Tropical Rainforests

Tropical Rainforests

Tropical Rainforests

Tropical Rainforests

Synopsis

Tropical Rainforests takes a broad, fresh perspective on the ecology, environment and people of the world's most vital ecosystem, using case studies from all the major forest areas

Excerpt

This is the forest primeval

Henry Longfellow, Evangeline (1847)

1.1 INTRODUCTION

Tropical rainforests are the most complex ecosystems on earth. Rainforests (better known to many people as jungles) have been the dominant form of vegetation in the tropics for literally millions of years, and beneath their high canopy lives a diversity of species which is unrivalled anywhere else on earth.

1.1a Images and impressions

For more than a century travellers have recorded vivid descriptions of the rainforests, which emphasise abundance and grandeur. Charles Darwin kept a detailed log of his impressions of the forests around Rio de Janeiro, which he visited in April 1832 during the voyage of the Beagle. He wrote:

After passing through some cultivated country, we entered a forest, which in the grandeur of all its parts could not be exceeded. …The trees were very lofty, and remarkable, compared with those of Europe, from the whiteness of their trunks…. The forest abounded with beautiful objects…. The greater number of trees, although so lofty, are not more than three or four feet in circumference…. It is easy to specify the individual objects of admiration in these grand scenes; but it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, astonishment, and devotion, which fill and elevate the mind.

Since about 1980 interest in the rainforest has shifted full circle. From being seen as a threat or nuisance, it is now widely seen as

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