Tropical rain forests are found  in the  Amazon  region of  South 
America, Central America, Africa, and South and Southeast Asia.
They are very old, thick  forests   where  it
   rains  more  than 1.8 
meters  per  year. The oldest rainforest in the world is in  Sarawak. 
It is 10 million years old. In rain forests, huge trees 45 meters high 
have  their  first  branches  about  10  meters  above  the  ground. 
Below the trees, there is another level of  plants—many  kinds  of 
smaller trees, bushes, and flowers. The  Sarawak forest has 2500 
different kinds of trees.

Each level of the rain forest is its own world.   The   lower  level  is 
protected by the trees above. The temperature and  humidity  (the 
amount of water or moisture in the air) stay about the same in  the 
lower  level.  There  is  not  much  sunlight. In the upper level,  the 
sun, rain, and wind change the  temperature  and  humidity  often. 
An   amazing  animal  world  lives  in  the    upper  level.  There  are 
monkeys,  members   of the cat family, birds, and  insects  such  as 
bees,  butterflies, 
and  many  kinds  of  flies.  Other  animals  that 
usually  live   on   the  ground  also live here— mice, ants, and even 

This upper level of the forest is thick with  plant  life  because  the 
trees are covered with other plants. Most plants get nutrients
the ground through the upper level  take  their  nutrients from  the 
trees they live on and from the  other  plants  that  they  die there.

The animals need “streets” so  they  can  move  along  the  upper 
without  going down to the ground.’ They make paths  along 
the   branches   of   the   trees.  A  researcher  found a path that 
stretched for 18 meters in one tree. One kind of tiny ant makes  a 
path only 3 millimeters wide.

Now humans are destroying the earth’s tropical rain forests. 
About 80,000 square kilometers are being  destroyed  every  year. 
About 1/4 of the destruction comes  from  people  cutting 
trees  for  fuel.  Another  quarter  is destroyed  when people  cut 
down trees to make grassland for their cattle.

People cut down the rest of the trees so they can sell the wood
or start farms.  Cities  all  over
world are growing and want huge 

For example, the Japanese used  5000  trees   from  Sarawak rain 
forest to build one tall building.  The world
  needs more food, and  
it seems a good idea to  clear the rain forests
and  use  land  for 
agriculture. Land that can  support huge, thick  forests  must  be 
very rich.

But it isn’t. This is another surprising about rain forests.

Most of the land in tropical rain forests  is  poor.   The  plants  are 
able  to  live  because of e dead leaves and other plant parts that
fall ground.  This   carpet  of   dead    plants  pro-nutrients for the
living plants.

When the land is cleared for agriculture, there are   no longer  any 
plants left to die and provide nutrients for living  plants. The cycle 
is broken. Agriculture is  unsuccessful  because  the  land  cannot 
support it. Trees cannot grow again because  the  carpet of dead 
plants is gone. The land becomes empty and useless.
Is this important?  
What does it 
  matter  to  a  Japanese  business person, a  French  
farmer, or an Arab student that people are destroying  rain forests 
thousands of kilometers away?
Do you ever take medicine? 
Do you wear run- fling shoes? 
Do you use envelopes when you mail letters? 
Rain forests make these things possible.

Rain forests cover less than 6 percent of the earth’s area, but they 
have  100,000  kinds of plants, probably  half  of  all  the  kinds  of 
plants on the  earth. Three-fourths  of  all  known  kinds  of  plants 
and animals call the rain forest their  home.  Twenty percent of our 
different kinds  of  medicine  comes  from rain forests. The glue  on 
an envelope and in shoes comes from tropical plants. 
Rain forests provide materials for hundreds of other products.

Rain forests are also very important to the  world’s  climate. 
The Amazon rain forest alone receives about 30 to 40 percent of the 
   rain-fall   on   the   earth   and   produces   about  the same  
percentage  of  the   world’s   oxygen  (0). Some  scientists  believe 
that  the  decreasing 
size of rain forests will affect  the  climate  on
the earth, making it uncomfortable or even dangerous for life.

Saving our  rain  forests is an international  problem.  One country or
even a few  countries,  cannot  solve  the  problem  alone. 
The  nations  of  the  world  must  work  together   to  find a solution 
before it is too late.

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