Ecosystems: Tropical forest

Over the past year, this feature has been showcasing some of the amazing plants and animals of the Iwokrama Rain Forest; now here are some details about the importance and role of tropical forests in general and their functions.

 

What is a tropical rainforest?

Tropical rainforests are forests occurring in tropical areas where there is heavy rainfall and relatively even temperatures. Rainforests covers approximately 2% of the earth’s surface and are the home to over 50% of living life forms. They are the most productive and complicated of ecosystems.

 

Where are tropical rainforests found?

Tropical rainforests are found around the equator where temperatures remain almost constant throughout the year, and receive an average rainfall of 2000mm per year. The largest areas of rainforest can be found in Brazil, Zaire and Indonesia. Other areas include the islands of the Caribbean and Pacific.

 

What is the structure of tropical rainforests?

The rainforest structure can be broken into layers. These layers are:

Emergent: the tallest trees that reach heights of 50m tall.

Canopy: the crown of the trees seen as a sea of leaves blocking out the sun from the lower     levels. Most of the rainforest’s animals live in the canopy. There is so much food available at this level that some animals never go down to the forest floor.

Under Canopy: mainly bare tree trunks and lianas

Shrub Layer: has the densest plant growth containing shrubs, ferns and saplings of emergent and canopy trees

Forest Floor: usually a dark and dank layer of rotting leaves and dead animals called litter. The top soil is very thin and of poor quality. A lot of litter falls to the ground where it is quickly broken down by decomposers like termites, earthworms and fungi. The heat and humidity further help to break down the litter. This organic matter is then just as quickly absorbed by the trees’ shallow roots.

Forest (Photo by R Stanoss)

How is the vegetation adapted for tropical climate?

Most trees have wide buttress roots to support them growing tall. The roots are spread out to help with the quick absorption of water. The trees grow tall as they have to compete for sunlight. Lianas grow around the trees in their bid to reach sunlight. The leaves of many trees are waxy and have drip tips to allow water to run off and prevent it from collecting and rotting the leaves. The leaf stems are also flexible allowing the leaves to move with the sun to maximise photosynthesis.

 

What are the functions of a tropical rainforest?

Tropical forests provide a myriad of functions. These include:

What are human impacts on tropical rainforest?

Deforestation or cutting of tropical forests by humans for road building, logging, cattle ranching, hydroelectric power, farming and mining is having a major impact on our global forests.  Globally, forests are being degraded at a rate of 60 hectares per minute.

It is difficult to regenerate tropical rainforest because of its nutrient structuring. The soils in tropical rainforest are relatively poor in nutrient content. This is due in part to the quantity of rain that falls. 80% of the nutrients trees utilise come from decaying plant and animal materials. The nutrients released from decaying matter are quickly recycled back into the vegetation. Only 20% of these nutrients remain in the soil. When the forest is cut or degraded it changes the conditions of that forest. The soil quickly dries in the sun and the rain washes the remaining soil nutrient away. The lack of nutrients makes it difficult for the forest to fully recover.

In Guyana, we recognize this and are working towards the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) to ensure the health of Guyana’s forests for all Guyanese and the world at large.

Given the threats to tropical rainforest the Iwokrama Forest was created to develop models to show how tropical rainforest can be used in a sustainable manner giving benefits at social, environmental and economic levels to the people of Guyana and the world in general.

 

Rain forests are rich in biodiversity and are home to many different plants and animals as well as indigenous communities.

Humans, even those who don’t live in the rain forest, rely on it for resources such as building materials (wood and lianas), medicine and fruits.

Rain forests also provide essential environmental services for life on earth; they create soil as well as prevent soil erosion, produce oxygen through photosynthesis, maintain clean water systems, and are a key defence against climate change. 

The Iwokrama Rain Forest is 371,000 hectares, located in the heart of Guyana. Our mission is to develop strategies for conservation and sustainable development for local people in Guyana and the world at large.

We are involved in timber, tourism and training.  Come and visit us in the rain forest or at http://www .iwokrama.org.

LUCAS STOCK INDEXThe Lucas Stock Index (LSI) rose 0.54 per cent during the third period of trading in June 2016. The stocks of six companies were traded with 79,573 shares changing hands. There were three Climbers and one Tumbler. The stocks of Banks DIH (DIH) rose 1.98 per cent on the sale of 18,757 while the stocks of Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) rose 5.26 per cent on the sale of 41,667 shares. In addition, the stocks of Demerara Tobacco Company (DTC) rose 1.51 per cent on the sale of 13,603 shares. In contrast, the stocks of Demerara Bank Limited (DBL) fell 5.26 per cent on the sale of 4,324 shares.  In the meanwhile, the stocks of Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (BTI) and Republic Bank Limited (RBL) remained unchanged on the sale of 222 and 1,000 shares respectively.

Massy and Guyana (Part 1)

Steadfast Last year, this writer looked at the Massy Group of Companies formerly Neal and Massy to gain an understanding of the operations of this company which has been doing business in Guyana for the past 48 years. 

20160626table2jun

Value-added performance of the forest sub-sector: Erratic, weak, declining

Erratic Last week’s column highlighted what I consider to be a most distinctive feature of the extractive forest sub-sector’s performance in Guyana’s economy, during the past decade.

default placeholder

The UK bids Europe farewell

On June 23 by a small majority, the British people voted to remove themselves from the European Union (EU). The decision has consequences for the Caribbean.

default placeholder

What would life be without sport?

I wonder what it would be like to exclude sport completely from one’s life for, say, one year? No playing sport, no watching it, no reading it no discussing it no thinking about it even.

default placeholder

Brexit: Lessons for Caricom

The results of the referendum held in Britain to determine whether or not it should remain in or leave the European Union (EU), has been won by voters who supported the leave option.

Director of Sport Christopher Jones and President of the Guyana Chess Federation Irshad Mohammed (centre) stand with some members of the 2016 Guyana Olympiad chess team. The team travels to Baku, Azerbaijan, for participation at the Olympiad in September. A signature qualifying tournament was not held to determine the members of Guyana’s Olympiad chess team.

Federation picks chess Olympiad team without holding qualifier

The Guyana Chess Federation (GCF) has decided upon a 2016 Guyana Olympiad chess team without hosting a qualification competition to determine the competence of its participants.

Quamina Farrier

Heavy on historic significance, Journey to Freedom failed as a musical

Several Guyanese plays of historic significance were recently staged at the Theatre Guild and National Cultural Centre as part of a Jubilee festival.

Pawpaw Fruit Soup with Passion Fruit Photo by Cynthia Nelson

Fruit soup

If you’re looking for an easy dessert that uses mostly fruit, then you’ve hit the jackpot when you make a fruit soup.

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: