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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rainforests are forests characterized by high rainfall, with annual rainfall in the case of tropical rainforests between 250 and 450 centimetres (98 and 177 in),[1] and definitions varying by region for temperate rainforests. The monsoon trough, alternatively known as the intertropical convergence zone, plays a significant role in creating the climatic conditions necessary for the Earth's tropical rainforests.

Around 40% to 75% of all biotic species are indigenous to the rainforests.[2] There may be many millions of species of plants, insects and microorganisms still undiscovered in tropical rainforests. Tropical rainforests have been called the "jewels of the Earth" and the "world's largest pharmacy", because over one quarter of natural medicines have been discovered there.[3] Rainforests are also responsible for 28% of the world's oxygen turnover, sometimes misnamed oxygen production,[4] processing it through photosynthesis from carbon dioxide and consuming it through respiration.

The undergrowth in some areas of a rainforest can be restricted by poor penetration of sunlight to ground level. If the leaf canopy is destroyed or thinned, the ground beneath is soon colonized by a dense, tangled growth of vines, shrubs and small trees, called a jungle. The term jungle is also sometimes applied to tropical rainforests generally.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • What’s Hiding Deep Within The Rainforest?
  • Animated Vocabulary Music Video "Rainforest"
  • Explore the Rainforest!
  • Rainforest Beneath the Canopy - YouTube
  • Rainforest Animals for Children – Jungle Animal Sounds and Rainforest Wildlife


As I sit here wrapped up in blankets by the fire, drinking hot cocoa, my mind wanders to warmer, greener places -- tropical lands with rainforests and oceans filled with incredible creatures. We’ve already talked about what’s lurking deep in the sea, but what’s hiding in the rainforest? Rainforests cover 6% of the planet and are home to animals like sloths, toucans and jaguars. You know about those but what about the others? 50% of the world’s species live in rainforests and there are some weird creatures out there. This is the Potoo bird. These Central and South American rainforest birds have huge mouths and bulging yellow eyes. Yes, they really look like this. How could something this attention grabbing survive in the rainforest? Oh, that’s how. These nocturnal birds seemingly transform themselves into tree stumps and branches during the day. They blend right in! Their predators, like monkeys and falcons, mistake the birds grey, brown and black feathers for tree bark and leave them alone. Ok, that little guy was cute, but some other creatures in the rainforest could haunt your worst nightmares. Meet the Candiru fish. This Amazonian fish may only be a few centimeters long but it can do some serious damage. This parasitic little sucker is known to prey on larger fish, forcing itself into their gills. Then, the Candiru’s spine opens like an umbrella, locking the fish inside, allowing it to feast on blood from the hosts arteries. Apparently, it doesn’t stop there. Legend says that these fish swim up the urethra of unsuspecting people bathing in the Amazon River. Once it’s up there... well, I think you get the idea. Yeesh! On to something less horrifying, the Rhinoceros Hornbill! This incredible bird is found mostly in Southeast Asian rainforests. That second-beak looking thing is actually hollow and used to attract mates. Rhinoceros hornbills are monogamous, so when they find a partner, they mate for life. After finding their sweetheart, the female lays her eggs in a big hole inside a tree. The two lovebirds then seal the mom and the eggs inside by covering the hole with a paste made of feces and fruit. Yuck. About 75 days later, the mom and chicks burst through the seal ready to explore the real world. Talk about an entrance. Last up are the decoy-building spiders in the Peruvian and Philippine rainforests. These tiny spiders can be smaller than your pinky nail but they’re capable of some pretty creepy stuff. They craft huge replicas of themselves in webs using leaves, dead insects and even their own skin. Then the real spider hides and shakes the webs to make it look like the decoy spider is moving when something comes along! It’s thought to be a defense mechanism used to scare away predators. The rainforest is filled with amazing living things but experts say we’re losing 137 species every day. You heard that right. The rainforests need our help, and humans need theirs too. The Amazon alone produces 20% of our oxygen and forests around the world absorb nearly 40% of the CO2 humans produce every year. Sooo, yeah. We better figure this out or we’re gonna have a lot more CO2 and a lot less oxygen and also a lot less fun animals like this little guy. I’m gonna name you Sqwako. What cool animals have you seen in the rainforest? Let us know in the comments.



