Have you ever wondered what’s the difference between jungles and rainforests?
They told us in forestry school that there is no such thing as a “jungle.” Such a tangle of vines and undergrowth develops in all sorts of stands — wherever there’s competition and enough light to support all that vegetation.
But in an undisturbed rainforest, the canopy shades out most understory plants, leaving plenty of room for a walk along the ground.
The creator of Sherlock Holmes, inspired perhaps by the reports of real-life explorers Humboldt and Bonpland, agrees:
The woods on either side [of the river] were primeval, which are more easily penetrated than woods of the second growth, and we had no great difficulty in carrying our canoes through them.
How shall I ever forget the solemn mystery of it?
The height of the trees and the thickness of the boles exceeded anything which I in my town-bred life could have imagined, shooting upwards in magnificent columns until, at an enormous distance above our heads, we could dimly discern the spot where they threw out their side-branches into Gothic upward curves which coalesced to form one great matted roof of verdure, through which only an occasional golden ray of sunshine shot downwards to trace a thin dazzling line of light amidst the majestic obscurity.
As we walked noiselessly amid the thick, soft carpet of decaying vegetation the hush fell upon our souls which comes upon us in the twilight of the Abbey, and even Professor Challenger’s full-chested notes sank into a whisper. . .
— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in “The Lost World”
But rainforests also exist elsewhere in the world.
Of course, life contributes to this process:
Just plant the right kind of tree.
While there is no danger of drought in Indonesia, which gets up to 240 inches of rain a year, the tropical forest there is disappearing quickly.
“Save the rainforest!” makes a good rallying cry, but actually doing it is another story.
See the CEPF 2001 Sundaland Ecosystem Profile, just one of the reports available here, for more details about what that involves, though as noted in Wikipedia (June 30, 2019), it’s difficult to get accurate numbers about illegal logging.
Happily, Sumatra’s rainforest didn’t vanish by 2005, as predicted by some sources in that CEPF report. It’s still around and teeming with life.
Turning three national parks into the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra UNESCO World Heritage site has helped enormously.
Here are a few scenes from one of those parks:
Dancing bears in the rainforest — who knew?
Starting this Friday, we’re going to get better acquainted with the marbled cat and other feline residents of another park in this system: Bukit Barisan Selatan.
And next Tuesday, we’ll find out just what those really tall rainforest trees with huge buttressed trunks are all about.
Featured image: SaveJungle, Shutterstock