Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Wonder Of A Rainforest

The feel of a rainforest is like nothing else on earth. It's like you step back in time to the Garden of Eden and experience what it would be like with nature working in balance. There are so many plants and shades of green that the mind can't absorb it fast enough. It all tends to blend in even though there's a zillion details going on all around.

So much of life in the rainforest is camouflaged for protection from predators, so it's easy to miss things that are right on top of you. Trees are covered with orchids, mosses, fungi and bromeliads. There's even one bromeliad called a "tank bromeliad" that stores 5 gallons of water at its base. It's a miniature pond with tadpoles, mosquito larvae, snails, decaying plant matter, etc. It's all growing, digesting, living and dying and it's not even connected directly to the earth. It depends on the tree for survival.

There's so much life going on 24/7. Night animals and birds and day animals and birds with insects living in both realms.

I like the way Adrian Forsyth describes it in the book, "Journey Through A Tropical Jungle." He was looking inside a dead tree and found bats roosting for the day. It was obvious they brought some of their meal back home since there were moth wings piled beneath the tree.

Forsyth says, "Ants were busily scavenging, cleaning up these crumbs beneath the bats' dining area and carrying them down into their nests under the forest floor. The [strangler] fig had killed another tree and I could see that now it was being eaten by caterpillars.

These caterpillars would turn into moths. The fig also provided a haven for bats. The bats caught the moths and left food for the ants. The ants loosened the earth, and when they died their bodies would enrich the soil.

Finally, the roots of the fig and other trees would absorb the nutrients in the soil.
Each animal and plant was working, providing something useful for some other organism. When a plant or animal died, its body was quickly converted into a new form of life.

All around the strangler fig this recycling was going on right before my eyes.
What did that name "killer tree" mean? Is a strangler fig good or is it bad because it lives by killing other trees? All the life around the fig made the answer clear to me. The death of one tree had meant life for other creatures. Because everything is connected in the forest, life and death are never wasted."

If we leave the forest floor we also have to consider that the strangler fig provides a lot of food for birds, monkeys and other wildlife. The wildlife are the reason the strangler figs multiply since they excrete the seeds into pockets along the trunk of the tree at a branch, from which the whole process begins for the strangler fig.

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