What’s in the tropical rainforests?

History and age

Although temperate and tropical rainforests are the most diverse and rich areas of the world, little is known about their history. Temperate rainforests are older then tropical rainforests. Temperate and tropical rainforests have existed for millions of years and used to cover much more of the earth then they do today.Scientists have only begun researching the rainforests in the last 40-50 years.

In his book, The Primary Source, Norman Myers writes "Tropical rainforests are the Earth’s oldest continuous ecosystems. Fossil records show that the forests of Southeast Asia have existed in more or less their present form for 70 to 100 million years. The intensity of life forms is extraordinary: on the order of 1,000 species per square kilometer. By comparison, here in North America, we might only find 100 species in the same space." When it was published in the summer of 1992, The Primary Source offered new information on tropical rainforests and suggested new geo-political strategies for their survival; unfortunately over a decade later and it seems that we have not yet learned the value of our disappearing rainforests.

Location and Climate of Tropical Rainforests

Today, tropical rainforests cover only two to six percent of the earth or 2.41 million acres. Tropical rainforests wrap around the equator and lie between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, 22.5° North and 22.5° South of the equator.

Tropical rainforests are found in Central and South America, Africa, Australia, and Asia.The largest tropical rainforests are in the Amazon Basin of South America, in Western African countries, as well as South Pacific countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. Smaller rainforests are found throughout Central America, parts of Mexico and Hawaii, and other islands in the Pacific and Caribbean.

The climate of tropical rainforests is, in many ways, dictated by their location around the equator. Tropical rainforests are warm year round with temperatures from about 72-93F (22-34C) with high humidity. Temperatures fluctuate a little during the year, mainly due to cloud cover and humidity. The closer rainforests are to the equator the more rain it gets, anywhere from 80 to over 430 inches each year. When there’s less rainfall, the constant cloud cover keeps the air moist and prevents plants from drying out.

Location and Climate of Temperate Rainforests

Although temperate forests can still be found in many places throughout the world, temperate rainforests only occur in seven geographic regions of the world and make up less then 1% of the earth. Temperate rainforests are usually found close to the ocean, in mountains along the coast, where winters are milder and summers are foggy and cool. Mountains keep the moisture in and block extreme temperatures and conditions. Most temperate rainforests average 140 inches or more a year. Temperatures usually don’t get warmer then 80 degrees fahrenheit.

Temperate Rainforest are found on the NW coast of North America as far north as Alaska, the Appalachian Mountains,Canada, the southern part of South America, parts of China, the Himalayans, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Iceland, North and South Korea, and all of Japan.

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This post is part of the series: What is it about the rainforests?

This series investigates temperate and tropical rainforests,compares and contrasts plant life, climate, location, animal diversity, and threats to both types of rainforests.
  1. Where are the Rainforests?