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tropical rainforest
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{{pp-semi-protected|small=yes}}{{Use dmy dates|date=March 2013}}File:Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest.jpg|thumb|An area of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. The tropical rainforests of South America contain the largest diversity of species on (Earth]].Why the Amazon Rainforest is So Rich in Species {{webarchive|url=https://web.archive.org/web/20110225204348weblink |date=25 February 2011 }}. Earthobservatory.nasa.gov (5 December 2005). Retrieved on 28 March 2013.Why The Amazon Rainforest Is So Rich In Species. ScienceDaily.com (5 December 2005). Retrieved on 28 March 2013.)(File:Koppen-Geiger Map Af present.svg|thumb|upright=1.8|Tropical rainforest climate zones (Af).)Tropical rainforests are rainforests that occur in areas of tropical rainforest climate in which there is no dry season – all months have an average precipitation of at least 60 mm – and may also be referred to as lowland equatorial evergreen rainforest. True rainforests are typically found between 10 degrees north and south of the equator (see map); they are a sub-set of the tropical forest biome that occurs roughly within the 28 degree latitudes (in the equatorial zone between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn). Within the World Wildlife Fund's biome classification, tropical rainforests are a type of tropical moist broadleaf forest (or tropical wet forest) that also includes the more extensive seasonal tropical forests.

Overview

File:Rio Madre de Dios, Peru.JPG|thumb|left|Amazon River rain forest in PeruPeruTropical rainforests can be characterized in two words: hot and wet. Mean monthly temperatures exceed {{convert|18|C|F}} during all months of the year.Woodward, Susan. Tropical broadleaf Evergreen Forest: The rainforest. {{webarchive|url=https://web.archive.org/web/20080225054655weblink |date=25 February 2008 }} Retrieved on 14 March 2009. Average annual rainfall is no less than {{convert|1680|mm|in|abbr=on}} and can exceed {{convert|10|m|in|abbr=on}} although it typically lies between {{convert|1750|mm|in|abbr=on}} and {{convert|3000|mm|in|abbr=on}}.BOOK, Newman, Arnold, Tropical Rainforest: Our Most Valuable and Endangered Habitat With a Blueprint for Its Survival Into the Third Millennium, 2002, Checkmark, 0816039739, 2, This high level of precipitation often results in poor soils due to leaching of soluble nutrients in the ground.Tropical rainforests exhibit high levels of biodiversity. Around 40% to 75% of all biotic species are indigenous to the rainforests.WEB,weblink Rainforests.net – Variables and Math, 4 January 2009, yes,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20081205135329weblink">weblink 5 December 2008, Rainforests are home to half of all the living animal and plant species on the planet.The Regents of the University of Michigan. The Tropical Rain Forest. Retrieved on 14 March 2008. Two-thirds of all flowering plants can be found in rainforests. A single hectare of rainforest may contain 42,000 different species of insect, up to 807 trees of 313 species and 1,500 species of higher plants. Tropical rainforests have been called the "world's largest pharmacy", because over one quarter of natural medicines have been discovered within them.Rainforests {{webarchive|url=https://web.archive.org/web/20120708045901weblink |date=8 July 2012 }}. Animalcorner.co.uk (1 January 2004). Retrieved on 28 March 2013.The bite that heals. Ngm.nationalgeographic.com (2013-02-25). Retrieved on 2016-06-24. It is likely that there may be many millions of species of plants, insects and microorganisms still undiscovered in tropical rainforests.Tropical rainforests are among the most threatened ecosystems globally due to large-scale fragmentation as a result of human activity. Habitat fragmentation caused by geological processes such as volcanism and climate change occurred in the past, and have been identified as important drivers of speciation.JOURNAL, Sahney, S., Benton, M.J. & Falcon-Lang, H.J., 2010, Rainforest collapse triggered Pennsylvanian tetrapod diversification in Euramerica, Geology, 38, 1079–1082, 10.1130/G31182.1, 12, 2010Geo....38.1079S, However, fast human driven habitat destruction is suspected to be one of the major causes of species extinction. Tropical rain forests have been subjected to heavy logging and agricultural clearance throughout the 20th century, and the area covered by rainforests around the world is rapidly shrinking.Brazil: Deforestation rises sharply as farmers push into Amazon, The Guardian, 1 September 2008China is black hole of Asia's deforestation, Asia News, 24 March 2008

