What is a tropical rainforest? On this page we’ll find out what a tropical rainforest is and where the world’s tropical rainforests are found. We’ll also find out about the animals that live in rainforests, and why rainforests are so important.
What Is A Tropical Rainforest?
A rainforest is a forest that grows in an area with a high rainfall. Most rainforests receive over 2,000 mm (80 in.) of rain every year.
A tropical rainforest is a rainforest with a high rainfall that grows in a tropical region. Tropical regions – and therefore tropical rainforests – are found near the Equator, an imaginary line that circles the globe, dividing the northern and southern hemispheres.
Running parallel above and below the Equator are two more imaginary lines: the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn respectively. The world’s tropical regions are located within these two lines.
In tropical regions, the sun is directly overhead at least once during the year.
The diagram below shows the Equator and the Tropics.
- You can find our more about rainforests at our main Rainforest Facts Page.
Rainforests are home to a vast number of animals and plants – we’ll meet some of them further down the page – and are therefore extremely important to the world’s biodiversity.
They’re also home to indigenous tribes, with their own languages and cultures.
Tropical rainforests contain more species of plants and animals than any other habitat. If the world’s rainforests are destroyed, then many of these species will be lost along with them. As much as 50 percent of all the Earth’s species live in tropical rainforests.
- You can find out more about rainforest animals here: Rainforest Animals List
Tropical rainforests are also used for the production of food, medicine, and other products. Many rainforest products can be produced sustainably. However, commercial pressure often outweighs environmental concerns.
Deforestation occurs when forested areas are permanently converted for other uses – for example, farming or mining.
Sadly, despite the world’s forested area being a fraction of what it once was, deforestation still continues today.
- You can find out more about deforestation here: Deforestation Facts.
Types of Rainforest
There are several different types of tropical rainforest. The ‘typical’ tropical rainforest is known as a lowland tropical rainforest. Here the temperature is high, rain falls for much of the year, and the atmosphere is humid.
Montane rainforests are found at higher altitudes. They are cooler, and are often covered in mist. For this reason, they are often known as ‘cloud forests’. Trees in montane rain forests are often shorter than those in lowland rainforests.
Mangrove rainforests grow in coastal regions where the land is often continuously submerged in salty water. Flooded forests occur where the land is often flooded by freshwater, and monsoon forests have high seasonal rainfall interspersed with dry spells.
Not all rainforests are tropical rainforests. Rainforests do grow outside of the Tropics, in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres. The climate away from the tropics is generally cooler, and these forests are known as temperate rainforests.
An example of a temperate rainforest is the Pacific temperate rainforest, which is located on the west coast of the USA and Canada.
Where Are Tropical Rainforests Located?
Tropical rainforests follow the Equator around the world. The world’s most famous rain forests, including the Amazon Rainforest, are found in South America. Other well-known rainforests include Africa’s Congo rainforest, Australia’s Daintree Rainforest, and the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo.
- You can find out where the world’s rainforests are located here: Where Are Rainforests Located?
- Find out more about the world’s most famous rainforest here: Amazon Rainforest Facts.
What Is A Tropical Rainforest: Layers
Tropical rainforests typically have four layers. The highest layer is the emergent layer, which is the tops of the tallest trees. Around 150 ft. above the ground, the emergent layer is home to birds and insects.
The next layer down is the canopy. This is the continuous area formed by the branches and leaves of most of the rainforest’s trees. The canopy layer gets most of the sunlight, and is the forest’s most productive area. More rainforest plants and animals live in the canopy layer than anywhere else.
Below the canopy is the understory (or understorey). Here you will find shrubs, growing trees and vines. Only 2% of the sunlight reaches the understory.
The lowest layer of the rainforest is the forest floor. This is where the rainforest’s largest inhabitants are found, such as tapirs, jaguars and forest elephants.
- You can find out more about the layers of a tropical rainforest here: Rainforest Layers.
Animals That Live In Tropical Rainforests
Rainforests are extremely biodiverse habitats – which basically means that a large number of species live in them.
As you can see, tropical rainforests are home to many varied animal species, and we’re only just scratching the surface. No other habitat on Earth is home to as many different species.
- You’ll find an illustrated list that includes many of the most amazing rainforest animals here: Rainforest Animals.
Plants That Grow In Tropical Rainforests
Of course, it’s not just animals that live in tropical rainforests; an incredible number of plants, including the trees themselves, are found in the rainforest environment.
Epiphytes, plants that grow harmlessly on other plants, are often found in tropical rainforests.
Other rainforest plants are bromeliads. This is a family of plants that have stiff, spiked leaves which radiate out from a central point. The leaves channel rainwater into a pool at the center of the plant. This pool provides a habitat for animals such as frogs, whose tadpoles grow inside the plants.
- You can read more about rainforest plants here: Tropical Rainforest Plants List.
What Is a Tropical Rainforest: Conclusion
In this article we’ve found that a tropical rainforest is a rainforest that grows in a tropical region. Rainforests are forests that grow in areas with high rainfall, and there are several different types of rainforest, including montane rainforests and mangrove forests.
We’ve also learned about the animals and plants that live in a tropical rainforest. Of course, we’ve only scratched the surface: there are millions of animal and plant species found in the world’s rainforests. You can find out more about them on these pages:
- Learn more about the animals that live in tropical rainforests: Rainforest Animals List with Pictures and Facts
- Discover the plants that grow in tropical rainforests: Tropical Rainforest Plants List
- Find out more about rain forests – visit our main Rainforest Facts Page.
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