What is a rainforest?

Rainforests receive over eight feet (96 inches) of rain each year… that’s why they are called Rainforests!

Blue Mountains Rainforest, Austrailia. Source: Adam. J.W.C.

They also have some very unique characteristics that make them very special and important for our planet. For example, tropical rainforests have some of the highest rates of biodiversity in the world.  On the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia, there are about 10,000 species of flowering plants with 3,000 species of trees, 221 species of mammals and 502 species of resident birds in Borneo. One of the reasons that rainforests can be home to so many different species is because each level of the rainforest has a unique habitat that suits different types of organisms.

Rainforest Layers

There are four main parts of a Rainforest. They are:

Rainforest Strata. Source: Rainforest Action Network

Emergent Layer – very sunny because it is the very top. Only the tallest trees reach this level.
Who lives here? Birds, butterflies and small monkeys live with bats, snakes and bugs.

Canopy Layer - much of the rain is stopped by the thick foliage. Most trees in the forest grow to this height. There are plants that grow in the canopy layer. Their roots don’t reach the ground. These are called air plants.
Who lives here? Birds, monkeys, apes, frogs, and sloths, as well as lizards, snakes and many insects.

Understory Layer - Many vines, dense vegetation, not much light.
Who lives here? Birds, butterflies, frogs and snakes.

Forest Floor - Dark, damp, full of many dead leaves, twigs and dead plants. The forest floor is dark due to the trees above stopping the sunlight from entering the forest. It is estimated that only two percent of the sunlight actually reaches the floor.
Who lives here? Jaguars in South America, gorillas and leopards in Africa and tapirs and tigers and elephants in Asia.

Please see our bibliography for more primary and secondary fact sources.