 Worldwide tropical rainforest zones.
Worldwide tropical rainforest zones.

Tropical rainforests are characterized by a warm and wet climate with no substantial dry season: typically found within 10 degrees north and south of the equator. Mean monthly temperatures exceed 18 °C (64 °F) during all months of the year.[5] Average annual rainfall is no less than 168 cm (66 in) and can exceed 1,000 cm (390 in) although it typically lies between 175 cm (69 in) and 200 cm (79 in).[6]

Many of the world's tropical forests are associated with the location of the monsoon trough, also known as the intertropical convergence zone.[7] The broader category of tropical moist forests are located in the equatorial zone between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. Tropical rainforests exist in Southeast Asia (from Myanmar (Burma) to the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka; also in Sub-Saharan Africa from the Cameroon to the Congo (Congo Rainforest), South America (e.g. the Amazon rainforest), Central America (e.g. Bosawás, the southern Yucatán Peninsula-El Peten-Belize-Calakmul), Australia, and on Pacific Islands (such as Hawaiʻi). Tropical forests have been called the "Earth's lungs", although it is now known that rainforests contribute little net oxygen addition to the atmosphere through photosynthesis.[8][9]


 General distribution of temperate rainforests
General distribution of temperate rainforests

Tropical forests cover a large part of the globe, but temperate rainforests only occur in few regions around the world. Temperate rainforests are rainforests in temperate regions. They occur in North America (in the Pacific Northwest in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California), in Europe (parts of the British Isles such as the coastal areas of Ireland and Scotland, southern Norway, parts of the western Balkans along the Adriatic coast, as well as in Galicia and coastal areas of the eastern Black Sea, including Georgia and coastal Turkey), in East Asia (in southern China, Highlands of Taiwan, much of Japan and Korea, and on Sakhalin Island and the adjacent Russian Far East coast), in South America (southern Chile) and also in Australia and New Zealand.[10]


A tropical rainforest typically has a number of layers, each with different plants and animals adapted for life in that particular area. Examples include the emergent, canopy, understory and forest floor layers.

Emergent layer

The emergent layer contains a small number of very large trees called emergents, which grow above the general canopy, reaching heights of 45–55 m, although on occasion a few species will grow to 70–80 m tall.[11][12] They need to be able to withstand the hot temperatures and strong winds that occur above the canopy in some areas. Eagles, butterflies, bats and certain monkeys inhabit this layer.

Canopy layer

The canopy layer contains the majority of the largest trees, typically 30 metres (98 ft) to 45 metres (148 ft) tall. The densest areas of biodiversity are found in the forest canopy, a more or less continuous cover of foliage formed by adjacent treetops. The canopy, by some estimates, is home to 50 percent of all plant species. Epiphytic plants attach to trunks and branches, and obtain water and minerals from rain and debris that collects on the supporting plants. The fauna is similar to that found in the emergent layer, but more diverse. A quarter of all insect species are believed to exist in the rainforest canopy. Scientists have long suspected the richness of the canopy as a habitat, but have only recently developed practical methods of exploring it. As long ago as 1917, naturalist William Beebe declared that "another continent of life remains to be discovered, not upon the Earth, but one to two hundred feet above it, extending over thousands of square miles." True exploration of this habitat only began in the 1980s, when scientists developed methods to reach the canopy, such as firing ropes into the trees using crossbows. Exploration of the canopy is still in its infancy, but other methods include the use of balloons and airships to float above the highest branches and the building of cranes and walkways planted on the forest floor. The science of accessing tropical forest canopy using airships or similar aerial platforms is called dendronautics.[13]

Understory layer

The understory or understorey layer lies between the canopy and the forest floor. It is home to a number of birds, snakes and lizards, as well as predators such as jaguars, boa constrictors and leopards. The leaves are much larger at this level and insect life is abundant. Many seedlings that will grow to the canopy level are present in the understory. Only about 5% of the sunlight shining on the rainforest canopy reaches the understory. This layer can be called a shrub layer, although the shrub layer may also be considered a separate layer.

