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Rainforests are the Earth‘s oldest living habitats, with some having existed for at least 70 million years. They are highly varied and complex, containing more than half of the world’s plant and animal species yet covering just 6% of the Earth’s surface. It makes rainforests astonishingly rich in flora and fauna; a 10-square-kilometer (4-square-mile) area can include up to 1,500 blooming plants, 750 tree species, 400 bird species, and 150 butterfly species.
See the fact file below for more information on the rainforests or alternatively, you can download our 26-page Rainforests worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- A closed and constant tree canopy, high humidity, moisture-dependent plants, a wet layer of leaf litter, epiphytes and lianas, and the lack of wildfire define rainforests.
- Although tropical and temperate rainforests cover most land, other vegetation associations such as subtropical, littoral, cloud, vine scrub, and even dry rainforest have been documented.
- Tropical rainforests have been dubbed the “treasures of the Earth” and the “world’s greatest pharmacy” because they have yielded nearly one-quarter of all-natural medications. Rainforests and indigenous rainforest species quickly vanish due to deforestation, habitat loss, and atmospheric pollution.
- Tropical rainforests have a warm and moist environment with no significant dry season; they are often situated 10 degrees north and south of the equator. Throughout the year, average monthly temperatures surpass 18 °C (64 °F).
- The average annual rainfall is 168 cm (66 in) and can surpass 1,000 cm (390 in), however, it is usually between 175 cm (69 in) and 200 cm (79 in).
- The position of the monsoon trough, also known as the intertropical convergence zone, is related to many of the world’s tropical forests. The wider groups of tropical wet forests are found between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn in the equatorial zone.
- Tropical rainforests can be found in Southeast Asia (from Myanmar (Burma) to the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Sri Lanka), as well as Sub-Saharan Africa (from 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 Pacific Islands (
- South America’s Amazon rainforest is the world’s biggest tropical rainforest. It dwells around 40,000 plant species, roughly 1,300 bird species, 3,000 different types of fish, 427 animal species, and 2.5 million insects.
- Although rainforests have been dubbed the “Earth’s lungs,” it is now known that they generate very little net oxygen in addition to the atmosphere via photosynthesis.
- Temperate rainforests are found in the mid-latitudes, where temperatures are significantly lower than in the tropics. Temperate rainforests are mainly found in coastal and hilly regions, and these geographical characteristics contribute to forming heavy rainfall zones.
- Temperate rainforests can be found in North America, Chile, the United Kingdom, Norway, Japan, New Zealand, and southern Australia along the Pacific Northwest coast.
- Temperate rainforests, as the name indicates, are significantly colder than tropical rainforests, averaging between 10° and 21°C (50° and 70°F). They are also substantially less bright and wet, with annual rainfall ranging from 150 to 500 millimeters (60 to 200 inches). Warm, moist air from the coast is trapped by adjacent mountains, causing rain to fall in these woods.
- Temperate rainforests are not as varied biologically as tropical rainforests. However, they support enormous biological production, stockpiling 500-2000 metric tons of leaves, wood, and other organic compounds per hectare (202-809metric tons per acre).
- Cooler temperatures and a more stable climate inhibit breakdown, allowing for more material accumulation. The biomass (living or once-living material) produced by old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest, for example, is three times that of tropical rainforests.
- Because of this productivity, many plant species can thrive for extraordinarily extended periods. Temperate rainforest trees, such as the coastal redwood in California and the alerce in Chile, are among the world’s oldest and most prominent tree species.
- Dry rainforests have an open canopy layer and are prevalent in locations with lesser rainfall (630-1,100 mm (25-43 in)). There are usually two layers of trees.
- A tropical rainforest often has several strata, each with unique flora and animals adapted to living in that environment. Examples are the emergent canopy, understory, and forest floor layers.
- The emergent layer is the rainforest’s topmost layer; trees dominate the skyline up to 60 meters (200 feet) tall. The foliage on tree trunks is sometimes sparse, but it spreads widely when the trees reach the sunlit top layer, where they photosynthesize the sun’s rays. During protracted droughts or dry seasons, little, waxy leaves aid trees in the emergent layer to hold water.
- Animals frequently fly or glide across the emergent layer’s fragile upper branches. Animals that cannot fly or swim are generally relatively tiny because they must be light sufficient to be sustained by the narrow highest levels of a tree.
