Rainforests are forests characterized by high rainfall, with annual rainfall in the case of tropical rainforests between 250 and 450 centimetres (98 and 177 in), and definitions varying by region for temperate rainforests. The monsoon trough, alternatively known as the intertropical convergence zone, plays a significant role in creating the climatic conditions necessary for the Earth's tropical rainforests.
Around 40% to 75% of all biotic species are indigenous to the rainforests. There may be many millions of species of plants, insects and microorganisms still undiscovered in tropical rainforests. Tropical rainforests have been called the "jewels of the Earth" and the "world's largest pharmacy", because over one quarter of natural medicines have been discovered there. Rainforests are also responsible for 28% of the world's oxygen turnover, sometimes misnamed oxygen production, processing it through photosynthesis from carbon dioxide and consuming it through respiration.
The undergrowth in some areas of a rainforest can be restricted by poor penetration of sunlight to ground level. If the leaf canopy is destroyed or thinned, the ground beneath is soon colonized by a dense, tangled growth of vines, shrubs and small trees, called a jungle. The term jungle is also sometimes applied to tropical rainforests generally.
Tropical rainforests are characterized by a warm and wet climate with no substantial dry season: typically found within 10 degrees north and south of the equator. Mean monthly temperatures exceed 18 °C (64 °F) during all months of the year. Average annual rainfall is no less than 168 cm (66 in) and can exceed 1,000 cm (390 in) although it typically lies between 175 cm (69 in) and 200 cm (79 in).
Many of the world's tropical forests are associated with the location of the monsoon trough, also known as the intertropical convergence zone. The broader category of tropical moist forests are located in the equatorial zone between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. Tropical rainforests exist in Southeast Asia (from Myanmar (Burma)) to the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka; also in Sub-Saharan Africa from the Cameroon to the Congo (Congo Rainforest), South America (e.g. the Amazon rainforest), Central America (e.g. Bosawás, the southern Yucatán Peninsula-El Peten-Belize-Calakmul), Australia, and on Pacific Islands (such as Hawaiʻi). Tropical forests have been called the "Earth's lungs", although it is now known that rainforests contribute little net oxygen addition to the atmosphere through photosynthesis.
Tropical forests cover a large part of the globe, but temperate rainforests only occur in few regions around the world. Temperate rainforests are rainforests in temperate regions. They occur in North America (in the Pacific Northwest in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California), in Europe (parts of the British Isles such as the coastal areas of Ireland and Scotland, southern Norway, parts of the western Balkans along the Adriatic coast, as well as in Galicia and coastal areas of the eastern Black Sea, including Georgia and coastal Turkey), in East Asia (in southern China, Highlands of Taiwan, much of Japan and Korea, and on Sakhalin Island and the adjacent Russian Far East coast), in South America (southern Chile) and also in Australia and New Zealand.
A tropical rainforest typically has a number of layers, each with different plants and animals adapted for life in that particular area. Examples include the emergent, canopy, understory and forest floor layers.
The emergent layer contains a small number of very large trees called emergents, which grow above the general canopy, reaching heights of 45–55 m, although on occasion a few species will grow to 70–80 m tall. They need to be able to withstand the hot temperatures and strong winds that occur above the canopy in some areas. Eagles, butterflies, bats and certain monkeys inhabit this layer.
The canopy layer contains the majority of the largest trees, typically 30 metres (98 ft) to 45 metres (148 ft) tall. The densest areas of biodiversity are found in the forest canopy, a more or less continuous cover of foliage formed by adjacent treetops. The canopy, by some estimates, is home to 50 percent of all plant species. Epiphytic plants attach to trunks and branches, and obtain water and minerals from rain and debris that collects on the supporting plants. The fauna is similar to that found in the emergent layer, but more diverse. A quarter of all insect species are believed to exist in the rainforest canopy. Scientists have long suspected the richness of the canopy as a habitat, but have only recently developed practical methods of exploring it. As long ago as 1917, naturalist William Beebe declared that "another continent of life remains to be discovered, not upon the Earth, but one to two hundred feet above it, extending over thousands of square miles." True exploration of this habitat only began in the 1980s, when scientists developed methods to reach the canopy, such as firing ropes into the trees using crossbows. Exploration of the canopy is still in its infancy, but other methods include the use of balloons and airships to float above the highest branches and the building of cranes and walkways planted on the forest floor. The science of accessing tropical forest canopy using airships or similar aerial platforms is called dendronautics.
