The rainforests of our world are truly astonishing. The trees can grow to dizzying heights, and are they only found where it’s hot and humid. As the name suggests, they also grow in places that have a lot of rainfall. A tropical rainforest will usually receive at least 2 METRES of rainfall in a year!
They are full of incredible animals, insects and plants, so we have to be very careful to preserve the rainforests as much as we can. To begin with, over a quarter of all natural medicines that we use have been discovered there! They are also responsible for processing carbon dioxide into oxygen, keeping our atmosphere healthy.
Here are 12 facts about the rainforests that you might not know…
- Tropical rainforests exist all over the world. They can be found in Asia, Africa, South America, Central America and even Australia! The only continent they are not found in is Antarctica (its WAY too cold).
- Rainforests have layers. Plants and animals have adapted to live in one particular layer of the rainforest. There is the emergent layer, which includes only the very tallest trees growing above the canopy layer. Then there is the canopy layer. This includes most of the other trees, and if you look at the rainforest from above, it looks like a single unbroken sea of trees. About 50% of all of the plant species in the rainforest can be found in the canopy. Then we have the understory layer, between the canopy and the forest floor – lots of birds, snakes and lizards live here. Finally we get to the forest floor. Very little light actually makes it to the forest floor, and so only plants that have adapted to very low light levels can survive.
- Less than 1% of the plants in the rainforests have actually been examined to see if they have any uses in medicine. Considering how much of our medicines are already discovered in the
rainforests, they certainly seem to have a lot more to offer.
- From when we began to monitor and watch over the rainforests, we only have around 50% of what we started with. We are destroying it at a worrying rate. In fact it is estimated that we lose around 80,000 ACRES of rainforest a day! On top of that we badly damage another 80,000 acres per day. At current rates we could lose ALL of our rainforests within 50 years.
- There are tribes of people living in the rainforests that have never had contact with the world outside of their villages. They live in complete isolation from the rest of the world.
- A lot of the animals that call the rainforest home have to live there. They have adapted over many years to the environment and now depend on it for survival. As we destroy the rainforest and the habitat that these animals need, they can not survive.
- The canopy in a rainforest is so dense that it can up to 10 minutes for the water to hit the ground!
- It is estimated that around half of ALL of the animal species on earth are found in the rainforests. Many of them we have yet to even discover.
- The rainforests act as natural water filters, keeping pollution out of the water supply. A fifth of all of the fresh water in the world can be found in the Amazon Basin.
- The most expensive coffee in the world is made by the elephants in the rainforests of Thailand. They are fed the coffee beans and they are collected from the dung later after passing through the elephants digestive system.
- Rainforests are the oldest living ecosystem on the planet. They are estimated to be tens of millions of years old!
- Around 70% of plant species useful in cancer treatment are found only in the rainforests.