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Conserving Our Forests

Tropical forests are as much shaped by their vegetation as by their climate, so removing the vegetation to grow crops or mine for minerals often changes the forest forever: The plants, which contain most of the nutrients, are removed or burned, and the shallow, nutrient-poor soils are easily eroded. Without the daily transpiration of millions of gallons of water by the original plants of the forest, the area becomes more arid. In some cases, after only a decade the land is no longer useful for agriculture (having lost its topsoil and fertility), and it reverts to a weedy tropical scrub. Much of the land in the tropics consists of these human-degraded landscapes.

In the canopy overlook above the rainforest, dioramas portray the habitats of California and the tropics, and the human impacts on these environments. Beyond the exhibits is a view of the rainforest at canopy level from which the intricate and connected nature of the natural world can be observed.