Indifference to the rain-forest plight will kill us all.

The TV programme here in England called #’I bought a rainforest’ showed last night. The show was about Charlie who had bought an area of rainforest in Peru in an effort to conserve it and protect it from deforestation.
His story is similar to my own and his desperation as his dream is shattered is equal to my own.

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It’s easy to sit on the stones of a clear, cool forest stream as the water runs through your toes, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the rainforest, and think life is perfect.
But then your daydreams are crashed into by the sound of tree saws and you’re faced with the reality as you hear and feel the thump of the tree hitting the ground.
People, often those living in towns, often well off, come into the forest or send others to cut down the best trees…the hardwood trees that have taken hundred of years to grow, to sell abroad or to clear the forest for food, soya, production.

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There are two kinds of locals in the rainforest. There are those that don’t want change, who want the forest they love left alone. People who live and work within the forest.
And there are the other kind. The ones who see the rainforest as a thing to be used and abused and flattened if it provides money, however temporary.
The soil of the rainforest is thin it won’t provide decades of farming. I’ve seen fields after a few years…… now useless …stark, dry and treeless, abandoned by the farmers.
I’ve seen streams and rivers polluted and made unusable by mining. I’ve seen thick forest burnt to the ground and with it thousands of animals and birds and insects, some not yet seen by man as new discoveries are being made all the time.

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The forest has evolved over millions of years. The animals, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians…the trees, shrubs, plants have evolved to work together. The Brazil-nut tree for instance needs a particular orchid, a specialist bee and a sharp toothed rodent to reproduce.
Take away one item from the forest and the effect on everything around it is dramatic.
The rainforest is not only beautiful with extraordinary wildlife, it provides a third of the oxygen we breath. Cut down the forest and human life on earth ends.

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When are governments around the world going to take this seriously and help the countries with rainforests to protect them or must we just accept the inevitable. Are Charlie and I banging our heads against a wall of indifference.

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Palla, Conta or Shapaja Palm (Attalea butyracea) Amazon Rainforest Trees.

Palla, Conta or Shapaja Palm.(Attalea butyracea)

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There are about 1.8 billion Palla across the Amazon Basin. The palm leaves have always been used by indigenous people to thatch the roofs of their huts.
The large leaves of the Palla were used to thatch the roof of my own lodge. The leaves last 5/10 years, depending on the weather and skill of the thatchers. My roof was looking decidedly sad after just three years and had several gaps through which the rain poured, but I just had it patched up rather then put a plastic or tin roof on as was suggested.

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My friends, local people, were able to weave the palms too. They made sunscreens for me and room dividers.

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Local people were also able to make intricate decorations from Palla leaves. They included hearts, flowers, birds, fans, insects, and so on. They sometimes made them without taking the leaves from the stem, as shown.

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The Amazon Rainforest has 16,000 different species of trees, including the Palla palm. It is thought there are four hundred billion trees altogether in the rainforest. The Amazon Rainforest is truly a treasure.

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Amazon Rainforest Trees…Huicungo (Astrocaryum murumuru)

Amazon Rainforest Trees….Huicungo (Astrocaryum murumuru)

There are more than a billion Huicungo trees in the rainforest.They grow up to 15 metres and their fruits are edible.

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Like many trees in the rainforest the Huicungo uses sharp spines on its trunk to protect it. Some birds ie the Long-billed Wood Creeper, are able to forage for insects without becoming impaled.

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The hard seeds of the Huicungo are used to make black rings.

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Brazil-nut Tree…‘Castanheiro do Para’ Its amazing reproduction system.

Brazil-nut Tree…‘Castanheiro do Para’ (Brazil)

Brazil-nut trees are huge. They can reach over 200 feet/30 metres high. They dominate the forest and are protected by law from cutting down. They grow in pristine forest, necessary for their complicated reproduction system.

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At the very beginning of the reproduction system the Brazil nut tree needs an orchid and a bee.
The orchid bee (Euglossa) collects nectar from the flowering Brazil nut trees. These specialist bees have a long tongue that can open the flower.
As they collect nectar the bees spread pollen from tree to tree fertilising the yellow Brazil nut tree flowers and thereby the fruit…the nuts.
The male orchid bees attract females with the fragrance from a particular orchid. The larger female orchid bee pollinates the Brazil-nut Tree.

The nuts, that we know are the seeds of the tree, which are enclosed in a large husk similar to that of a coconut. The shell is rock solid and needs to be opened with a sharp machete to release the 8 to 24 seeds, so how does it get opened in the wild?
The answer is the Agouti. A large rodent with razor sharp, chisel-like teeth. The agouti eats some of the seeds and takes off others to bury them for later. If some of the seeds are forgotten they will eventually germinate and grow into new trees.

Brazil-nut husks ready for opening. The empty shells I used as plant pots and holders.

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The Brazil-nut Tree needs a bee, an orchid and an agouti to reproduce. It needs pristine, untouched forest for these conditions to be met. Deforestation, even if the tree is kept in place, can affect anyone of these conditions so that reproduction cannot take place and we lose a magnificent tree as well as a delicious food source.

