What is a rainforest?


Rainforests are very dense, warm, wet forests. They are havens for millions of plants and animals.

The Importance of Rainforests

Tropical rainforests cover about 7% of the surface of the Earth and are VERY important to the Earth's ecosystem. Rainforests are extremely important in the ecology of the Earth. The plants of the rainforest generate much of the Earth's oxygen.  Rainforests affect the greenhouse effect, which traps heat inside the Earth's atmosphere.  These plants are also very important to people in other ways; many are used in new drugs that fight disease and illness.

Zones  of the Rainforest

Different animals and plants live in different parts of the rainforest. Scientists have divided the rainforest into zones based on the living environment. These zones are broken into four sections: 
Emergents: Giant trees that are much higher than the average canopy height. It houses many birds and insects.
Canopy: The upper parts of the trees. This leafy environment is full of life in a tropical rainforest and includes: insects, birds, reptiles, mammals, and more.
Understory: A dark, cool environment under the leaves but over the ground.
Forest Floor: Teeming with animal life, especially insects. The largest animals in the rainforest generally live here.

Animals of the Rainforests

An incredible number of animals live in rainforests. Millions of insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals call them home. Insects are the most numerous animals in rainforests. Tropical rainforests have a greater diversity of plants and animals than temperate rainforests or any other biome.

In temperate rainforests, most of the animals are ground dwellers and there are fewer animals living in the forest canopy.

Where are Rainforests?

Tropical rainforests are found in a belt around the equator of the Earth. There are tropical rainforests across South America, Central America, Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia (and nearby islands).

Temperate rainforests are found along the Pacific coast of the USA and Canada (from northern California to Alaska), in New Zealand, Tasmania, Chile, Ireland, Scotland and Norway. They are less abundant than tropical rainforests.
Rainforests in Australia
Queensland’s tropical rainforest grows in patches in coastal areas north of Mackay and in Cape York Peninsula.  The wet tropical rainforests between Townsville and Cooktown are Australia's richest forests.   More than half of all the earths species of plants and animals live inside tropical rainforests and more than 200 animal species live here in Australia.

Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest extends from Townsville to Cooktown on the north-east coast of Queensland and covers almost 900,000 hectares.  The Daintree is a Wet Tropics World Heritage listed area.  Average rainfall in this area is around four meters a year!

In the Daintree Rainforest you will find an enormous range of plants and animals including tree kangaroos, flying foxes, cassowaries, dragon lizards, salt water crocodiles, tree frogs, Giant Bird-wing Butterflies and a countless species of trees, ferns and fungi. There are over 455 bird species alone including the Great Billed Heron, Black Bittern and Little Kingfisher.

The Amazon

The Amazon jungle is the world's largest tropical rainforest. The forest covers the basin of the Amazon River, the world's second longest river. The Amazon is home to the greatest variety of plants and animals on Earth.  A fifth of all the world's plants and birds and about a tenth of all mammal species are found there. One of the most unusual animals found here is the Three-toed sloth. It’s famous for being the least active mammals on earth, spending nearly 80 percent of its life resting. When it moves, the sloth moves at an extraordinarily slow pace of approximately 160 metres per hour.

Rainforests in danger

Rainforests used to cover 14% of the Earth's land. Now they cover less than 6%. Most of the rainforests have been destroyed in the last 50 years. In fact, rainforests are disappearing at a frightening speed, 150 acres per minute or 75 million acres per year!

The biggest threat to the rainforest is the human. From deforestation for timber and development to pollution, the world's rainforests are in danger.

Many of the forest animal species live only inside the forests, so the survival of millions of unique creatures depends on how well we look after our remaining rainforests.

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