CONTENTS:This fact sheet will help you discover:
1.Why rainforests matter2.Where they are3.What makes a rainforest4.The amazing habitat – the trees, otherplants, animals, local and indigenouspeople5.Their contribution to the Earth’s climate –our weather and our way of life
1. Why do rainforests matter?
Tropical rainforests are of value because of their
amazing natural habitat
contribution to the Earth’s climate and theway we live.
Afew thousand years ago tropical rainforestscovered as much as 12% of the Earth’s landsurface today they cover less than 5%.They liebetween the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropicof Cancer. Over a third of all remaining tropicalrainforest is found in the Amazon basin in South America, 20% in Africa, chiefly in the Congobasin, 20% in Indonesia and the remainder splitinto smaller areas. In total,over 80tropicalcountries are considered rainforest-owningnations.
3.Whatmakes a rainforest?
Tropical rainforests have evolved over millionsof years into highly complex ecosystems. Thetrees, plant and animal life is incredibly diverseand the cultures of the indigenous and localpeople are unique.They arealso responsible for regulatingtemperature and weather patterns far beyondthe forest itself and they remove from theatmosphereand storehuge amounts of carbon.
4. The amazing natural habitat
Rainforests are home to:
other plants and animals
local and indigenous people
Rainforest trees can reach heights of over 60m(200 ft) high and therearefive distinct layers.
1. The emergent layer
This layer is at treetop height and describes theemerging, umbrella-like upper branches of thevery tallest rainforest trees. It is subject toextreme weather conditions, such as intenseheat, strong winds and heavy rain, and is hometo many animals including butterflies, gliders,eagles, small monkeys, bats, snakes andinsects.
2. The canopy layer
Canopy trees are not as tall as the emergenttrees. They are packed very close togethercreating a ‘ceiling’ of foliage, or canopy. Thebillions of leaves in the canopy compete forsunlight, and the dense foliage shades theforest floor from sunlight and protects it fromheavy rain. The leaves produce food (simplesugars) for the plants and are eaten by theanimals that live in the canopy,includinginsects, monkeys, bats and birds. About70-90% of rainforest life is found here.
3. The understorey layer
Around halfway down the height of the tallesttrees is the understorey layer. The temperatureand conditions of the understorey are quitesheltered and the dark humid conditions areideal for insects, birds, butterflies, frogs, lizards,snakes and big cats such as jaguars andleopards. The trees at this height store hugereserves of carbon in their trunks.
4. The shrub layer
The shrub layer,sometimes consideredto be partof the understorey layer, lies between theunderstorey and the forest floor,at around 8m (25ft) high. The plants at this level are hugelyimportant with many having medicinal properties.
5. The forest floor
Only a verysmall amount of sunlight (around2%) reaches the dark, humid forest floor so thislayeronly has vines and young trees. Fungihelp to release nutrients from the leaves on theground back into the soil, to be reabsorbed bythe roots of the rainforest trees as partofanongoing nutrient cycle. The moist, dark climateof the forest floor makes it ideal for animals likebeetles, frogs, lizards, snakes (such as the giant Anaconda), termites as well as the giantanteater, apes and even elephants.
Fact sheetWhy rainforests matter