Astrocaryum vulgare (common names Tucum or Tucumã-do-Pará in Brazil)

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A tree that means a lot to me is the Astrocaryum vulgare. It is a palm tree, the seeds of which produce a black wood. Indigenous people, unable to afford gold, used the black wood for marriage rings.
Christian missionaries wore them as a sign of solidarity with the poor. A symbol of a desire for equality, social justice and human rights.
I was given by friends both a solid black wood ring and an Amazon gold and black wood ring. The man who gave me the gold and black wood ring said the gold symbolised the richness of the country I came from and the black wood the forest he came from, forever entwined. I wear them everyday to remind me of the forest to which I am eternally bound.

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Amazon Rainforest plants and flowers. ‘What colour is the rainforest?’

What colour is the rainforest? Flowers and plants of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest.

This question led someone to my blog. My answer illustrated by photos and text below:

The rainforest is naturally predominantly green. Every single shade of green imaginable, forever changing as the sun seeps and moves through branches and leaves to lighten and darken the forest. Because the forest trees are constantly in a state of regeneration and leaf shedding, colours we associate with autumn and winter, with death and decay: yellow, bronze, gold, orange, red, lay within the mix.
But there are other colours too, these belong to the flowers and plants. The Amazon Rainforest has over 55,000 plant species.
Some of the rainforest flowers have tissue paper thin petals. Amongst these Convolvulus, known as Bindweed, in shades of sky-blue and white. Their delicate beauty a wonder in the tough conditions of the forest.
Many plants have thicker, more robust leaves. The Caladium bicolor amongst them. As their name suggests their leaves consist of two colours, an inner pink and an outer green. These plants with large, heart shaped leaves can be found in abundance in the forest growing in bright clumps.
I had to negotiate a clearing teeming with hundreds of small, chirping grass hoppers to dig up these plants for my verandah. As well as being beautiful they served as a shelter for geckos and small lizards.
The Lobster Claw Heliconia is typically Brazilian, loud and brash. The flowers hang down, a vibrant orange and yellow. There are other varieties of Heliconia not quite so brazen, but always with a red, orange and yellow flower. The more delicate Heliconia, I planted close to the lodge, came from a shady part of the forest.
Coleus grow almost everywhere too. The large plant in the photo taking root in a log. The velvety leaves have a rose-pink inner and a dark, rich, velvety maroon-red outer.
And, scattered amongst the bushes and trees, struggling for existence and almost invisible are apparently insignificant, but vitally important, small flowers of lemon yellow, soft pink, sky blue and ivory white. Little beacons of pollen and nectar for the butterflies and hummingbirds, bees and bats.
The river too holds a flower, the Victoria Water Lily, the largest water lily in the world. The huge, flat green leaves with a deep pink underside lay on the water, strong enough to hold a human in its middle. The flower is a showy, creamy white on the first night and a pale pink on the second night.
These are just a few of the many flowers and plants of the rainforest. They give the forest small bursts of either vibrant, or gentle, contrasting colour. Their struggle to find a home, sunlight and water, under the often thick canopy of trees, a testament to natures survival strategy.

Photos:
Convolvulus, Caladium, Heliconia – Lobster-claw, Heliconia, Coleus, Victoria WaterLily (Victoria Amazónica), Miscellaneous.

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Why is the rainforest wet? Why does it rain in the rainforest? The Rain/Water Cycle.

Why is the rainforest wet? Why does it rain in the rainforest?

Visitors to my blog have reached me with the questions, ‘Why is the rainforest wet?’ Or ‘Why does it rain in the rainforest?’ The answer can be found in the Rain/Water Cycle.

The beginning of the rain cycle can be clearly seen early in the mornings in the Amazon Rainforest. It shows up in photos as a fine mist which covers the forest canopy.
The moisture filled air heats up as the sun rises causing the water caught in the tree canopies and the land and rivers to evaporate into the atmosphere.
As the air filled with water vapour rises it cools and forms clouds. The clouds hold and produce rain. The rain falls back on the land and rivers and trees. And the cycle continues.
The Rainforest is very humid. The air is saturated with moisture and because it is close to the Equator and therefore the sun, it is hot.
There is about 250cm per year of rainfall in a tropical rainforest.

Three photos show the forest very early in the morning, just as the sun begins to lighten the sky. They were taken at the end of the dry season, before the coming rains had filled the river. A moisture clad mist hangs over the forest. The fourth photo shows a view over the forest from the air, filled with moisture laden clouds.

