Land Biomes: Tropical Rainforests

Rainforest
Aerial view of the rainforest in the State of Sarawak - Borneo Island, Malaysia.

DEA / S. BOUSTANI / De Agostini Picture Library / Getty Images

Biomes

Biomes are the world's major habitats. These habitats are identified by the vegetation and animals that populate them. The location of each land biome is determined by the regional climate.

Tropical Rain Forests

Tropical rainforests are characterized by dense vegetation, seasonally warm temperatures, and abundant rainfall. The animals that dwell here depend on trees for housing and food.

Key Takeaways

  • Tropical rainforests have a number of distinguishing characteristics. They are hot and wet and have very dense vegetation.
  • Tropical rain forests can average between half a foot to two and a half feet of precipitation in a year.
  • Tropical rain forests are most often located near the Earth’s equator.
  • Plant diversity in tropical rain forests is very important. Some examples of plants found in the rainforest include: banana trees, ferns, and palm trees.
  • Most of the Earth’s plant and animal species live in tropical rain forests.

Climate

Tropical rain forests are very hot and wet. They can average between 6 and 30 feet of precipitation per year. The average temperature is fairly constant ranging from about 77 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit.

Location

Tropical rain forests are typically located in areas of the world that are near the equator. Locations include:

  • Africa - Zaire basin and Madagascar
  • Central America - Amazon River Basin
  • Hawaii
  • West India
  • Southeast Asia
  • Australia

Vegetation

Rainforest
Treetops of Dense Tropical Rainforest With Morning Fog Located Near The Malaysia-Kalimantan Border. Ramdan_Nain / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A great variety of plants can be found in tropical rain forests. Some examples of rainforest plants include: kapok trees, palm trees, strangler fig trees, banana trees, orange trees, ferns, and orchids.

There are three primary layers in the tropical rain forest. The uppermost layer is called the canopy. It covers most of the forest. Enormous trees as tall as 150 feet tall form an umbrella canopy in this layer that blocks out most of the sunlight for plants in the lower layers.

The second or middle layer is called the understory. This level is primarily composed of smaller trees along with ferns and vines. Many of the plants that we have in our homes come from this level of the rainforest. Since the plants don't receive much sunlight or rainfall, they can adapt nicely to a home environment.

The lowermost layer is called the forest floor. It is covered with decomposing leaves and other forest detritus. This matter decomposes very rapidly in the hot, warm conditions and sends much needed nutrients back into the forest soil.

Wildlife

Red-Eyed Tree Frog
Red-Eyed Tree Frog in the Rainforest.  ABDESIGN / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Tropical rain forests are home to the majority of plant and animal species in the world. Wildlife in the tropical rain forest is very diverse. Animals include a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects. Examples are: monkeys, gorillas, jaguars, anteaters, lemurs, snakes, bats, frogs, butterflies, and ants. Rain forest creatures have characteristics such as bright colors, distinctive markings, and grasping appendages. These traits help the animals adapt to life in the rain forest.

There are distinct animals in each of the rainforest's three primary levels. The canopy layer is home to a number of bird species who are well adapted to living high up in the forest. Toucans and parrots are two such examples. Some monkey species, like the spider monkey, also live at this level.

The understory level is home to a number of small reptile, bird, and mammal species. Each species has adapted to the amount of sunlight and precipitation that this level receives. Examples of species living in this layer include the boa constrictor, various frogs, and some cat species like the jaguar.

The forest floor level is home to some of the larger animals in the rainforest like the rhinoceros. Many insects also live on this level. Various species of bacteria and fungi are especially prevalent since they help to decompose the forest detritus.

Biodiversity

The biodiversity of tropical rain forests is unparalleled. They retain some of the most diverse species on the planet. Many primitive and undiscovered species only exist in the rainforest. Rain forests are being destroyed rapidly to produce resources like timber and to create grazing land for animals. Deforestation is a problem as once species are lost, they are gone forever.

Sources

  • Reece, Jane B., and Neil A. Campbell. Campbell Biology. Benjamin Cummings, 2011.
  • Sen Nag, Oishimaya. "What Animals Live In The Tropical Rainforest." WorldAtlas, Dec. 16, 2019, worldatlas.com/articles/tropical-rainforest-animals.html.