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The rainforest is believed to be home to more than half of the world’s species of plants and animals to live on land. These are some of the ecosystems that have survived for approximately 70 million years. Balanced naturally, these rainforests have some of the most comprehensive range of plant and animal species.
Surprisingly, the rainforest covers only 6% to 7%of the Earth’s total geographical surface. On average, each acre has between 20 and 80 different tree species. Although there are many rainforests worldwide, the Amazon rainforest, Indo-Burma, Sundaland, and Australasia are the five most extensive rainforests worldwide.
A closed and continuous tree canopy, moisture-dependent vegetation, epiphytes and lianas, and the absence of wildfire are all characteristics of rainforests. Rainforests are the world’s oldest living ecosystems, with some persisting for at least 70 million years in their current state. There are various types of plants and animals in the rainforest. Tropical rainforests and temperate rainforests are two types of rainforests.
Except for Antarctica, rain forests can be found on every continent. The world’s most excellent jungles surround the Amazon River in South America and the Congo River in Africa. Dense rainforest ecosystems can be found on Southeast Asian tropical islands and in portions of Australia. Rainforests also include the cool evergreen forests of Northern South America’s Pacific Northwest and Northern Europe.
The four layers of most rainforests are emergent, canopy, understory, and forest floor. Each stratum has its distinct properties because of the different degrees of water, sunlight, and air circulation. While each layer is separate, they are all part of a more extensive system in which processes and species in one layer influence those in another.
The emergent layer is the rainforest’s top layer. The horizon is dominated by trees that reach heights of up to 60 meters (200 ft). On tree trunks, foliage is frequently sparse, but as the trees reach the sunlit upper layer, where they photosynthesize the sun’s rays, it expands out. During protracted droughts or dry seasons, tiny, waxy leaves help trees in the emergent layer retain water.
The canopy, a dense layer of plants about 6 meters (20 feet) thick, lies beneath the emergent layer. Over the two remaining levels, the canopy’s dense network of leaves and branches acts as a roof. The canopy blocks winds, rain, and sunlight, resulting in a humid, quiet, and dark environment below.
Several meters below the canopy, the understory is a darker, stiller, and more humid habitat. Palms and philodendrons, for example, are much shorter and have larger leaves than the plants that dominate the canopy. The broad leaves of understory plants receive the limited sunlight that reaches beyond the dense canopy.
Forest Floor Layer
The forest floor is the darkest of all the rainforest layers, making plant growth extremely challenging. Fallen leaves decompose swiftly on the forest floor.
Termites, slugs, scorpions, worms, and fungi live on the forest floors as decomposers. The organic matter falls from trees and plants, and these organisms break down the decaying material into nutrients. The shallow roots of rainforest trees absorb the nutrients.
Temperate rainforests are found in the mid-latitudes, where the climate is significantly milder than in the tropics. They are mainly found along coastlines and in mountainous places. These geographical factors contribute to the formation of high-rainfall zones. On the Pacific Northwest coasts of North America, the United Kingdom, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, and southern Australia, temperate rainforests can be found. The temperate rainforest is much more remarkable than the tropical rainforests averaging between 10° and 21°C (50° and 70°F). Still, they are not as biologically diverse as tropical rainforests, i.e., there are much fewer verities of plants and animals in the rainforest.
Tropical rainforests are found mainly in the tropics, between 23.5°N (the Tropic of Cancer) and 23.5°S (the Tropic of Capricorn). Central and South America, western and central Africa, Southeast Asia, the island of New Guinea, west India, and Australia all have tropical rainforests. The world’s most ecologically diverse terrestrial ecosystems are tropical rainforests. The Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest on the planet, with a semi-aquatic lifestyle and many species of plants and animals in the rainforest. Around 40,000 plant species, approximately 1,300 bird species, 3,000 fish species, 427 animal species, and 2.5 million insect species call it home.
Tropical rainforests are known as the “world’s largest pharmacy” because they contain almost a quarter of all-natural medications known. Many millions of plants, animals, and microbes are still likely to remain unknown in tropical regions.
Tropical rainforests are one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems due to large-scale fragmentation caused by human activities.