History

Tropical rainforests have existed on earth for hundreds of millions of years. Most tropical rainforests today are on fragments of the Mesozoic era supercontinent of Gondwana. The separation of the landmass resulted in a great loss of amphibian diversity while at the same time the drier climate spurred the diversification of reptiles. The division left tropical rainforests located in five major regions of the world: tropical America, Africa, Southeast Asia, Madagascar, and New Guinea, with smaller outliers in Australia. However, the specifics of the origin of rainforests remain uncertain due to an incomplete fossil record.

Other types of tropical forest

Several biomes may appear similar-to, or merge via ecotones with, tropical rainforest:
Moist seasonal tropical forest:
File:Rain Forest Daintree Australia.jpg|thumb|Daintree "rainforest" in Queensland is actually a seasonal tropical forestseasonal tropical forestMoist seasonal tropical forests receive high overall rainfall with a warm summer wet season and a cooler winter dry season. Some trees in these forests drop some or all of their leaves during the winter dry season, thus they are sometimes called "tropical mixed forest". They are found in parts of South America, in Central America and around the Caribbean, in coastal West Africa, parts of the Indian subcontinent, and across much of Indochina.
Montane rainforests:
These are found in cooler-climate mountainous areas, becoming known as cloud forests at higher elevations. Depending on latitude, the lower limit of montane rainforests on large mountains is generally between 1500 and 2500 m while the upper limit is usually from 2400 to 3300 m.
Flooded rainforests:
Tropical freshwater swamp forests, or "flooded forests", are found in Amazon basin (the Várzea) and elsewhere.

Forest structure

Rainforests are divided into different strata, or layers, with vegetation organized into a vertical pattern from the top of the soil to the canopy. Each layer is a unique biotic community containing different plants and animals adapted for life in that particular strata. Only the emergent layer is unique to tropical rainforests, while the others are also found in temperate rainforests.

Forest floor

(File:Gorilla gorilla04.jpg|thumb|Western lowland gorilla)The forest floor, the bottom-most layer, receives only 2% of the sunlight. Only plants adapted to low light can grow in this region. Away from riverbanks, swamps and clearings, where dense undergrowth is found, the forest floor is relatively clear of vegetation because of the low sunlight penetration. This more open quality permits the easy movement of larger animals such as: ungulates like the okapi (Okapia johnstoni), tapir (Tapirus sp.), Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), and apes like the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), as well as many species of reptiles, amphibians, and insects. The forest floor also contains decaying plant and animal matter, which disappears quickly, because the warm, humid conditions promote rapid decay. Many forms of fungi growing here help decay the animal and plant waste.

Understory layer

The understory layer lies between the canopy and the forest floor. The understory is home to a number of birds, small mammals, insects, reptiles, and predators. Examples include leopard (Panthera pardus), poison dart frogs (Dendrobates sp.), ring-tailed coati (Nasua nasua), boa constrictor (Boa constrictor), and many species of Coleoptera. The vegetation at this layer generally consists of shade-tolerant shrubs, herbs, small trees, and large woody vines which climb into the trees to capture sunlight. Only about 5% of sunlight breaches the canopy to arrive at the understory causing true understory plants to seldom grow to 3 m (10 feet). As an adaptation to these low light levels, understory plants have often evolved much larger leaves. Many seedlings that will grow to the canopy level are in the understory.File:FRIM canopy.JPG|thumb|The canopy at the Forest Research Institute MalaysiaForest Research Institute Malaysia

Canopy layer

The canopy is the primary layer of the forest forming a roof over the two remaining layers. It contains the majority of the largest trees, typically 30–45 m in height. Tall, broad-leaved evergreen trees are the dominant plants. The densest areas of biodiversity are found in the forest canopy, as it often supports a rich flora of epiphytes, including orchids, bromeliads, mosses and lichens. These epiphytic plants attach to trunks and branches and obtain water and minerals from rain and debris that collects on the supporting plants. The fauna is similar to that found in the emergent layer, but more diverse. It is suggested that the total arthropod species richness of the tropical canopy might be as high as 20 million. Other species habituating this layer include many avian species such as the yellow-casqued wattled hornbill (Ceratogymna elata), collared sunbird (Anthreptes collaris), grey parrot (Psitacus erithacus), keel-billed toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus), scarlet macaw (Ara macao) as well as other animals like the spider monkey (Ateles sp.), African giant swallowtail (Papilio antimachus), three-toed sloth (Bradypus tridactylus), kinkajou (Potos flavus), and tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla).

