The tropical rainforests of the world are located in the green areas on the map above. The tropical rainforest is the richest source of life on earth. It is a treasure chest of plant and animal life. What is a tropical rain forest? Where are they located? Why are they so important? You will learn the answers to these and many more exciting questions here.
The seasons do not change in the tropical rain forest. It has been hot and wet for millions of years. The average temperature year-round is about 80 degrees. The tropical rain forest is the wettest place on earth. It rains every day. In one year it may rain about 100 to 400 inches. This means that 9 to 30 feet of rain may fall each year.
The heat and moisture in the rainforest cause plants and animals to rot quickly once they have died. This is called decay. When things decay, all the rich nutrients are recycled back into the soil to feed the roots of other plants.
Rain forests even recycle their rain! As water evaporates from the forest back into the air, it forms clouds above the canopy. Later, the clouds will rain once again over the forest.
Scientists think destroying rainforests makes our earth warmer. This is called the Greenhouse Effect and is not good. Without rainforests, we will have less rain. This will harm the trees and plants that help to keep the air we breathe clean. Our earth could become very dry and barren, like a desert.
The tropical rain forest is the richest source of plant life on earth. There are so many different kinds of plants there, scientists don't even know them all yet. It is a perfect place for growing plants. The average temperature is 70 to 90 degrees and there is plenty of water.
Here are some facts about a few kinds of plants you will find in the rain forest.
Trees - Some canopy trees grow to 120 feet. The leaves are so big they can be used for an umbrella! The leaves are thick and waxy, and have "drip tips" so that water can drain off. Fruit trees provide food for many rainforest animals and people.
Air Plants - Thousands of flowering plants grow on the trees. Their roots are not planted in soil, but take their food from air and water all around. Insects and even small animals live in and on these air plants. They have beautiful flowers and fruit, to provide food for forest dwellers. Butterflies, hummingbirds and bees drink the nectar from the flowers.
Bromeliads - The bromeliad is a kind of tropical plant with leaves like a pineapple. It collects water in its' center. This water forms a small pool for frogs, lizards, and insects to live in.
There are many kinds of vines and ferns which connect the layers of the rain forest. Mushrooms and herbs grow on the florest floor. People can learn to gather fruits and nuts for food, as well as plants for medicine, without harming the rain forest. Rain forest people have done this for thousands of years.
Here are some plants you may know. They first came from the rain forest!
Billions of animals, birds, and insects live in the tropical rainforest. Why do living things love to live in this environment? It is because they can find all the food they need to live. They can also find the kind of habitat they need to make a safe home and raise their young.
Here are a few animals and insects from the tropical rainforest.
Bird of Paradise
Animals and insects live in all the layers of the rainforest. Some prefer the emergent layer, some the canopy. Others thrive in the understory, or the forest floor.
There are many different types of rain forests. They can grow on mountains, seacoasts, plains, or in river valleys. How are they different from each other? One difference is how much rain falls in a year. Another is the average temperature. The plants and animals which live in each type of rain forest can be different too.
You will learn about the tropical rainforest on this page. In the tropical rainforest, there are more kinds of plants, animals, birds, and insects than anywhere else on earth. In fact, there are millions of different kinds!
Why are they called tropical rain forests?
Tropical means close to the equator. The equator is an imaginary belt which circles the earth and divides it into two halves. Near the equator, the sun shines directly on the earth. The areas directly above and below the equator are called the tropics and are always warm and humid, much like summertime.
Most tropical rain forests are located on the continents of Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia.
The largest tropical rain forest in the world is the Amazon Rain Forest in South America. The world's largest river, the Amazon, flows through it. Much of this rain forest is in the country of Brazil.
The Layers of the Rainforest
The rain forest is divided into four main layers. Different kinds of trees, flowers, and other plants grow in each layer. These layers are called the emergent layer, the canopy, the understory, and the forest floor.
Emergent Layer - The Top Layer
These huge trees rise above all other trees in the forest and grow to 150 ft. tall. They receive the most sunlight.
Canopy - The Next Layer
A canopy (or cover) of very tall trees is the next layer of the rain forest. The treetops, or crowns, grow very close together and form a lush green garden in the air. The canopy is rich with plants, animals and insects. Many beautiful birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, and flowering plants live here. Monkeys, bats, reptiles, and other animals swing, swoop, and climb through the canopy.
Understory - The Middle Layer
Smaller trees, bushes, and plants such as ferns, live in the understory. Not much sunlight reaches here, because the canopy blocks the sun. Still, many birds and animals make their home in the understory. Forest wildcats, such as the leopard, are excellent tree climbers. They will chase monkeys and squirrels through the understory for food.
Forest Floor - The Bottom Layer
Few plants grow on the forest floor because almost no sunlight reaches here. But the leaves and plants which drop from the upper layers provide food and shelter for animals and insects who live on the forest floor. Mice, frogs, snakes and insects look for food. Larger animals, such as wild boar and deer, also make the forest floor their home.
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