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Learn the Difference Between a Forest and a Rainforest

written by: Kristina Dems•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 5/28/2010

Forests and rainforests are two terms that must be interchanged sparingly. For those who are confused on the difference between forest and rainforest, it is time to be enlightened. Here is a simple and clear explanation.

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    Forest and Rainforest

    The difference between the forest and the rainforest is often confusing. Are not these two terms one and the same? Truly, they share a common thread, and it is through these similarities that these two terms are often interchanged, but a forest is different from a rainforest. It’s time to tackle each to understand the difference of both.

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    Forest Defined

    forest 

    In order to understand the difference, each word must first be defined. A forest is among the major forms of an ecosystem, an area hosting a large number of trees. Aside from trees, there are myriad species living in the forest, so it is by all means classified as an ecosystem.

    The subject of forest is extensive, broad, and general because under this category are numerous sub-categories. This means forest is the general term and there are categories under the main subject. A regular forest is mainly composed of trees, but there are more than trees to some forests and thus further classifications exist.

    Forests can be classified in varying ways. One way is to distinguish the type of forests through the bio-species, the dominance and variations of trees; another is the climate, or the existence of other organisms. In reality, there are numerous proposed forest classifications, yet there is no one accepted standard. Today though, there are some common classification types based on the kinds of trees and climates.

    Common forest types include the taiga, temperate hardwood forest, tropical dry forest, and finally rainforest. A rainforest is merely a category under the broad forests classification.

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    Rainforest Defined

    As the name itself suggests, a rainforest is characterized by the amount of rain it endures, which would have to be in the range of 1750-2000 mm. Rainforests exist only in either humid or hot weather conditions. They cover less than 10 percent of the planet, but are inhabited by more than half of different fauna and flora. As earlier mentioned, a forest contains only trees, but a rainforest houses species diversity, from rare plants to extinct animals.

    The rainforest is further broken down into two regions; temperate rainforest and tropical rainforest.

    Tropical rainforests are dominant near the equator, in tropical or humid areas, as in Southeast Asia and in the Pacific Region. Tropical types are characterized by the location of the ITCZ or the Inter-tropical convergence zone. Temperate rainforests are literally in temperate zones or hot areas, specifically, in North America and in East Asia.

    Besides the differences between forest and rainforest, both also share another significant similarity as they play vital roles in maintaining good and healthy ecosystems. It is important to preserve and protect both from the extreme impact of calamities, global warming, and other elements that could potentially deplete and destroy the rainforest. The departments of forestry in all states, or nations, are concerned with mobilizing citizens to be environmentally aware of the means of protecting the natural structure of the environment, including the fauna and the flora that lives in it and the proper use of all renewable resources.

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    References