- Birds, bats, gliders, and butterflies are among the species that live in the Amazon rainforest’s emergent layer. Its primary predators are large raptors like white-tailed hawks and harpy eagles.
- Pygmy gliders occupy the emergent layer of rainforests on the island of New Guinea. Pygmy gliders are little rodents named for how skin flaps between their legs, enabling them to glide from branch to branch. Bats are the most diversified animal species in tropical rainforests and frequently fly across the emergent canopy and understory levels.
- The Madagascan flying fox, one of the world’s most notable species of bat (found on the African island of Madagascar), is a significant pollinator that primarily feeds on fruit juice but may chew flowers for nectar.
- The canopy is a deep layer of plants about 6 meters (20 feet) thick that lies beneath the emergent layer. The vast network of leaves and branches of the canopy acts as a roof over the two remaining levels.
- Winds, rains, and sunshine are blocked by the canopy, resulting in a damp, quiet, and gloomy environment below. Trees have adapted to the wet conditions by creating glossy leaves with sharp points that repel water.
- While trees in the emergent layer depend on wind to disperse their seeds, most canopy plants encapsulate their seeds in fruit when there is no wind. Sweet fruit attracts animals, who devour it and deposit the seeds as droppings on the forest floor. The fig tree is the most recognized fruit tree in the canopy, which grows in most of the world’s tropical rainforests.
- With so much food available, the canopy supports more creatures than any other stratum in the jungle because of the thick foliage muffles sound, many—but not all—canopy inhabitants are distinguished by their harsh or frequent vocalization.
- Canopy fruit is grabbed by shrieking scarlet macaws and keel-billed toucans and plucked by barking spiders and howler monkeys in the Amazon jungle. The two-toed sloth nibbles on the canopy’s leaves, shoots, and fruit.
- Thousands of insect species may also be found in the canopy, ranging from bees to beetles, borers to butterflies. Numerous insects are the primary food source for the canopy’s reptiles, notably Southeast Asia’s “flying” Draco lizards.
- The understory, also known as the understory layer, is found between the canopy and the forest floor. It is home to many birds, snakes, reptiles, and predators, including jaguars, boa constrictors, and leopards.
- The leaves are significantly more significant at this level, and insect life is profuse. The understory has many seedlings that will grow to the canopy level. The understory receives just approximately 5% of the sunshine that falls on the rainforest canopy.
- This layer is known as the shrub layer, although it may alternatively be considered a distinct layer.
- Approximately 2% of the sunlight reaches the forest floor, the lowest layer. Only plants acclimated to low light can thrive in this environment. Because of limited sunlight penetration, the forest floor is generally clean of plants apart from riverbanks, bogs, and clearings, where thick undergrowth is prevalent.
- It also contains rotting plant and animal materials, which vanish swiftly because of the warm, humid circumstances. Many fungi that develop here aid in decomposing animal and plant waste.
- FUNAI also claimed on January 18, 2007, that it had confirmed the presence of 67 separate indigenous tribes in Brazil, up from 40 in 2005. With this admission, Brazil has surpassed the island of New Guinea as the country with the most uncontacted tribes.
- On the island of New Guinea, the province of Irian Jaya, sometimes known as West Papua, is home to an estimated 44 uncontacted indigenous tribes.
- Deforestation is putting tribes at risk, particularly in Brazil. The Mbuti pygmies live in the Central African rainforest, one of the hunter-gatherer peoples in tropical rainforests. They are distinguished by their diminutive stature (below one and a half meters, or 59 inches, on average).
- In 1962, Colin Turnbull published The Forest People, a study of them. Pygmies from Southeast Asia are known as “Negritos,” among other things.
- In the Malaysian state of Sarawak’s jungles, there are several tribes. Sarawak is a component of Borneo, the world’s third-biggest island. Sarawak also has the Kayan, Kenyah, Kejaman, Kelabit, Punan Bah, Tanjong, Sekapan, and Lahanan tribes.
- They are collectively known as Dayaks or Orangulu, which means “people of the interior.” About half of Sarawak’s 1.5 million population are Dayaks. Anthropologists think that most Dayaks originated on the South-East Asian continent, and their myths back this up.
- Rainforests are vital to the sustainability of our world. Tropical rainforests cover roughly 1.2 billion hectares (3 billion acres) of land and are sometimes referred to be the Earth’s thermostat.
