New Internationalist

Natural Magic

May 1991

new internationalist
issue 219 - May 1991

The soil of the Amazon rainforest is
almost totally sterile. The forest only flourishes
because it has devised a survival system of its own.
This is how it works.

Illustration: JACKIE MORRIS

1. Rain falls in the forest.
2. The forest absorbs half the water...and sweats it back into the atmosphere.
3. The other half runs off into the rivers and down to the Atlantic Ocean where clouds form and return to the forest.
1. Shallow roots collect nutrients from water and forest litter.
2. Creepers and orchids take nutrients from rain and trap growth-inducing nitrogen on their leaves.
3. Special natural chemicals help leaves cope with difficult conditions and prolong life. Leaves fall as litter to the forest floor.
1. Forest giants die and fall, clearing the forest around them for new plants.
2. Fast-growing, light-loving plants grow first.
3. Animals arrive and excrete seeds new to the area.
4. Longer living trees and future giants dominate again.

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This article was originally published in issue 219

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