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Rainforest Sahara Sahel Ethiopia Rainforest Great Lakes Great Lakes Savanna Swahili Southern Africa

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rainforest: eco info: vegetation
With an estimated 8,000 plant species, this region ranks second in vegetation variety only to South Africa's legendary Cape floral kingdom. Scientists have identified just 10 percent of the plants living in the Congo rainforests. Rainforest inhabitants profit from this wealth: bark can be used for cloth or rope; leaves for dinner plates or roofs.

OIL PALM (Elaeis guineensis):

A native of West and Central Africa, the oil palm accounts for roughly 14 percent of all the world's plant oils. In the last century, oil palm plantations devoured huge tracts of rainforest. The palm is used for making goods ranging from iron plates and lubricating grease to chocolate, candles and soap. The first oil palm plantations were developed in Ghana in 1850. Thanks to biotechnology and the use of the West African weevil-beetle for pollination, Malaysia and Indonesia have since wrested domination of the world palm oil market away from West Africa.

MAHOGANY (Khaya senegalensis and anthotheca):

Mahogany is one of the most commercially popular woods from the African rainforest. Its texture is not as refined as American mahogany, but it is a highly valued wood for furniture, staircases, boat building and house paneling and flooring. Its coarser grain makes it resistant to termites. Rainforest tribes use mahogany bark to treat colds; oil from its seed can also be used to kill insects.

OKOUMÈ (Aucoumea klaineana):

Found only in Central Africa, okoumÈ accounts for 90 percent of the trees logged in Gabon's rainforests, primarily for markets in Italy, France, Japan and Israel. It produces a high-grade, lightweight wood that is used for veneer, plywood and sawn timber. Experts are divided on whether its exploitation is harming Gabon's rainforests: some believe that regeneration assures sustainable logging, but others argue that such a high rate of logging, concentrated on one species, will eventually destroy the okoumÈ in its natural habitat.

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