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Simulated Rain Forest Not Needed Anywhere in Iowa

Scot Christiansen

The Gazette

December 8, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

    I encourage everybody involved to stop and reconsider whether the ‘‘rain forest’’ project is worth the effort, for Coralville, Dubuque, or anyplace else in Iowa.

    How will anybody dig up rain forest trees (200 or more feet tall), transport them to Iowa, and plant them? How many will survive?

    Ted Townsend has told me that they would actually use ‘‘simulated trees’’ — made of concrete and plastic and cleverly designed to look just like the real thing. One important feature of the tropics is that there is little seasonal variation in the length of days and nights. Will tropical plants and animals — that are exquisitely adapted to their tropical home — thrive when placed in a temperate environment where day and night lengths have wide seasonal variations?

    In many rain forest soils, nitrogen is extremely scarce. This feature dictates plant growth and many plant/animal relationships. Nitrogen rich Iowa soil grows corn, but not rain forests.

    Also, to carry out their natural life cycle, many creatures in rain forests need an area 10, or 100, or even 1,000 times the five-acre size of the proposed rain forest.

    There is no way a five-acre domed attraction in Iowa can function as a rain forest. It’s ecosystem will not be selfsustaining, nor will it support the complex relationships between plants and animals that characterize a rain forest. Poorly-informed people may think they’re paying for a rain forest, but it will be a simulated rain forest, like you’d see in a zoo or a museum — only bigger and more expensive.

Teaching students, residents, and visitors to appreciate the many beautiful and interesting natural features we already have in our state would be a far better investment.

We don’t need a rain forest.

Scot Christiansen