Forests are categorized as rainforests based on rain fall. As such, rainforests are forests with very high levels of rainfall of about 68 to 78 inches per year. There are two main types of rainforests, which are classified based on location. These are tropical rainforests and temperate rainforests.
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The formation of tropical rainforests around the world is largely influenced by the inter tropical convergence zone or monsoon trough, which is the area that encircles the earth close to the equator, characterized by winds that join from both the northern and southern hemispheres. Tropical rainforests are specifically located in the tropics, between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. Tropical forests are therefore founds in areas along that region of the earth, which include Southeast Asia, Central and South America, the Pacific Islands, northeastern Australia and Saharan Africa. Conversely, temperate rainforests are located in temperate regions such as in certain parts of Europe, North America, East Asia, parts of South America, Australia, New Zealand and the Far East coast of Russia.
Rainforests are interesting and highly sophisticated regions known to have four main layers or plant and animal life forms. Each of the layers found in the rainforest is different and serves a different function; these include the emergent layer, the canopy, the understory layer and the forest floor. The forest floor of a rainforest refers to the lowest layer where very little sunlight is able to penetrate; as a result providing a habitat for plant and animal species that are adapted to low light, including fungi which help increase decay activity in dead plants and animals of the rainforest. The understory of the rainforest is above the forest floor but below the canopy, thus situating itself between the two. There, many species of rainforest birds, insects, lizards, snakes, jaguars, leopards and other predators live. The understory gets only about 5% of rainforest sunlight, thus providing ideal conditions for shrubs and seed germination. Above the rainforest understory, the canopy possesses the rainforest’s hugest trees and wealthiest level of biodiversity. Put together, rainforests are said to be the habitat of at least half, that is, 50 percent of the earth’s plant life forms. In the emergent layer above the rainforest canopy, a smaller number but equally large trees are found. Some of the trees in the rainforest emergent layer grow between 45 to 80 meters tall depending on the type of tree. Animals found in the rainforest canopy are bats, eagles, monkeys and butterflies.
About 14% of the land surface of the earth was occupied by rainforests, contrary to the 6% of land occupied by rainforests today, meaning that there could be no more rainforests on the earth in less than half a century. It has been estimated that at least 137 insect, animal and plant species are destroyed daily because of destruction the earth’s rainforests. This decreases the chances of finding natural cures to illnesses given the medicinal value of the plants and animals in rainforests. Many of these life forms in rainforests have contributed to medicine and are a source of natural healing in many cultures.
Rainforests are more and more recognised for their ability to general income and foreign exchange through ecotourism, in light of the increased rarity of rain forests and untouched natural habitats. Whereas people once flocked to countries for vacation in hotels, today millions of people are visiting rainforests and jungles just to catch a glimpse of birds, trees, rivers and waterfalls that are becoming something of the past and part of a history in which they already exist. With illnesses on the rise and the search for ways of relieving stress, combating the ageing process and alternative medicine to artificial drugs because of their effects, rainforest still gives humanity the hope of a better, healthier and peaceful future.