Rainforests: Explore Its Diverse Animal Life, Fresh Water and More!

Rainforests contain tall trees in subtropical climates that produce lots of rain. Some rain forests receive nearly one inch of rain every day of the year. Rainforests are primarily found in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Central and South America. The Amazon rainforest in South America is currently the largest rainforest in the world. Rainforests thrive in the tropics, or near the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, which resides just outside the Earth's Equator. The sun produces a very strong amount annually, which keeps the climate consistently warm and stable without much interruption. Brazil, Congo, Peru, Indonesia, and Columbia have an abundance of tropical rainforests with other countries, such as Bolivia, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Malaysia, Venezuela, and Suriname as other ideal candidates for smaller rainforests.

Rainforest Characteristics

Rainforests have some unique characteristics about them. For instance, each rainforest lies in subtropical regions, produces at least 80 inches of rain annually, has a wide range of animals and plants available that create “symbiotic” relationships between them. A “symbiotic” relationship simply means that all species share a purpose that helps each other out in the long run. Each rainforest has a distinctive “canopy,” or different layers where each species live. Most plant and animal life that do not live on the forest floor reside in the leafy other-world known as the canopy. The canopy lies 100 feet off the rainforest floor, where overlapping branches and leaves from rainforest trees create an entirely different habitat. Scientists estimate that nearly 60 to 90 percent of all wildlife in the rainforest live in the canopy. Many of the animals that live in the canopy include: monkeys, birds, snakes, small cats, lizards, sloths, and frogs. The canopy produces a drier and hotter climate than other parts of the rainforest. Many of the animals have adapted to harsh conditions within the canopy. Some canopy animals have managed the ability to fly, glide, and jump between treetops.

Rainforest Layers

The emergents are the tallest layer of trees in the rainforest, and they reach as high as 200 feet above the rainforest floor. Each of the emergents tree trunks measure about 16 feet in circumference. The emergents are evergreens with large leaves. Monkeys, eagles, butterflies, and bats are just some of the animals that live on this layer of the rainforest. The Canopy layer is the primary layer of the rainforest and it produces a sort of "roof" for the layers beneath. There are many different animal forms here such as toucans, snakes and frogs. The understory, which is below the canopy, receives very little sunlight, but not is completely dark and humid like the forest floor. Not many plants grow above 12 feet on the understory level of the rainforest. Many of the animals include: jaguars, tree frogs, and leopards. Insects thrive in the understory level of the rainforest.
The rainforest floor produces a dark and humid habitat for the plant and animal life that cohabited there. The constant shade comes as a result of the hovering canopy hundreds of feet above the ground. The rainforest floor is an important aspect of its ecosystem. For instance, the forest floor allows fungi and other microorganisms to decompose plant foliage and dead carcasses to recycle nutrients and other materials back into its ecosystem. The largest of the rainforest animals live on the forest floor, including elephants, jaguars, tigers, and tapirs. Rainforests also have some of the largest rivers in the world due to the significant amount of rainfall received annually. Some of these rivers include the Amazon, Orinoco, Congo, and Mekong. Other smaller streams, creeks, and tributaries are linked to these huge rivers that contribute to their massive flow. For instance, the Amazon has 1,100 tributaries alone. These rivers also contain some of the most wondrous species on planet Earth.

Rainforest Organisms

Rainforest contains more than 50 percent of all living organisms on Earth, despite only covering less than 2 percent of the planet's surface. For instance, rainforests house more than 170,000 of the world's known plant species. Madagascar has about 500 species of frogs. An expanse of less than two football fields may also have more than 400 species of trees. Manu National Park has over 1,300 species of butterflies. Rainforests produce an abundance of plant and animal species because of their warm climate and sunlight exposure, which initiates a process known as photosynthesis. Additionally, the canopy provides ample places for plants and animals to live. It produces food sources, shelter, and hiding places that provide a predator and prey interaction that aids in the natural balance of the rainforest ecosystem. Many of the species within the rainforest, particularly insects and fungi, have not been discovered by modern-day scientists. New species of mammals, frogs, reptiles and birds are discovered in rainforests annually.
Rainforests provide a natural habitat for various mammals, including lemurs, elephants, tigers, jaguars, leopards, monkeys, apes, bats and rodents. Most of the mammals that live in the rainforest are small and nocturnal. Additionally, rainforests house many kinds of birds, including hornbills, toucans, raptors, hawks, vultures, and eagles. Some birds migrate during the winter and return to cooler areas during the spring and summer months. Reptiles and amphibians, such as frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians, are found in all areas of the rainforest, including the canopy. Many of these species are threatened by habitat loss, environmental change, pet trade, and a rare disease that has killed over 170 species of frog in the last 30 years. The rainforest waters contain mainly unidentified freshwater species. Some of the common freshwater fish, such as the angelfish, discus, neon tetras, and catfish are from rainforests located in South America. Other exotic fish species, such as the Beta fish, danios, and gouramis are from Asia.

Native Rainforest People

Rainforests house tribal people who rely on the ecosystem to produce food, shelter, and medicine. Not many primitive tribes exist today due to outside settlers and government expulsion of the natives living in the natural habitat. Currently, the Amazon holds the largest native populations out of all the natural rainforests in existence today; however, even these tribal people have been affected by the modern world. Most of these people still depend on hunting and gathering; however, most have learned to grow crops and use pots, pans, and utensils. Some even bring food from the local market. The native dwellers still depend on the natural remedies of the forest for medicinal purposes.

Rainforests and the Environment

Rainforests play an important role in stabilizing the world's climate by absorbing the excess carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from other parts of the world. Human consumption in the Western world have contributed to the current climate change crisis. Due to deforestation, the planet could see more cataclysmic events if we continue to ravage the natural ecosystem set in place by the Mother Nature. Deforestation aids in the destruction of that ecosystem, and contributes to climate change by emitting stored carbon into the atmosphere by burning debris. Rainforests also help mitigate rising local temperatures and precipitation.

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