The understory or understorey layer lies between the canopy and the forest floor. It is home to a number of birds, snakes and lizards, as well as predators such as jaguars, boa constrictors and leopards. The leaves are much larger at this level and insect life is abundant. Many seedlings that will grow to the canopy level are present in the understory. Only about 5% of the sunlight shining on the rainforest canopy reaches the understory. This layer can be called a shrub layer, although the shrub layer may also be considered a separate layer.
The forest floor, the bottom-most layer, receives only 2% of the sunlight. Only plants adapted to low light can grow in this region. Away from riverbanks, swamps and clearings, where dense undergrowth is found, the forest floor is relatively clear of vegetation because of the low sunlight penetration. It also contains decaying plant and animal matter, which disappears quickly, because the warm, humid conditions promote rapid decay. Many forms of fungi growing here help decay the animal and plant waste.
More than half of the world's species of plants and animals are found in the rainforest. Rainforests support a very broad array of fauna, including mammals, reptiles, birds and invertebrates. Mammals may include primates, felids and other families. Reptiles include snakes, turtles, chameleons and other families; while birds include such families as vangidae and Cuculidae. Dozens of families of invertebrates are found in rainforests. Fungi are also very common in rainforest areas as they can feed on the decomposing remains of plants and animals.
The great diversity in rainforest species is in large part the result of diverse and numerous physical refuges, i.e. places in which plants are inaccessible to many herbivores, or in which animals can hide from predators. Having numerous refuges available also results in much higher total biomass than would otherwise be possible.
Despite the growth of vegetation in a tropical rainforest, soil quality is often quite poor. Rapid bacterial decay prevents the accumulation of humus. The concentration of iron and aluminium oxides by the laterization process gives the oxisols a bright red colour and sometimes produces mineral deposits such as bauxite. Most trees have roots near the surface, because there are insufficient nutrients below the surface; most of the trees' minerals come from the top layer of decomposing leaves and animals. On younger substrates, especially of volcanic origin, tropical soils may be quite fertile. If rainforest trees are cleared, rain can accumulate on the exposed soil surfaces, creating run-off and beginning a process of soil erosion. Eventually streams and rivers form and flooding becomes possible. There are several reasons for the poor soil quality: First is that the soil is highly acidic. The roots of plants rely on an acidity difference between the roots and the soil in order to absorb nutrients. When the soil is acidic, there is little difference, and therefore little absorption of nutrients from the soil. Second, The type of clay particles present in tropical rainforest soil has a poor ability to trap nutrients and stop them from washing away. Even if humans artificially add nutrients to the soil, the nutrients mostly wash away and are not absorbed by the plants. Thirdly, The type of clay particles present in tropical rainforest soil has a poor ability to trap nutrients and stop them from washing away. Even if humans artificially add nutrients to the soil, the nutrients mostly wash away and are not absorbed by the plants. Finally, these soils are poor due to the high volume of rain in tropical rainforests washes nutrients out of the soil more quickly than in other climates. 
A natural rainforest emits and absorbs vast quantities of carbon dioxide. On a global scale, long-term fluxes are approximately in balance, so that an undisturbed rainforest would have a small net impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, though they may have other climatic effects (on cloud formation, for example, by recycling water vapour). No rainforest today can be considered to be undisturbed. Human-induced deforestation plays a significant role in causing rainforests to release carbon dioxide, as do other factors, whether human-induced or natural, which result in tree death, such as burning and drought. Some climate models operating with interactive vegetation predict a large loss of Amazonian rainforest around 2050 due to drought, forest dieback and the subsequent release of more carbon dioxide. Five million years from now, the Amazon rainforest may long since have dried and transformed itself into savannah, killing itself in the progress (changes such as this may happen even if all human deforestation activity ceases overnight).
Tropical rainforests provide timber as well as animal products such as meat and hides. Rainforests also have value as tourism destinations and for the ecosystem services provided. Many foods originally came from tropical forests, and are still mostly grown on plantations in regions that were formerly primary forest. Also, plant-derived medicines are commonly used for fever, fungal infections, burns, gastrointestinal problems, pain, respiratory problems, and wound treatment. At the same time, rainforests are usually not used sustainably by non-native peoples but are being exploited or removed for agricultural purposes.