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New:Now scientific evidence that deforestation interrupts the rain cycle… No trees-No water..http://t.co/HDp8EX9oIk

Amazon Rainforest Climate….Wet Season in Amazon Rainforest

The Wet Season (from diary)

The wet season starts at the end of November and continues until May. Rain usually falls in the morning, light showers that cool the air, but quite often a great storm will rage through the forest, lasting for hours.
During the storms, walls of heavy rain move across the forest, saturating everything in their path. Thunder crashes above with such force the ground trembles. The noise must be the loudest natural sound on earth. Despite being warned by lightening of the impending boom and rumble, it always made me jump.
High winds bend and shake the trees and leaves, twigs and branches are thrown through the air. The lodge verandah, when finally the storm ends, is covered with broken twigs, leaves, battered insects and other bits of natures debris. The wooden boards shone as if freshly varnished. The grass roof, rearranged by the storm, let in rays of sunlight………
The rains change the views from the lodge dramatically. Gone are the vast meadows of grasses and wild flowers. Instead stretching to the river mouth is now gleaming, deep water. Deep enough for the dolphins to swim and breed in, deep enough for the caiman and deep enough for the return of lunch. No longer do we have to eat dried up, smelly carcasses, instead the dish is plump and tasty. Yes!
Osprey return to winter in the heat of the forest and sit high on tree tops. Herons and kingfishers return to fish closer to shore on fallen branches.
The rain is welcome, bringing with it fresh water, food and enough water to row the canoes from shore to shore, so much nicer than slurping through the thick, clinging, river bed, mud.
The wet season is back, all is well in the forest.
The first photo shows view from lodge in wet season. The next two photos show same view in dry season. The last photo is of an Osprey and a Heron, happily fishing together.

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Plastic Pollution in the Amazon Rainforest. Part One.

Plastic Pollution in the Amazon Rainforest, Lake Manacapuru.

The beautiful waterfall area is used by people from the local town, particularly when I am not there, as a picnic and recreational area.
On one occasion I went there with some friends for a picnic. The first thing I noticed as we rowed our canoes close to the area was silence. The birds had disappeared from the entrance to the waterfall and all along the stream.
I could hear, long before reaching the area, that an afternoon party was in full flow. Loud music blasted from large loudspeakers. Young people hollered, sung and laughed and screamed loudly, chasing each other through the trees and scarring the trunks of trees with deep knife slashes. Families with children picnicked along the shore of the river, disposing of their waste under bushes.
My friends and I walked through the stream and along the banks, picking up the rubbish that had been discarded, including: broken glass alcohol bottles; open, razor sharp lidded, cans; coloured plastic bags; polystyrene food containers; cellophane and metallic coloured sweet wrappers and used nappies. We filled the bottom of two canoes with the rubbish and this was only one days pollution.

One thing that surprised me on my visits to my home in the rainforest, was the amount of rubbish you see floating in the rivers. Plastic is a particular problem. It is sad to find what initially looks like a pristine, untouched, stretch of primary forest or fast flowing river and see, bobbing in the water or washed up on banks, or tangled around roots and branches – gaudy plastic strips, bags and bottles. We, travelling in canoes, always scooped them up, but there were always plenty more pieces of rubbish to take their place.
Plastic pollution is becoming a big problem in many beautiful parts of the world, in rivers and on seas, forming islands of imperishable waste. Sadly parts of the magnificent Amazon rainforest and river are fast becoming polluted, uninhabitable and barren too.
We, in the west, have made mistakes, polluted our rivers and seas and countryside and are now trying to repair the damage. I wish Brazilians would learn from our mistakes and not commit the same ones. They have a chance to rub our faces in our stupidity and show us how it is done. They have a wonderful rainforest, something truly special and unique. It is not so very hard to keep it that way, is it ?
The photo is of one of the two canoes we filled with rubbish from the waterfall area. One weekends rubbish.

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Silver-beaked Tanagers, Northern Tegu and Ameiva Lizards.

Nesting in the dragons mouth. Silver-beaked Tanagers..Northern Tegus and Ameiva lizards (Ramphocelus carbo..Tupinambis and Ameiva Ameiva)

Sunrise would see me sitting in my rocking chair on the verandah of my Amazon rainforest home, a Brazilian black coffee in one hand, a slice of honey and manioc cake in the other, camera on lap.
I waited to see what new discoveries would present themselves and never was I disappointed.
This particular morning it was the Silver- beaked Tanagers who would surprise me.
Close to the lodge, just a few meters away was a low, thick bush, surrounded by tall grasses. The tanagers decided to make a nest there.
The tanagers were regular visitors around the lodge. I saw them several times a day. There were five or six females and a male. The male was smartly feathered, with smooth black plumage and a contrasting silver beak. The females were slightly bigger, with reddish brown, untidy plumage.
The male often perched above the females and called with a high pitched peep, as loud as his little body would let him.
I had noticed him acting differently as the dry season came to an end. He would peep, peep, peep and shake his feathers vigorously as he did.
On this morning I could see why. A mate had been attracted and they were nesting. The female seemed to be doing all the work making a cup shaped nest, while the male perched above peeping in encouragement.
There was a problem though. Beneath the chosen bush two species of lizard crept. The Northern Tegu and the Ameiva. It seemed the tanagers were laying their eggs straight into the dragons mouth
The Northern Tegu is a rich brown and black striped lizard, heavily muscled and handsome. The much smaller Ameiva lizard is a beautiful lizard, turquoise blue and pale green. Both equally able to crush and eat the two eggs laid by the tanagers.
The nest was finished over the next few days and the two little green-blue eggs with black-brown blotches were laid inside it, but sadly I had to leave before seeing the final outcome. Silver-beaked Tanagers often nest in low bushes so must be aware of the dangers, it would have been interesting to see how they protected their tiny clutch.

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