Forest floor

 Rainforest in the Blue Mountains, Australia
Rainforest in the Blue Mountains, Australia

The forest floor, the bottom-most layer, receives only 2% of the sunlight. Only plants adapted to low light can grow in this region. Away from riverbanks, swamps and clearings, where dense undergrowth is found, the forest floor is relatively clear of vegetation because of the low sunlight penetration. It also contains decaying plant and animal matter, which disappears quickly, because the warm, humid conditions promote rapid decay. Many forms of fungi growing here help decay the animal and plant waste.

Flora and fauna

 West Usambara Two-Horned Chameleon (Bradypodion fischeri) in the Usambara Mountains, Tanzania.
West Usambara Two-Horned Chameleon (Bradypodion fischeri) in the Usambara Mountains, Tanzania.

More than half of the world's species of plants and animals are found in the rainforest.[14] Rainforests support a very broad array of fauna, including mammals, reptiles, birds and invertebrates. Mammals may include primates, felids and other families. Reptiles include snakes, turtles, chameleons and other families; while birds include such families as vangidae and Cuculidae. Dozens of families of invertebrates are found in rainforests. Fungi are also very common in rainforest areas as they can feed on the decomposing remains of plants and animals. Many rainforest species are rapidly disappearing due to deforestation, habitat loss and pollution of the atmosphere.[15]


Despite the growth of vegetation in a tropical rainforest, soil quality is often quite poor. Rapid bacterial decay prevents the accumulation of humus. The concentration of iron and aluminium oxides by the laterization process gives the oxisols a bright red colour and sometimes produces mineral deposits such as bauxite. Most trees have roots near the surface, because there are insufficient nutrients below the surface; most of the trees' minerals come from the top layer of decomposing leaves and animals. On younger substrates, especially of volcanic origin, tropical soils may be quite fertile. If rainforest trees are cleared, rain can accumulate on the exposed soil surfaces, creating run-off and beginning a process of soil erosion. Eventually streams and rivers form and flooding becomes possible.

Effect on global climate

A natural rainforest emits and absorbs vast quantities of carbon dioxide. On a global scale, long-term fluxes are approximately in balance, so that an undisturbed rainforest would have a small net impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels,[16] though they may have other climatic effects (on cloud formation, for example, by recycling water vapour). No rainforest today can be considered to be undisturbed.[17] Human-induced deforestation plays a significant role in causing rainforests to release carbon dioxide,[18][19] as do other factors, whether human-induced or natural, which result in tree death, such as burning and drought.[20] Some climate models operating with interactive vegetation predict a large loss of Amazonian rainforest around 2050 due to drought, forest dieback and the subsequent release of more carbon dioxide.[21] Five million years from now, the Amazon rainforest may long since have dried and transformed itself into savannah, killing itself in the progress (changes such as this may happen even if all human deforestation activity ceases overnight).[22] The descendants of our known animals may adapt to the dry savannah of the former Amazonian rainforest and thrive in the new, warmer temperatures.[22]

Human uses

 Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, taken from a plane.
Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, taken from a plane.

