Rainforests are a shelter for millions of animal and plant species, making this incredible biome one of the richest in the world. According to The Nature Conservancy, rainforests only occupy about 2% of the total surface of our planet but are home to half of Earth's plants and animals.
The trees in the rainforest are what defines this rich and unique ecosystem. Rainforests are tall, dense forests with high levels of annual precipitations.
Rainforests are often called "the lungs of the planet" because of the role they play in storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and producing oxygen. Because the role they play in maintaining the world healthy is so significant, it's important to learn as much as possible about the rainforest.
In this article, we will look at the types of rainforest trees and how they make this ecosystem so unique.
General Tropical Rainforest Tree Facts
Tropical rainforest trees have some unique characteristics that allow them to grow and adapt in a hot, humid and very wet climate.
- Rainforests are very tall and dark: Tropical rainforest trees are typically very tall. They spread their branches only at the top layer. This creates a thick, evergreen canopy that doesn’t let much sunlight get through, making the inferior layers of the tropical rainforest very humid and dark.
- Trees in the rainforest are capable of growing very fast: Because they have to compete for so little sunlight when emerging from the inferior layers, these trees have adapted by being capable of rapid growth spurts.
- The bark of rainforest trees is typically thin and smooth: Trees in the Amazon rainforest, for example, don't need extra strength like they would in a drier or colder climate. Since the rainforest offers so much moisture and light all year round, Amazon rainforest trees don't need more than just a thin bark. In fact, the bark of many species looks the same, making identification possible by observing the flowers and other organs of the trees.
- Many types of jungle trees have adapted to the rainforest soil by having buttress roots: Since the soil is not rich in nutrients and not very deep either, trees have developed large roots that spread all around the tree. This mechanism prevents the tree from falling over and allows it to absorb nutrients from a larger surface.
- One of the adaptations rainforest trees have developed to thrive in the scorching heat coming from the sun are their leathery, dark green leaves. They prevent too much water loss while being exposed to direct sunlight for so many hours of the day and days of the year.
With these facts in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the trees in the Amazon rainforest and learn what makes them so unique.
One of the native Amazon tree species is the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) It's a type of tree that produces latex from which natural rubber is made.
It was first in the 19th century to produce pencil erasers. Since then, we've found other uses for natural rubber and its export volume has increased.
The biggest consumers of natural rubber in the Western world were automobile tires producers, and manufacturers of rubber gloves, toy balloons, and industrial adhesive. The increasing demand for rubber products led scientists to invent the first synthetic rubber at the beginning of the 20th century.
Nowadays, natural rubber is used significantly less but is still preferred for certain products, such as textiles, shoes or toys. The key aspect of the natural rubber industry is that it can be harvested without harming the tree.
Non-governmental organizations that focus on preserving the rainforest have been taking actions to promote “wild rubber” production. This measure offers a sustainable means of living to native people, encouraging the respectful use of rainforest materials and resources.
Let’s explore some more Amazon tree species that fascinate us. Here is a list of less common trees in the Amazon rainforest that we love:
- Kapok tree: One of the most impressive trees in the tropical rainforest, this giant is believed to be “the father of all animals” by some local cultures;
- Ramón tree: This tree’s nuts can be stored for up to five years without spoiling, making the ramón tree an important food source in times of scarcity;
- Xate: The beautiful leaves of this palm tree can last for more than a month after being cut, making them a sought after plant for floral arrangements;
- Ipê: An extremely durable type of wood, the ipê timber is used in local constructions
Unfortunately, the exposure to unsustainable industries - mining, logging, building dams, and even tourism - has led to many rainforest species to end up on the endangered list. Most of us tend to think of animals when we hear about endangered species, but countless species of plants have gained this status in the last decades.
Some of the Amazonian trees that ended up on the list include::
- Mangrove forests
- Kapok tree
According to a huge international study by 160 scientists gathered by the Amazon Tree Diversity Network, one in two tree species could disappear due to deforestation in the Amazon. This worrisome conclusion is one of the many factors that make the protection of the Amazon rainforest crucial for our planet.
What Makes Rainforests Such Important Ecosystems for the World’s Environment?
It's crucial for the entire world to understand why it should contribute, directly or indirectly, to the reforestation and protection of these incredible forests.
The level of humidity generated by a rainforest through the process of transpiration is so high that it influences the planet’s climate. Losing large numbers of trees in tropical rainforests due to irresponsible and illegal deforestation may drive the global temperature over its tipping point. These activities could also threaten endemic species and deplete the area of natural resources. As indigenous people are forced out of their land and the population is getting poorer, mass migration could affect the world economy.
The entire world exists in a fragile equilibrium. If something goes off-balance in one part of the world, the effects could reverberate tens of thousands of miles away. The same is true for the Amazon rainforest. That's why protecting it isn't only the responsibility of the local governments. We can do something about it too.
Plant a Tree Today
If you agree that the rainforest is one of the most important biomes we have on the planet, you can directly contribute to its protection and regeneration by donating to an organization that directly supports reforestation and local farmers.
Plant a tree today and become part of the solution, not the problem.
As many as you like!$XUSD
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