On January 18, 2007, FUNAI reported also that it had confirmed the presence of 67 different uncontacted tribes in Brazil, up from 40 in 2005. With this addition, Brazil has now overtaken the island of New Guinea as the country having the largest number of uncontacted tribes. The province of Irian Jaya or West Papua in the island of New Guinea is home to an estimated 44 uncontacted tribal groups. The tribes are in danger because of the deforestation, especially in Brazil.
Central African rainforest is home of the Mbuti pygmies, one of the hunter-gatherer peoples living in equatorial rainforests characterised by their short height (below one and a half metres, or 59 inches, on average). They were the subject of a study by Colin Turnbull, The Forest People, in 1962. Pygmies who live in Southeast Asia are, amongst others, referred to as “Negrito”. There are many tribes in the rainforests of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Sarawak is part of Borneo, the third largest island in the world. Some of the other tribes in Sarawak are: the Kayan, Kenyah, Kejaman, Kelabit, Punan Bah, Tanjong, Sekapan, and the Lahanan. Collectively, they are referred to as Dayaks or Orangulu which means "people of the interior".
About half of Sarawak's 1.5 million people are Dayaks. Most Dayaks, it is believed thropologists, came originally from the South-East Asian mainland. Their mythologies support this
Tropical and temperate rainforests have been subjected to heavy legal and illegal logging for their valuable hardwoods and agricultural clearance (slash-and-burn, clearcutting) throughout the 20th century and the area covered by rainforests around the world is shrinking. Biologists have estimated that large numbers of species are being driven to extinction (possibly more than 50,000 a year; at that rate, says E. O. Wilson of Harvard University, a quarter or more of all species on Earth could be exterminated within 50 years) due to the removal of habitat with destruction of the rainforests.
Another factor causing the loss of rainforest is expanding urban areas. Littoral rainforest growing along coastal areas of eastern Australia is now rare due to ribbon development to accommodate the demand for seachange lifestyles.
Forests are being destroyed at a rapid pace. Almost 90% of West Africa's rainforest has been destroyed. Since the arrival of humans, Madagascar has lost two thirds of its original rainforest. At present rates, tropical rainforests in Indonesia would be logged out in 10 years and Papua New Guinea in 13 to 16 years. According to Rainforest Rescue, an important reason for the increasing deforestation rate, especially in Indonesia, is the expansion of oil palm plantations to meet growing demand for cheap vegetable fats and biofuels. In Indonesia, palm oil is already cultivated on nine million hectares and, together with Malaysia, the island nation produces about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil.
Several countries, notably Brazil, have declared their deforestation a national emergency. Amazon deforestation jumped by 69% in 2008 compared to 2007's twelve months, according to official government data.
However, a January 30, 2009 New York Times article stated, "By one estimate, for every acre of rain forest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in the tropics..." The new forest includes secondary forest on former farmland and so-called degraded forest.
The Amazon Basin is the part of South America drained by the Amazon River and its tributaries. The Amazon drainage basin covers an area of about 6,300,000 km2 (2,400,000 sq mi), or about 35.5 percent that of the South American continent. It is located in the countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.Most of the basin is covered by the Amazon Rainforest, also known as Amazonia. With a 5,500,000 km2 (2,100,000 sq mi) area of dense tropical forest, this is the largest rainforest in the world.Amazon rainforest
The Amazon rainforest (Portuguese: Floresta Amazônica or Amazônia; Spanish: Selva Amazónica, Amazonía or usually Amazonia; French: Forêt amazonienne; Dutch: Amazoneregenwoud), also known in English as Amazonia or the Amazon Jungle, is a moist broadleaf forest in the Amazon biome that covers most of the Amazon basin of South America. This basin encompasses 7,000,000 km2 (2,700,000 sq mi), of which 5,500,000 km2 (2,100,000 sq mi) are covered by the rainforest. This region includes territory belonging to nine nations. The majority of the forest is contained within Brazil, with 60% of the rainforest, followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and France (French Guiana). States or departments in four nations contain "Amazonas" in their names. The Amazon represents over half of the planet's remaining rainforests, and comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world, with an estimated 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species.Atlantic Forest
The Atlantic Forest (Portuguese: Mata Atlântica) is a South American forest that extends along the Atlantic coast of Brazil from Rio Grande do Norte state in the north to Rio Grande do Sul state in the south, and inland as far as Paraguay and the Misiones Province of Argentina, where the region is known as Selva Misionera.