Habitat fragmentation induced by geological processes like volcanism and climate change has been highlighted as a critical driver of speciation in the past. On the other hand, fast human-caused habitat deterioration is one of the leading causes of endangered species and extinction. Throughout the twentieth century, tropical rain forests were subjected to severe logging and agricultural clearance, and the area covered by rainforests around the world is fast declining.
Plant Species Present
Tropical rainforests are home to more than two-thirds of the world’s plant species. Plant species have such a rich diversity because they have been around for a very long time, some as long as 100 million years. The tropics were too close to the equator for the ice to reach and thus stayed unaffected, allowing plants and animals in the rainforest to thrive and evolve while the rest of the globe remained lifeless.
Food, building materials, climate control, animal habitats, medicine, and, most crucially, oxygen are all products of the tropical rainforest flora. Tropical rainforests supply 20% of the world’s oxygen and play an essential part in maintaining the planet’s temperature.
Angiosperms are the most diversified of the higher plants, with many essential species and groups. Arecaceae (palms) are commonly found in all tropical rainforest zones, while distinct species can be found in different areas. Many large trees in the Dipterocarpaceae (dipterocarps) family are among the most abundant and valuable species in most tropical rainforests. Ferns, mosses, liverworts, lichens, and algae can also be found in abundance. Similarly, fungi and other saprophytic plants are diverse.
Hundreds of thousands of brightly colored mammals, aquatics, birds, insects, and reptiles in tropical rainforests. At least fifteen thousand small animals to large species have yet to be identified. Tropical rainforests are home to roughly half of all known animal species on the planet. Tropical forests provide the best survival environment on the globe for many animals since it is always warm, which means food stocks are not affected by temperature changes, there is shade from the sun and rain, and there is never a scarcity of water.
As the number of acres of rainforests on Earth shrinks, several species of animals in the rainforest are endangered, and some have gone extinct.
- Mammals: Monkeys, Possums, Bats, Kangaroos, Foxes, Tigers
- Birds: African Gray Parrot, Eagles, Hummingbirds, Australian King Parrot
- Insects: Beetles, Spiders, Ants, Butterflies, Caterpillars, Grasshoppers
- Reptiles and Amphibians: Snakes, Komodo Dragons, Frogs, Geckos, Chameleon
- Aquatics: Eels, Piranhas, various fish, and amphibian species
There are many other birds and animals in the rainforest, but they are specific to certain regions, including some scarce species to endangered species.
- Okapi: The Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) is a rare mammalian species native to the tropical woods of Central Africa’s Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Tapir: The Tapir (Tapirus sp.) is a herbivorous mammal that looks like a pig and has a short, prehensile snout. These animals can be found in the tropical rainforests of South and Central America and Southeast Asia.
- Sumatran Rhinoceros: The Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) lives in the tropical jungles of Borneo and Sumatra, and is one of the five extant rhino species.
- Jaguar: The Jaguar (Panthera onca) is the largest cat species in America and the world’s – third-largest after the lion and the tiger. It can be found across much of Central America and as far as northern Argentina and Paraguay.
- Poison Dart Frog: The Poison Dart Frogs are usually non-venomous but, only around three species of this frog are genuinely lethal. The most hazardous of the three is the golden arrow frog (Phyllobates terribilis). The bright hues of gold, red, green, blue, and yellow on the poison dart frogs deter predators. Aposematic coloring is the term for this trait.
- Spider Monkey: The Spider Monkey can be found in the Central and South American rainforests. Spider monkeys are gregarious critters with long tails that dwell in big groups of around 35 individuals who break up to feed.
- Three-toed Sloth: The Three-toed Sloth is a South and Central American arboreal animal. These sloths have three clawed toes on each limb and are the size of a small dog or a giant cat.
- Buceros bicornis: Buceros Bicornis, sometimes known as the vast hornbill, is a threatened species found in forests over parts of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
- Blue Morpho Butterflies: Blue Morpho Butterflies flutters through the rainforest canopy with their magnificent, iridescent blue, bright colors wings.
- Green Anaconda: Green Anaconda is one of the world’s most giant snakes, with a length of over 30 feet, a diameter of 12 inches, and a weight of over 550 pounds.
- Capybara: Capybara looks a lot like its guinea pig cousin, is the world’s largest rodent
- Leafcutter Ants: Leafcutter Ants march through the woodland, their muscular teeth tearing off bits of leaves.
