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10 Rainforest Facts

10 Rainforest Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

Often we think of the rainforest as an abstract idea, far from where we are with little or no link to our daily lives. This is far from the truth, below you will see how deeply you are impacted on a daily basis by the rainforests around the world.  You will see what they do for you and will realize why its so important that you return the favor and do some thing for them.

Sidenote: Coffee grows best in the shade of the rainforests, but to produce enough for demand coffee farmers tend to clear cut the forests for coffee plantations. Coffee is affecting the deforestation of the rainforests.

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Facts about Rainforests

Do you know how many tropical rainforest plants have been identified as having anti-cancer properties? Or how many continents around the world contain rainforests? And just how quickly are the world’s rainforests disappearing?

Facts about the Rainforest as Part of our Global Environment and Well-Being

  • Rainforests act as the world’s thermostat by regulating temperatures and weather patterns.
  • One-fifth of the world’s fresh water is found in the Amazon Basin.
  • Rainforests are critical in maintaining the Earth’s limited supply of drinking and fresh water.

Rainforest Facts You Probably Don’t Know

  1. There are two kinds of rainforests, tropical and temperate. The tropical rainforests are the ones we think of when we hear “rainforest”, they are located closer to the equator.  There are large expanses of tropical rainforest in Africa, South East Asia, and the Middle East, but the largest by far is the Amazon Rainforest in South America.  Temperate rain forests exist in climates farther from the equator both in the northern and southern hemisphere. Some of these places are the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Japan, Southern Australia and New Zealand.
  2. Once a large tract of the rainforest have been cut down it is very hard to reestablish any thing similar to what had been there.  One of the reasons for this is that there is very little nutrients in the topsoil of rainforests.  All of the leaf litter and other debris that falls to the forest floor is quickly utilized by the many critters that live there. Because of this there is not much organic matter for new seeds to establish in, or for new roots to take hold.
  3. The rainforests are being destroyed for a multitude of reasons, the main two being lumber and agriculture. Vast tracts of woods are sold off for pennies on the dollar to supply the international demand for exotic hard woods.  Even those that are “sustainably” harvested can have devastating impact on the forest leaving logging roads scaring the landscape.  Some areas are being entirely cleared of trees in a method that is known as “slash and burn”.  All the vegetative matter that is left after trees are cleared is burned leaving a thin layer of ash on what was once a forest floor.  On this land cattle are grazed or crops are planted, often for the export market. Leaving local people with no forest and no food. Because the soil has only limited nutrients after only a few growing seasons the land becomes infertile and is left to bake in the hot sun, a dry cracked, lifeless patch of dirt.
  4. Tropical rainforests are an amazing source of medicines. Some two thousands plants have been discovered to have anti-cancer properties. Around 25% of modern pharmaceuticals are derived from tropical plants. Sadly some of these plants are already extinct, including one that quadruples the rate of survivability for childhood leukemia. There are surely many more potential medicinal plants out there with these amazing properties as only 1% of the plants have been analyzed.  Let’s just hope they don’t go extinct before we find them.
  5. The lungs of the planet are how the rainforests are often described. Taking in carbon dioxide and cycling out  oxygen, the Amazon alone is responsible for at least 20% of the oxygen we breath. Rainforests cover only 6% of the Earth’s surface today where as only 50 years ago they covered 15%. We we are quickly loosing a crucial component to a clean atmosphere.  As the consequences of our non stop spewing of green house gasses become irrefutable, we will  realize how reliant we are on these natural filters for clean fresh air.
  6. There are four main layers of life in the rainforest, the floor, the understory, the canopy and the emergent layer.  Much of the life which exists in the rainforest is above the forest floor. Most animals in the rainforest never even touch the ground there whole lives, some never even leaving one tree. The upper layers of these forest are often so dense that very little light ever reaches the forest floor.
  7. Rainforests are the most densely biodiversity place on the earth. Over half the earth’s species are living in the rainforests and who knows the number of yet undiscovered plants and animals that are living in there.  It is estimated that every day 50,000 species go extinct, many of which have never even been ‘discovered’.
  8. Many of the foods we commonly see today in or local stores or grow in our own communities are originally from the rainforest.  Some estimates put this as high as 80%.  Some items are obvious and to this day only grow in rainforest-like surroundings such as chocolate, coffee, vanilla, mangos, and bananas.  Some however may surprise you as they did me, such as black pepper, corn, winter squash, potatoes, and yams. Another item that is not on the food side of things but is indispensable in our daily lives is rubber.  The rubber tree, originally from South America is now grown in tropical regions from Africa to South East Asia.
  9. Rainforests are home to thousands of people, no matter what part of the globe. Entire tribes of people call the rainforest home and live sustainably off the bounty it provides. Whether they build their houses in the tops of trees or clear a little space out of the dense forest, these people are entirely dependent on the forest and the things it provides. They know all the plants, animals, sources of food and medicine. These people are as endangered as the forest themselves. As they disappear so do their cultures, languages, and histories.
  10. We know that the rainforests of the world are in danger, but the statistics are jaw dropping. Every second a football field of rainforest is cut down, in the time in takes you to read this one section we will have lost 5 more acres of rainforest. At this rate some estimates give our rainforests only 40 more years. What we will have lost will be irreplaceable, the damage to our environment irreversible.  Our grandchildren will know only stories of once great forests, only recordings of the call of monkeys echoing though the dense growth, only photographs of the thousands of species of butterflies.

