Rainforests: Collaborative Intelligence Ecosystems
The rainforest manifests “collaborative intelligence” in a co-dependent ecosystem.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that 70 percent of the anti-cancer plants identified to date are rain forest plants. A new drug under development by a private pharmaceutical company, possibly for treating HIV, is Calanolide A, which is derived from a tree discovered on Borneo, according to NCI. Bioprospecting, going to the rain forest in search of plants that can be used in foods, cosmetics, and medicines, has become big business in the last decade. What native communities are compensated for invasion of their communities varies, from almost nothing to a share in later profits.
Many trees and plants, like orchids, have been removed from the rain forest and cultivated. Brazil nut trees are valuable and cannot grow anywhere other than undisturbed sections of the Amazon rain forest where these trees are pollinated by bees that also visit orchids, and their seeds are spread by the agouti, a small tree mammal.
David Suzuki’s essay “Lessons from a Walk in a Rainforest” describes the destruction of the rainforests in South America as rather like wounding human skin. A small bruise or cut can be healed, but the removal of a large section creates a “mortal wound,” Too much cutting and the forest cannot repair itself. Aboriginals, who have lived with the rainforest for hundreds of years, have experienced substantial losses in their culture due to developments, such as highways and dams, created to provide power to isolated villages. Colombia’s forests have the most known bird species in the world, the most orchid species, and the second most amphibians. This rich ecosystem of co-dependent living things, if destroyed, will never be recreated.
Brazil has 30 percent of the remaining tropical rain forest on Earth. But more than 50,000 square miles of rain forest were lost to deforestation between 2000 and 2005 and biologists are concerned about long-term consequences, such as drought may be one. Rain forests, including the Amazon, began experiencing drought in the 1990s, possibly due to deforestation and global warming.
The rain forest is nearly self-watering. Plants release water into the atmosphere (transpiration). In the tropics, each canopy tree can release about 200 gallons (760 liters) of water each year. The moisture helps create the thick cloud cover that hangs over most rain forests. Even when it is not raining, these clouds keep the rain forest humid and warm.