Emergent layer

The emergent layer contains a small number of very large trees, called emergents, which grow above the general canopy, reaching heights of 45–55 m, although on occasion a few species will grow to 70–80 m tall.BOOK, Bourgeron, Patrick S., Frank B. Golley, Tropical Rain Forest Ecosystems. Structure and Function, 1983, 14A, Ecosystems of the World, Elsevier Scientific, 0-444-41986-1, 29–47, Spatial Aspects of Vegetation Structure, WEB,weblink Sabah, Eastern Native Tree Society, 14 November 2007, Some examples of emergents include: Balizia elegans, Dipteryx panamensis, Hieronyma alchorneoides, Hymenolobium mesoamericanum, Lecythis ampla and Terminalia oblonga. These trees need to be able to withstand the hot temperatures and strong winds that occur above the canopy in some areas. Several unique faunal species inhabit this layer such as the crowned eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus), the king colobus (Colobus polykomos), and the large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus).However, stratification is not always clear. Rainforests are dynamic and many changes affect the structure of the forest. Emergent or canopy trees collapse, for example, causing gaps to form. Openings in the forest canopy are widely recognized as important for the establishment and growth of rainforest trees. It is estimated that perhaps 75% of the tree species at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica are dependent on canopy opening for seed germination or for growth beyond sapling size, for example.

Ecology

Climates

(File:El bosque inundado amazonico-cosmocaixa-2009 (2).JPG|thumb|Artificial tropical rainforest in Barcelona)Tropical rainforests are located around and near the equator, therefore having what is called an equatorial climate characterized by three major climatic parameters: temperature, rainfall, and dry season intensity. Other parameters that affect tropical rainforests are carbon dioxide concentrations, solar radiation, and nitrogen availability. In general, climatic patterns consist of warm temperatures and high annual rainfall. However, the abundance of rainfall changes throughout the year creating distinct moist and dry seasons. Tropical forests are classified by the amount of rainfall received each year, which has allowed ecologists to define differences in these forests that look so similar in structure. According to Holdridge's classification of tropical ecosystems, true tropical rainforests have an annual rainfall greater than 2 m and annual temperature greater than 24 degrees Celsius, with a potential evapotranspiration ratio (PET) value of JOURNAL, Semazzi, F. H., Song, Y, 2001, A GCM study of climate change induced by deforestation in Africa, Climate Research, 17, 169–182, 10.3354/cr017169, 2001ClRes..17..169S, JOURNAL, Stronza, A., Gordillo, J., yes, 2008, Community views of ecotourism: Redefining benefits, Annals of Tourism Research, 35, 2,weblink 10.1016/j.annals.2008.01.002, 448, JOURNAL, Tomich, P. T., Noordwijk, V. M., Vosti, A. S., Witcover, J, 1998, Agricultural development with rainforest conservation: methods for seeking best bet alternatives to slash-and-burn, with applications to Brazil and Indonesia, Agricultural Economics, 19, 1–2, 159–174, 10.1016/S0169-5150(98)00032-2, JOURNAL, Buttress Trees Elevate Soil Heterogeneity and Regulate Seedling Diversity in a Tropical Rainforest, 10.1007/s11104-010-0546-4,weblink Plant and Soil, 338, 1–2, 2010, 301–309, Tang, Yong, Yang, Xiaofei, Cao, Min, Baskin, Carol C., Baskin, Jerry M., }}

External links

{{Commons category|Tropical rainforests}}{{Wikivoyage|Tropical rainforests}} {{Biomes}}{{Authority control}}

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