- Scarlet Macaw: Scarlet Macaw is a beautiful, massive parrot with vibrant red plumage and brilliant blue and yellow wing feathers that is one of the most recognizable rainforest birds.
Eating Pattern Of The Animals In The Rainforest
The rainforest’s animals’ diet usually includes fruit, leaves, insects, nuts, seeds, bark, grasses, and other animals. Animals in the rainforest are classified into herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores, depending on their eating habits.
Herbivores are plant eaters or creatures that only eat plants for food. (The word herb comes from the Latin word meaning plant.) Herbivores have unique digestive systems that aid in the breakdown of the plant matter they consume. Monkeys and insects make a large part of the herbivores present in the forest. Herbivores require a lot of energy to survive and may frequently feed all day. Deforestation is making their lives hanging upside down.
1. Animals With Hooves
All mammals that have hooves as a part of their foot are known as Ungulates. Ungulates that live in rain forests are herbivores, such as the South American tapir, which eats plants that do not have wooden stems and bananas. Those Tapirs, which are capable swimmers, also eat water plants—peccary, another ungulate that consumes fruits, roots, and seeds.
Okapis eat young leaves and buds. The African rain forests are home to antelopes and two types of duikers; being herbivores, these two animals’ primary diet includes fruits, plant leaves, and seeds.
The Capybara, the world’s largest rodent, feeds on fresh grass and plants found underwater in South America’s rain forests. The only type of animals in the rainforest known to crack the Brazillian nuts are agoutis, who have a keen hearing sense and sharp incisor teeth.
Acouchis eat all plant parts, from roots to fruits, and are closely related to agoutis. Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil all have rain forests where they reside. Porcupines are herbivores in the Amazon rain forest. They can be found in a range of settings, including rainforests.
Gorillas, for example, are herbivores who live in rain forests. Gorillas graze on all plant components and are found in Africa’s equatorial rain forests. The omnivorous mandrill, the world’s most giant monkey, lives in the rainforests of western Africa. Seeds, roots, nuts, and fruit are all part of the diet of mandrills. Furthermore, most lemurs, a kind of primate unique to Madagascar’s rain forests, are herbivorous.
Black Howler monkeys eat primarily leaves and fruit and can be found in the rainforests of southern South America. The golden lion tamarin, which is only found in Brazil’s Atlantic rain forests, feeds on fruit and nectar.
Two-toed and Three-toed sloths, herbivorous mammals that spend most of their lives hanging from trees, dwell in the Amazon rain forest canopy. The majority of the sloth’s low-calorie diet consists of young leaves, buds, and fragile twigs. Because sloths have a slow metabolism, they require a long time to digest their food. They are known to sleep for long periods during the day, often more than 15 hours.
Tropical rain forests are home to a wide variety of reptile species. The green iguana, a herbivorous lizard that rarely leaves the trees, lives in the rainforests of Central and South America. Green iguanas eat foliage, flowers, and fruit. The gigantic River turtle in the Amazon consumes mostly seeds, insects, and fruits fallen from the trees.
The rainforests of South America are home to omnivorous birds like Macaws, Toucans, and other birds. Seeds, flowers, nuts, leaves, ripe fruits, unripe fruits, and stems are all part of the former’s diet; plants compone in the latter’s diet is mainly in the form of fruit.
Carnivores and Omnivores
Large predators are scarce in tropical rainforests due to the scarcity of large prey species. The predators that do exist have evolved to hunt both above and below ground in the forest canopy and devour smaller prey. In the jungle, many omnivorous animals in the rainforest consume other animals and eat plants to supplement their diets.
Carnivores are creatures that eat other animals, most of which are herbivores. (The Latin word carni means “flesh.”) Substantial jungle cats, such as tigers and jaguars, are the most common carnivores in the rainforest. Plants, fish, insects, and birds also form the diet of the animals in the rainforest.
Plants are eaten by omnivores as well, but only the fruit or vegetable parts of the plant. Omnivores eat other animals as well. (The word “Omni” is derived from the Latin word “all.”) Carnivores and omnivores both hunt for their food. Some omnivores eat dead animals in the rainforest, which are known as scavengers. Others steal eggs from the nests or burrows of other animals.