- Rainforests create around 20% of our oxygen and store a massive quantity of carbon dioxide, significantly lessening the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. Vast volumes of solar energy are absorbed, assisting in regulating global temperatures. These mechanisms, when combined, contribute to stabilizing the Earth’s climate.
- Rainforests also contribute to the global water cycle. Evapotranspiration returns more than half of the precipitation that falls on rainforests to the sky, assisting in the regulation of healthy rainfall across the world. Rainforests also store a significant portion of the world’s freshwater, with the Amazon Basin alone holding one-fifth of the world’s freshwater.
- Tropical rainforests supply both timber and animal goods like meat and skins. Rainforests have value as tourist sites and for the ecosystem services they offer.
- Many foods originated in tropical forests and are primarily farmed on plantations in former main forest areas.
- Plant-derived medications are also widely used to treat fever, fungal infections, burns, gastrointestinal issues, pain, respiratory issues, and wounds.
- At the same time, non-native peoples typically do not use rainforests responsibly but exploit or eliminate them for agricultural interests.
- Rainforests are rapidly vanishing due to human growth during the last few centuries. Rainforests once covered 14% of Earth’s land surface but currently account for about 6%. Since 1947, the entire area of tropical rainforests has likely decreased by more than half to around 6.2 to 7.8 million square kilometers (3 million square miles).
- According to many biologists, rainforests will lose 5-10% of their species per decade. Rapid deforestation might result in the extinction of many significant rainforest ecosystems within the next century.
- The fact that 40 hectares (100 acres) of rainforest are being removed every minute for agricultural and industrial expansion is causing such short habitat loss. Logging businesses chop down trees for timber in the Pacific Northwest’s rainforests, while paper mills utilize the wood for pulp. Large-scale agricultural companies, such as cattle ranching, destroy vast swaths of Amazon rainforest for arable land.
- Roads and infrastructural facilities in the Congo rainforest have diminished habitat and cut off migratory pathways for many rainforest species. Mining and logging activities clear-cut forests in the Amazon and the Congo to develop roads and mines. Massive hydroelectric power projects flood acres of land and threaten rainforests.
- Economic imbalances contribute to rapid deforestation. Many rainforests are found in emerging nations with resource-based economies.
- Wealthy countries stimulate product demand, whereas economic expansion raises energy use. These requirements incentivize local governments to acquire rainforest land at a fraction of its worth.
- Individuals who live in or near impoverished areas are also driven to improve their lives by turning forests into subsistence agriculture.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about rainforests across 26 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Rainforests worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Rainforests, which are the oldest living ecosystems on Earth composed of dense forests and tall trees usually located near the equator. This biome covers about 2% to 6% of the Earth’s land surface, yet half of the animal and plant species alive today live in this habitat.
Complete List of Included Worksheets
- Rainforest Facts
- Inside the Rainforest
- Plants Making Food
- Save the Rainforest
- Word Power
- Flowering Rainforest
- Rainforest Strata
- Mapping Rainforests
- Threats and Treats
- Traditional or Modern?
- Environmental Issues
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a rainforest?
A closed and constant tree canopy, high humidity, moisture-dependent plants, a wet layer of leaf litter, epiphytes and lianas, and the lack of wildfire define rainforests.
Why are rainforests called the “jewels of the Earth” and the “world’s largest pharmacy”?
Tropical rainforests have been dubbed the “treasures of the Earth” and the “world’s greatest pharmacy” because they have yielded nearly one-quarter of all-natural medications. Rainforests and indigenous rainforest species quickly vanish due to deforestation, habitat loss, and atmospheric pollution.
What is the largest tropical rainforest in the world?
South America’s Amazon rainforest is the world’s biggest tropical rainforest. It dwells around 40,000 plant species, roughly 1,300 bird species, 3,000 different types of fish, 427 animal species, and 2.5 million insects.
What can be found on the forest floor layer of rainforests?
Only plants acclimated to low light can thrive in this environment. Because of the limited sunlight penetration, the forest floor is generally clean of plants apart from riverbanks, bogs, and clearings, where thick undergrowth is prevalent. It also contains rotting plant and animal materials, which vanish swiftly because of the warm, humid circumstances. Many fungi that develop here aid in decomposing animal and plant waste.
What is the biggest threat to the rainforests?
According to many biologists, rainforests will lose 5-10% of their species per decade. Rapid deforestation might result in the extinction of many significant rainforest ecosystems within the next century.
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