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Rainforest Biome

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More about the Rainforest

Divisions of “Rainforest”:  Rainforest is a particular term used to describe ecosystems that receive over 2,500 mm of rain a year. In many ways, the term rainforest is not all that exact.  It can be used to describe several different life zones.  Temperate rainforests excluded, there are three main life zones that are warm and receive sufficient, consistent rainfall throughout the year. These include the moist tropical forests, wet tropical forests, and true rainforests. 

We use the word rainforest to describe all three lifezones simply because the ecosystems all function in similar ways.  Arguably the most studied tropical forest in the world is Barro Colorado Island, a tropical moist forest in the Republic of Panama.  The appearance of this forest, to all but the trained scientist, represents the same ecological functions as a much wetter forest.


Rainforests of the world: The following countries have large amounts of rainforest. This is not an exhaustive list and we realize we missed a lot of them.

World Rainforest Map

New World Tropics: Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, French Guiana.

Asia: Thialand, Malaysia, Borneo, India, Indonesia, 

Africa: Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Madagascar

AustroPacific: Australia, Vanuatu, Hawaii, Guam, Samoa,


Climate:  Rainforest climates can vary, depending where you are.  However, there are certain trends that are consistent within the rainforest.  First, there tends to be consistent, abundant rainfall throughout the year. Secondly, there is high humidity. These factors combine with the fact that average temperate is high to create a high evapotransporation potential for plants.


Soil: In our video on rainforests we give the impression that all rainforests have poor soils, and that all the nutrients are locked up in the tissues of growing plants.  This is not exactly the case.  Vast majorities of rainforests do have poor, oligotrophic soils, but this need not be the case in all rainforests.  In fact, soils in forests in central America and the Andes, are often recent volcanic soils and quite rich.  In the New World Tropics the soils of the Amazon basin that generally have much poorer, sandier, and more oligotrophic soils

But, with that said, I do think that it is important to emphasize the general trend of rainforests having poor soils.  Most of the rainforest nutrients are locked in growing tissue.  When a tree falls its nutrients are quickly recycled back into the forests and mushrooms, bacteria, and new plants take them up. 

Rainforests with poor soils often have a high amount of clay soils.  If these forests are cut down, the heat from the sun and pressure of tractors driving over them will compress the soil into a hard brick-like substratum that all but eliminates its reforestation potential.


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