1. Big Cats
Tigers are the largest jungle cat species, yet they are in danger of extinction owing to habitat degradation and poaching. The second-largest rainforest cat, the jaguar, faces similar issues and is endangered but can still be found in the Orinoco and Amazon river basins.
Jaguars can swim and fish, and they prefer to hunt at night; their prey includes frogs, freshwater fish, turtles, rodents, deer, and caiman. Leopards are rainforest cats that can be found from Asia to Africa, though several species have become extinct or exceedingly rare in recent years.
2. Small Cats
There are numerous minor rainforest cat species in addition to the large rainforest cats. The leopard cat is found in Asia, whereas the margay and ocelot are found in the Americas. Small cats can be as small as a house cat or as large as a dog. The majority of species hunt at night, both on the forest floor and in the canopy of the rainforest.
3. Small Mammals
The fishing genet is a small animal that feeds fish but does not like to swim; rather than chasing prey in the water, it attracts fish from the riverbank and dives in to catch them. Mongooses are small mammals that prey on snakes, insects, eggs, small mammals, and birds. New World jungle carnivores such as giant anteaters and armadillos devour ants and termites, whereas armadillos eat snakes, mice, lizards, and insects that they dig out of the ground.
Sloth bears are found in Sri Lanka and Southern India, where they eat termites; the sun bear is closely similar in Southeast Asia. The following are examples of rainforest omnivores: Bats, squirrels, opossums, raccoons, coatimundis, and wild pigs.
4. Non- Mammal Species
Because tropical rainforests are densely populated with giant insects, insectivorous birds are prevalent. Flycatchers are a family of birds that wait for insects to fly by before swooping in to collect them; other species spend their entire lives pursuing swarms of army ants (which themselves eat insects primarily).
In rainforests, raptors such as hawks and owls eat tiny mammals, while the giant harpy eagle hunts monkeys. Frogs and toads also eat insects in the rainforest. Pythons and boas are enormous snakes that suffocate their prey. Crocodiles like the caiman eat whatever animals in the rainforest come their way, including small mammals and birds.
Tropical Rainforests In the US
Although the United States has rainforests, almost all of them are temperate. Though the United States has an extensive area of land and many geographic features. A few parts of the country has favorable climate condition though this may not be the case with other factors. Even with these dynamic characteristics, America has many rainforests home to many creatures, rare or endangered.
1. Hamakua Coast
The Hamakua Coast rainforest, located on the Big Island of Hawaii’s coast, is home to spectacular waterfalls and lush vegetation. A plus is that you’ll be surrounded by two volcanos, Mauna Kea and Kohala, and several other animals in the rainforest while you travel through the rainforest.
2. Hoh Rainforest
The Hoh Rainforest, located on the Olympic Peninsula in western Washington State, is one of the country’s largest temperate rainforests. Although the park is currently protected from economic exploitation, the forest was severely logged for much of the twentieth century. And it’s simple to see why the trees were so highly valued as you look up at the towering trees in amazement.
3. Appalachian Temperate Rainforest
The Appalachian temperate rainforest, which spans the southern Appalachian highlands from south Virginia to North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, receive over 60 inches of rain every year.
4. Chugach National Forest
The Chugach National Forest in Alaska, known as a sub-polar rainforest, has something remarkable for a rainforest: a bald eagle population that exceeds that of the contiguous 48 states combined. In the past, Russian fur- trappers lived in the rainforest.
5. El Yunque National Forest
El Yunque National Forest in northern Puerto Rico is the only tropical rainforest managed by the US Forest Service. Instead of spruce, you’ll discover palms, dwarf broadleaf trees, and beautiful orchids, as well as several wildlife animals in the rainforest, found nowhere else in the United States, such as rare fruit bats, little tree frogs known as coqu, and the endangered Puerto Rican amazon (a type of parrot).
The growing population is taking over the forest land leading to loss of trees and habitat for all kinds of wildlife species making their lives hanging upside down. If this continues, more and more species will go extinct, which would lead to an imbalance in the ecosystem. This might even lead to the end of the world. So proper steps should be taken to protect our wildlife plants and animals in the rainforest to have a healthy and safe life.