The Land of Giants and Miniatures

Rain  forest is one of my favorite ecosystems in the whole world. It is such a complex place. It has giants and miniatures living harmoniously in the same forest.

Rain forest is also a great place to be because it is so lively, even when it seems to be quiet. Millions of interactions and trillions of molecular processes are working. We have no clue! I have worked in the rain forests for many years, but I will be the first to tell you that I know just a little about it.

The fascination and reverence I hold for the rain forests can thankfully carry over to North America because there are so many types of rain forests around the world. The Americas are home to temperate rain forests.

Even here the grim reminder continues. All rain forests are endangered. My book, Endangered Rain Forest examines why and how the rain forest is under threat today.

Endangered rainforests-cover

This weekend, I was delighted to get an opportunity to briefly visit a temperate rain forest closer to my home. It is about 6 hours away. What a treat! It was hot and humid outside, but under the rain forest canopy of firs, everything was cool.

Here are some pictures from the temperate rain forest.


Can you guess what is in this picture?

Nope, not a writing on the cave.

This is the feeding frenzy of bark beetle larvae that might have ultimately caused the downfall of this giant tree.


This is a mossy tree trunk. Unlike tropical rain forests which have many species of orchids, climbers, vines, and liana, the temperate rain forests mostly have ferns and moss as their epiphytic community.


And the tenacity of the trees never fails to inspire me. They cling to every area they can find and reach out to the glorious light! A constant reminder that life is all about persistence.

The large stretch of the temperate forests, the Olympic National Park and Hoh rainforest are truly a wonder of the natural world.  In case you live far away from the Pacific Northwest, watch this wonderful video–


As wonderful as the rain forest in my backyard is, there are more special temperate rain forests around the world. Today, I give the example of the temperate rain forests from Chile and Argentina, called Valdivian rainforest region. This is the only temperate rain forest on South America. What interests me about this forest is the similarity in species between this forest and my study site in Western Ghats. After so many years, it is a thrill to encounter to see the species in a new situation. Even the location, has a reminder of the Western Ghats. See it for yourself!


South America mapWesern Ghats by scidev,net

The map of South America showing the temperate rain forests and the rain forests of Western Ghats, in India.

 The similarity ends here. This temperate rain forest is nothing like the rain forests of the Western Ghats. The Valdivian rain forest is a temperate rain forest, while the forests I know and worked are montane evergreen forests.

And the species of animals are also different. Here are some pictures of the beautiful creatures that live in the mountains. Do you know any of these animals?

Leopardus_guigna- Kodkod By Mauro TammoneImage courtesy: Makura Tammone

Kodkod (Leopardus guigna) weighs less than 5 lb (2.5 kg) and is the smallest wild cat in the Americas.


800px-Pudu_puda_02- Rodrigo FernandezImage courtesy: Rodrigo Fernandez

Southern Pudu (Pudu puda) grows to a maximum of 44 centimeters (17 inches) tall. This is the world’s smallest deer.

These animals are small, cute, and their homes are being cleared at a rapid rate. The character of the land is being changed by the browsing livestock such as cattle and sheep, cutting trees for logging for timber and harvest of trees for firewood market. This has led to fragmentation of the forest. Further destruction also happens due to the practice of setting the forest on fire. And the introduction of invasive species is also troubling.

We can still save the unique habitat which is home to many species. We can seek to earmark large areas for conservation. As always, asking ourselves again and again about the purpose of our comfort-needs and life-needs will contribute significantly to conservation efforts. Together, we can make a difference.

Here are two research articles regarding the Valdivian rain forest:

Overview of biodiversity loss in South America.

Old growth temperate rain forests in South America.

Have you visited the rain forest in your area? Tell me about it!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Beloo Mehra

    Wow! This was quite an informative post, Rani. Thanks for sharing this wonderful info. The pictures from the temperate rain forest you visited are great. Those marks from the feeding frenzy of the beetle larvae are unbelievable!

    1. Rani Iyer

      Thank you, Beloo! I was telling my son several stories I heard as a child that showed that all creatures were powerful. Being in nature constantly reminds us to stay in the space of curiosity and be open to receive the gifts of nature. Thank you!

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