The Atlantic Forest has ecoregions within the following biome categories: seasonal moist and dry broad-leaf tropical forests, tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands, and mangrove forests. The Atlantic Forest is characterized by a high biodiversity and endemism.It was the first environment that the Portuguese colonists encountered over 500 years ago, when it was thought to have had an area of 1,000,000–1,500,000 km2 (390,000–580,000 sq mi), and stretching an unknown distance inland. Over 85% of the original area has been deforested, threatening many plant and animal species with extinction.Canopy (biology)
In biology, the canopy is the aboveground portion of a plant community or crop, formed by the collection of individual plant crowns.In forest ecology, canopy also refers to the upper layer or habitat zone, formed by mature tree crowns and including other biological organisms (epiphytes, lianas, arboreal animals, etc.).Sometimes the term canopy is used to refer to the extent of the outer layer of leaves of an individual tree or group of trees. Shade trees normally have a dense canopy that blocks light from lower growing plants.Daintree Rainforest
The Daintree Rainforest is a region located on the north east coast of Queensland, Australia, north of Mossman and Cairns. At around 1,200 square kilometres (460 sq mi), the Daintree is a part of the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest on the Australian continent. The Daintree Rainforest is a part of the Wet Tropics Rainforest, that spans across the Cairns Region. The Wet Tropics Rainforest (that the Daintree is a part of) is the oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest in the world. Along the coastline north of the Daintree River, tropical forest grows right down to the edge of the sea.In 2009 as part of the Q150 celebrations, the Daintree Rainforest was announced as one of the Q150 Icons of Queensland for its role as a "Natural attraction".Deforestation
Deforestation, clearance, clearcutting or clearing is the removal of a forest or stand of trees from land which is then converted to a non-forest use. Deforestation can involve conversion of forest land to farms, ranches, or urban use. The most concentrated deforestation occurs in tropical rainforests. About 31% of Earth's land surface is covered by forests.Deforestation can occur for several reasons: trees can be cut down to be used for building or sold as fuel (sometimes in the form of charcoal or timber), while cleared land can be used as pasture for livestock and plantation. The removal of trees without sufficient reforestation has resulted in habitat damage, biodiversity loss, and aridity. It has adverse impacts on biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Deforestation has also been used in war to deprive the enemy of vital resources and cover for its forces. Modern examples of this were the use of Agent Orange by the British military in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency and by the United States military in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. As of 2005, net deforestation rates had ceased to increase in countries with a per capita GDP of at least US$4,600. Deforested regions typically incur significant adverse soil erosion and frequently degrade into wasteland.
Disregard of ascribed value, lax forest management, and deficient environmental laws are some of the factors that lead to large-scale deforestation. In many countries, deforestation–both naturally occurring and human-induced–is an ongoing issue. Deforestation causes extinction, changes to climatic conditions, desertification, and displacement of populations, as observed by current conditions and in the past through the fossil record. More than half of all plant and land animal species in the world live in tropical forests.Between 2000 and 2012, 2.3 million square kilometres (890,000 sq mi) of forests around the world were cut down. As a result of deforestation, only 6.2 million square kilometres (2.4 million square miles) remain of the original 16 million square kilometres (6 million square miles) of tropical rainforest that formerly covered the Earth. An area the size of a football pitch is cleared from the Amazon rainforest every minute, with 136 million acres (55 million hectares) of rainforest cleared for animal agriculture overall.Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary
Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Dibrugarh and Tinsukia Districts of Assam and covers an area of 111.19 km2 (42.93 sq mi) rainforest.