Tropical rainforests provide timber as well as animal products such as meat and hides. Rainforests also have value as tourism destinations and for the ecosystem services provided. Many foods originally came from tropical forests, and are still mostly grown on plantations in regions that were formerly primary forest.[23] Also, plant-derived medicines are commonly used for fever, fungal infections, burns, gastrointestinal problems, pain, respiratory problems, and wound treatment.[24]

Native peoples

On January 18, 2007, FUNAI reported also that it had confirmed the presence of 67 different uncontacted tribes in Brazil, up from 40 in 2005. With this addition, Brazil has now overtaken the island of New Guinea as the country having the largest number of uncontacted tribes.[25] The province of Irian Jaya or West Papua in the island of New Guinea is home to an estimated 44 uncontacted tribal groups.[26] The tribes are in danger because of the deforestation, especially in Brazil.

Central African rainforest is home of the Mbuti pygmies, one of the hunter-gatherer peoples living in equatorial rainforests characterised by their short height (below one and a half metres, or 59 inches, on average). They were the subject of a study by Colin Turnbull, The Forest People, in 1962.[27] Pygmies who live in Southeast Asia are, amongst others, referred to as “Negrito”.


 Satellite photograph of the haze above Borneo and Sumatra on 24 September 2015.
Satellite photograph of the haze above Borneo and Sumatra on 24 September 2015.

Tropical and temperate rainforests have been subjected to heavy logging and agricultural clearance throughout the 20th century and the area covered by rainforests around the world is shrinking.[28] Biologists have estimated that large numbers of species are being driven to extinction (possibly more than 50,000 a year; at that rate, says E. O. Wilson of Harvard University, a quarter or more of all species on Earth could be exterminated within 50 years)[29] due to the removal of habitat with destruction of the rainforests.

Another factor causing the loss of rainforest is expanding urban areas. Littoral rainforest growing along coastal areas of eastern Australia is now rare due to ribbon development to accommodate the demand for seachange lifestyles.[30]

Forests are being destroyed at a rapid pace.[31][32][33] Almost 90% of West Africa's rainforest has been destroyed.[34] Since the arrival of humans, Madagascar has lost two thirds of its original rainforest.[35] At present rates, tropical rainforests in Indonesia would be logged out in 10 years and Papua New Guinea in 13 to 16 years.[36] According to Rainforest Rescue, an important reason for the increasing deforestation rate, especially in Indonesia, is the expansion of oil palm plantations to meet growing demand for cheap vegetable fats and biofuels. In Indonesia, palm oil is already cultivated on nine million hectares and, together with Malaysia, the island nation produces about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil.[37][unreliable source?]

Several countries,[38] notably Brazil, have declared their deforestation a national emergency.[39] Amazon deforestation jumped by 69% in 2008 compared to 2007's twelve months, according to official government data.[40]

However, a January 30, 2009 New York Times article stated, "By one estimate, for every acre of rain forest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in the tropics..." The new forest includes secondary forest on former farmland and so-called degraded forest.[41]

