Tropical rainforests are found in Asia, Africa, South America, Central America, and on many of the Pacific islands. They are often found along the equator. Almost half of the world's tropical rainforests are in the South American country Brazil.
There are other types of rainforests around the world, too. For example, northern Australia has a “dry rainforest” that experiences a dry season each year, and the rainy Pacific Northwest in the United States has a “temperate rainforest” that is made up of evergreen trees.
Tropical rainforests receive at least 70 inches of rain each year and have more species of plants and animals than any other biome. Many of the plants used in medicine can only be found in tropical rainforests. The combination of heat and moisture makes this biome the perfect environment for more than 15 million plants and animals. The thick vegetation absorbs moisture, which then evaporates and completes the cycle by falling again as rain.
A rainforest grows in three levels. The canopy, or tallest level, has trees between 100 and 200 feet tall. They block most of the sunlight from the levels below. The second level, or understory, contains a mix of small trees, vines, and palms as well as shrubs and ferns. The third and lowest level is the forest floor, where herbs, mosses, and fungi grow.
Rainforests are an endangered biome. People have cut the trees and sold the wood for firewood, building materials, and paper. Parts of the rainforest have been burned to make space for grazing and farming. Every minute, approximately 30 acres of rainforest are destroyed. The large amounts of carbon dioxide that are released due to the cutting and burning of rainforests contribute to the greenhouse effect.
Some of the animals of the tropical rainforest are the anteater, jaguar, brocket deer, lemur, orangutan, marmoset, macaw, parrot, sloth, and toucan. Among the many plant species are bamboo, banana trees, rubber trees, and cassava.