It is part of the Assam valley tropical wet evergreen forest and consists of three parts: Jeypore, upper Dihing River and Dirok rainforest. It was declared a sanctuary on 13 June 2004. This sanctuary is also a part of Dehing-Patkai Elephant Reserve. The rainforest stretches for more than 575 km2 (222 sq mi) in the districts of Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sivasagar. A part of the forest was declared as a wildlife sanctuary by the Government of Assam, while another part falls under the Dibru-Deomali Elephant Reserve. The forest further spreads over in the Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh. The Dehing Patkai forms the largest stretch of tropical lowland rainforests in India. The forest is often referred to as "The Amazon of the east" owing to its large area and thick forests.The area has several historic attractions, including World War II cemeteries, the Stillwell road and the Digboi refinery, the oldest in Asia.Jungle
A jungle is land covered with dense vegetation dominated by trees. Application of the term has varied greatly during the past recent centuries. Before the 1970s, tropical rainforests were generally referred to as jungles but this terminology has fallen out of usage. Jungles in Western literature can represent a less civilised or unruly space outside the control of civilisation, attributed to the jungle's association in colonial discourse with places colonised by Europeans.Montane ecosystems
Montane ecosystems refers to any ecosystem found in mountains. These ecosystems are strongly affected by climate, which gets colder as elevation increases. They are stratified according to elevation. Dense forests are common at moderate elevations. However, as the elevation increases, the climate becomes harsher, and the plant community transitions to grasslands or tundra.Rainforest Alliance
The Rainforest Alliance is a non-governmental organization (NGO) working to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. Based in New York City with offices throughout North and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe, it operates in more than 70 countries. It was founded in 1987 by Daniel Katz, who serves on its board of directors, and is currently led by CEO Han de Groot.Secondary forest
A secondary forest (or second-growth forest) is a forest or woodland area which has re-grown after a timber harvest, until a long enough period has passed so that the effects of the disturbance are no longer evident. It is distinguished from an old-growth forest (primary or primeval forest), which has not recently undergone such disruption, and complex early seral forest, as well as third-growth forests that result from harvest in second growth forests. Secondary forest regrowing after timber harvest differs from forest regrowing after natural disturbances such as fire, insect infestation, or windthrow because the dead trees remain to provide nutrients, structure, and water retention after natural disturbances. However, often after natural disturbance the timber is harvested and removed from the system, in which case the system more closely resembles secondary forest rather than complex early seral forest.Temperate rainforest
Temperate rainforests are coniferous or broadleaf forests that occur in the temperate zone and receive heavy rainfall.
Temperate rain forests occur in oceanic moist regions around the world: the Pacific temperate rain forests of North American Pacific Northwest as well as the Mid-Atlantic region of the US; the Valdivian temperate rain forests of southwestern South America; the rain forests of New Zealand, Tasmania and southeastern Australia; northwest Europe (small pockets in the British Isles, Iceland, and larger areas in southern Norway and northern Iberia); southern Japan; and the eastern Black Sea-Caspian Sea region of Turkey, Georgia and northern Iran.
The moist conditions of temperate rain forests generally support an understory of mosses, ferns and some shrubs. Temperate rain forests can be temperate coniferous forests or temperate broadleaf and mixed forests.Tropical Africa
Although tropical Africa is mostly familiar to the West for its rainforests, this ecozone of Africa is far more diverse. While the tropics are thought of as regions with warm to hot moist climates caused by latitude and the tropical rain belt, the geology of areas, particularly mountain chains, and geographical relation to continental and regional scale winds impact the overall parts of areas, also, making the tropics run from arid to humid in West Africa. The area has very serious overpopulation problems.Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests
Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests (TSMF), also known as tropical moist forests, are a tropical and subtropical forest habitat type defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature. The habitat type is sometimes known as jungle.Tropical climate
A tropical climate in the Köppen climate classification is a non-arid climate in which all twelve months have mean temperatures of warmer than 18 °C (64 °F). In tropical climates there are often only two seasons: a wet season and a dry season. Tropical climates are frost-free, and changes in the solar angle are small. In tropical climates temperature remains relatively constant (hot) throughout the year. Sunlight is intense.Tropical rainforest
Tropical rainforests are rainforests that occur in areas of tropical rainforest climate in which there is no dry season – all months have an average precipitation of at least 60 mm – and may also be referred to as lowland equatorial evergreen rainforest. True rainforests are typically found between 10 degrees north and south of the equator (see map); they are a sub-set of the tropical forest biome that occurs roughly within the 28 degree latitudes (in the equatorial zone between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn). Within the World Wildlife Fund's biome classification, tropical rainforests are a type of tropical moist broadleaf forest (or tropical wet forest) that also includes the more extensive seasonal tropical forests.Tropical rainforest climate
A tropical rainforest climate is a tropical climate usually found within 10 to 15 degrees latitude of the equator, and has at least 60 mm (2.4 inches) of rainfall every month of the year. Regions with this climate are typically designated Af by the Köppen climate classification. A tropical rainforest climate is typically hot and wet.