See also


  1. ^ The Tropical Rain Forest. Marietta College. Marietta, Ohio. Retrieved 14 August 2013,
  2. ^ " – Variables and Math". Archived from the original on 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  3. ^ "Rainforests at Animal Center". 2004-01-01. Archived from the original on 2012-07-08. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  4. ^ Killer Inhabitants of the Rainforests. "Killer Inhabitants of the Rainforests". Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  5. ^ Susan Woodward. Tropical broadleaf Evergreen Forest: The rainforest. Archived 2008-02-25 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2008-03-14.
  6. ^ Newman, Arnold. The Tropical Rainforest : A World Survey of Our Most Valuable Endangered Habitat : With a Blueprint for Its Survival. New York: Checkmark, 2002. Print.
  7. ^ Hobgood (2008). Global Pattern of Surface Pressure and Wind. Archived 2009-03-18 at the Wayback Machine. Ohio State University. Retrieved on 2009-03-08.
  8. ^ Broeker, Wallace S. (2006). "Breathing easy: Et tu, O2." Columbia University
  9. ^ Moran, E.F., "Deforestation and Land Use in the Brazilian Amazon," Human Ecology, Vol 21, No. 1, 1993"
  10. ^ "The Temperate Rainforest". 
  11. ^ Bourgeron, Patrick S. (1983). "Spatial Aspects of Vegetation Structure". In Frank B. Golley. Tropical Rain Forest Ecosystems. Structure and Function. Ecosystems of the World (14A ed.). Elsevier Scientific. pp. 29–47. ISBN 0-444-41986-1. 
  12. ^ "Sabah". Eastern Native Tree Society. Retrieved 2007-11-14. 
  13. ^ Dendronautics – Introduction Archived June 14, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ "Rainforest Facts". Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  15. ^ "Impact of Deforestation – Extinction". Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  16. ^ "" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  17. ^ Lewis, S.L., Phillips, O.L., Baker, T.R., Lloyd, J. et al. 2004 “Concerted changes in tropical forest structure and dynamics: evidence from 50 South American long-term plots” Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. 359
  18. ^ Malhi, Yadvinder; Grace, John (2000). "Tropical forests and atmospheric carbon dioxide". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 15 (8): 332–337. doi:10.1016/S0169-5347(00)01906-6. ISSN 0169-5347. 
  19. ^ Malhi, Yadvinder; Phillips, Oliver, eds. (2005). Tropical Forests and Global Atmospheric Change. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198567066.001.0001. ISBN 9780198567066. OCLC 77178196. 
  20. ^ "Drought may turn forests into carbon producers". The Age. Melbourne. 2004-03-06. 
  21. ^ Cox, P. M.; Betts, R. A.; Collins, M.; Harris, P. P.; Huntingford, C.; Jones, C. D. (2004). "Amazonian forest dieback under climate-carbon cycle projections for the 21st century" (PDF). Theoretical and Applied Climatology. 78: 137. Bibcode:2004ThApC..78..137C. doi:10.1007/s00704-004-0049-4. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 9, 2007. 
  22. ^ a b The Future is Wild television program
  23. ^ Myers, N. (1985). The primary source. W. W. Norton & Company, New York, pp. 189–193.
  24. ^ "Final Paper: The Medicinal Value of the Rainforest May 15, 2003. Amanda Haidet May 2003". Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  25. ^ "Brazil sees traces of more isolated Amazon tribes". 2007-01-17. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  26. ^ BBC: First contact with isolated tribes? Archived 2008-02-06 at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ The Tribal Peoples Archived 2012-10-20 at the Wayback Machine., ThinkQuest
  28. ^ Entire rainforests set to disappear in next decade, The Independent 5 July 2003
  29. ^ Talks Seek to Prevent Huge Loss of Species, New York Times 3 March 1992
  30. ^ "Littoral Rainforest-Why is it threatened?". 2012-08-09. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  31. ^ Thomas Marent: Out of the woods, The Independent 28 September 2006
  32. ^ Brazil: Amazon Forest Destruction Rate Has Tripled,, September 29, 2008
  33. ^ "Papua New Guinea's rainforests disappearing faster than thought". Retrieved 2012-08-26. [permanent dead link]
  34. ^ "Rainforests & Agriculture". Archived from the original on 2012-09-30. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  35. ^ "Science: Satellite monitors Madagascar's shrinking rainforest, 19 May 1990, New Scientist". 1990-05-19. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  36. ^ China is black hole of Asia's deforestation,, 24 March 2008
  37. ^ Rainforest Rescue: Facts about palm oil
  38. ^ Amazon deforestation rises sharply in 2007,, January 24, 2008
  39. ^ Vidal, John (20 May 2005). "Rainforest loss shocks Brazil". London. Retrieved 7 July 2010. 
  40. ^ Brazil: Amazon deforestation worsens,, August 30, 2008
  41. ^ New Jungles Prompt a Debate on Rain Forests, The New York Times, January 30, 2009

Further reading

 Part of the Illawarra Brush, in New South Wales, Australia.
Part of the Illawarra Brush, in New South Wales, Australia.

External links

This page was last edited on 17 January 2018, at 16:44.
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