From WorldWildLife.org:

The Amazon is a vast region that spans the border of eight rapidly developing countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, an overseas territory of France.

Threats: The Amazon is systematically being torn down and devalued for short term gains. Unsustainable expansion of agriculture and cattle ranching, construction of roads and dams, and extractive activities including illegal logging and climate change are the biggest drivers of deforestation and river degradation. At current deforestation rates, 55% of the Amazon’s rainforests could be gone by 2030.

If your heart is breaking, as mine did when writing this piece, know there are ways you can take action to protect our environment both locally and globally. There are many organizations you can join or donate to. Or learn how a simple change in coffee drinking can help. This is a great project to involve school children in because deforestation is very easy concept to grasp at younger ages.

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Make Your Garden Bee Friendly

How to Make Your Garden Bee Friendly in 4 Easy Steps

The number of bees in the world is fast declining. The number of bees in the world is fast declining. The number of bees in the world is fast declining.

Bees are in Trouble, Learn How You Can Help in Your Own Backyard

Cities and human population are taking over several environments and habitats that are required by local wildlife. In the case of bees, it doesn’t help that many people simply don’t like bees. They are truly misunderstood insects and most of pollinating of flowers is done by bees. There are a few simple ways you can help bees in your own backyard with food, housing, and avoiding pesticides.

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Provide Bee Friendly Flowers with Plenty of Nectar and Pollen

You’ll want to have something in bloom from early spring to late fall so bees will always find nourishment when visiting your garden. A large range of colors, especially blue, violet, white, and yellow will help attract bees. Bee balm, black-eyed Susan, cleome, sunflower, and zinnia are excellent varieties of flowers. They offer more pollen and nectar than highly developed hybrids of the same flower. Other blossoms that bees favor include lavender, rosemary, thyme and other herbs.

Bee balm is wonderful for attracting bees and butterflies.Add a pool of sunshine to the garden with a massed planting of black-eyed Susan.Cleome typically self-seeds prolifically, so you only have to plant it once.Big, beautiful, and old-fashioned, sunflowers fit into every garden.A packet of Zinnia seeds will fill an area with gorgeous flowers.

Get Sunflower Seeds from the Great Sunflower Project

It’s easy to participate in the Great Sunflower Project. All you need to do is sign up, plant your sunflower, describe your garden, time how long it takes 5 bees to visit your sunflower plant and enter the data online.

You’ll receive 25 seeds per packet of Lemon Queen Sunflower seeds for only $3 to cover shipping and handling.

The_Great_Sunflower_Project_2010.pdf

Avoid Pesticides

Chemical pesticides not only kill the pest insects, but the helpful insects like bees too. Try to provide a rich array of native plants to attract beneficial insects like lacewings and lady beetles, which naturally devour aphids, mealybugs, and whiteflies.

Offer Suitable Housing for Local Bees Including Ground Nesting Bees

Nesting blocks offer wood nesting bees a comfortable home.Obviously you will probably not want to build a honeybee colony, nor your neighbors. However, the marjority of the 4,000 species of native bees are solitary and many homeless bees are single mothers raising their young. They are rarly aggressive as they don’t have a hive to defend.

Ground nesting bees make up about 70% of native bees and all they need is a bare piece of earth in a sunny spot. It can be as small as 1 square foot. Simply leave some ground bare from mulch when tending your garen.

The other varieties include wood nesters who will find a home in a tree hole or nesting box like the one shown to the left.

Make Your Own Nesting Block for Bees

  1. You need a piece of wood at least 4 inches deep and 8 inches long. Try to use untreated lumbar. Avoid cedar as it’s toxic to insects.
  2. Drill a grid of holes varying from 3/32 to 3/8 inch in diameter, spacing them approximately 3/4 inch from each other. Drill deep holes, even going through the wood to maximize nesting depth.
  3. Attach the block to a backing board and install a slanting roof that extends in front of the block to protect it from the elements. Mount the backing board on a sturdy fence, post, tree, or building in a site where the holes will get only morning sun.

Gaiam Offers a Bee Condo Made of Reclaimed FirOrchard mason bees are found throughout the US.

Gaiam offers a beautiful handcrafted bee condo made of reclaimed fir posts. Made in the United States, Gaiam pays its artisans a fair living wage.

UPDATE: Gaiam is no longer selling their bee condo. Amazon has a Schrodt Designs Bee Lodge built for mason bees.

Orchard mason bees are found throughout the US and some might live in your neighborhood. You can also purchase bees. They are shipped while dormat. A good source is the Territorial Seed Company. You can also contact your local agricultural cooperative extension service.

Interesting Bee Facts You Might Not Have Known

  • The bee is the only insect that produces food eating by humans.
  • A honeybee’s wings can move 11,400 times per minute – making the dinstinctive buzzing sound we know so well.
  • The average honeybee will only make 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
  • It takes 556 bee workers to gather 1 pound of honey from about 2 million flowers.
  • Worker bees do all the work and are only comprised of females.
  • Male honeybees, called drones,
  • It is estimated that 1100 honey bee stings are required to be fatal (this is not the case for those allergic).
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