Tropical Rain Forest
El Yunque is the local name for The Caribbean National Forest in Puerto Rico.
A tropical rain forest is found in warm climates in the tropics close to the equator. There are many tropical rain forests around the world. El Yunque is the only Tropical Rain Forest in the United State's National Forest System.
A rain forest is a quiet place but at El Yunque you can hear the ocassional coquí or two chirping in the middle of the day. The ground is wet and muddy and is shaded by tall trees. The trees have huge trunks with small plants growing on them. There are vines hanging from their branches. There are small insects flying amidst the rain, fog, or mist. On the trees you might see colorful birds, and butterflies. Many other animals hide in the branches and even under leaves on the ground. The abundant rainfall is shed through rocky rivers creating many cascades of waterfalls and pools. Everywhere you look, is green. Orchids (some only the size of a fingernail) and bromeliads perch in the trees.
"Yuke" means white lands and refers to the mountain tops usually covered by clouds. The Taíno Indians of Puerto Rico considered their mountain range sacred. Taíno petroglyphs are sprinkled throughout the sacred Luquillo mountain range. El Toro, at 3533 Ft is the tallest peak.
Up to 240 inches of rain per year have been recorded on the higher peaks. More than 100 billion gallons of rainwater fall on the Forest per year. Here it rains about 4 times a day. The result of such heavy rainfall and the warm tropical climate is a dense evergreen forest containing 240 native tree species (26 found only at El Yunque), and masses of vines, 50 native orchids, epiphytes, giant ferns, and mosses. Air plants such as orchids, grow on the trunks and branches of the trees. Woody air plant vines called, lianas, hang from and often wrap around tree trunks and limbs.
The roots of rain forest trees do not go down very deep, so they can take up only water and food found near the top of the soil. The thick parts on the tree trunks are called buttresses keep the large trees from falling over.
The top layer of a tropical rain forests is called the canopy. The canopy is the tops of the trees which are the branches and leaves. Many rain forest animals live in the canopy. Below the canopy is the layer called the understory. This layer is made up mostly of tree trunks, young trees and air plants. The bottom layer of the forest is called the forest floor. The forest floor has few plants growing because the soil is very thin. It is made up mostly of dead plant parts, fallen tree trunks covered in with moss, ferns, and fungi.
At El Yunque there 50 species of birds, 11 species of bats, 8 species of lizards, and 13 species of coquí (a tree frog). Also found here are several species of shrimp and fish. Snakes are rare. The Puerto Rican Boa, which can reach a length of 90 inches, can be found. El Yunque is a small rain forest and there are no large primates such as gorillas or monkeys. There are no wild pigs or alligators.
Tropical rain forests provides us with beautiful woods such as mahogany, teak, and rosewood. At El Yunque, majestic tabonuco trees drape the lower forest while giant tree ferns fan in the wind. Rain forests are also important for the environment by taking large amounts of carbon dioxide out of the air and giving us fresher cleaner air.
El Yunque Tropical Rain Forest is in danger of being destroyed. Too many trees have been cut. Civilization is getting too close to the forest. When the forest disappears the animals that live there will also disappear.
Forest floor photo to the left.
This site is brought to you by: EL BORICUA
Collaborating Illustrator: Jorge Luis Rodríguez; Bronx, NY