

Throughout history, tribes of indigenous people globally have lived harmonically with rainforests. They depended on the rainforest for their resources. Many tribes are being forced out of their habitat, which in turn predisposes them to greater danger, because of the destruction of the rainforest caused by logging, cattle ranching, and fossil fuel mining. A sizable majority of our medicinal herb supply originates from plants found solely in the tropical rainforest. However, only a small portion of rainforest plants have been studied, thus leaving a greater potential for other unknown medicinal herbs and cures to be discovered. Not only do rainforests supply medicinal herbs, but their plants also serve as the origin for most of the world’s culinary diet. For instance, there is a peach palm in Brazil that supplies up to around 300 peach-like fruits a season, and that kind of fruit is more nutritious than corn and mostother fruits.

Trees around the globe, especially those of the rainforest, supply oxygen, which in turn makes them the lungs of the planet. Not only do trees produce oxygen, but they also absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, which in turn keeps the climate relatively stable. Sadly, with a lot of destruction going on to the rainforests, the need to preserve our rainforest is more important than ever before. If there wasn’t any rainforests, then in addition to the shortage of oxygen, the gas that is essential for life, droughts, and famine would be a widespread and common occurrence, and that would be bad for all of humanity.

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