Near the equator, the sun shines almost year-round. The intense heat causes storm clouds to build up quickly, drenching the land with frequent rain showers. This combination of warmth and moisture is an ideal climate for plants, which produce leaves and flowers all year long. The plants grow quickly, providing plenty of food for animals. Here live more animals, insects and plants than anywhere else on the planet. Welcome to a tropical forest!
- Tropical rainforests are found in South America, along the Amazon River. They’re also found in Central America, Central Africa, New Guinea, Southeast Asia and some parts of Australia.
Tropical rainforests have three distinct parts: the canopy, the understory and the forest floor.
- The canopy is the top layer, closest to the sky. Here, huge trees produce dense foliage. A few very tall trees emerge out of the canopy. Birds, such as toucans, live in the tallest trees. The main canopy is home to most of the animals in the rainforest. Here you’ll find monkeys, sloths, birds, lizards, bats and tree snakes.
- The understory includes smaller trees and shrubs that grow in the shade beneath the canopy. Lizards, birds and snakes may also live here.
- The forest floor is often densely shaded. This is where the large predators of the forest live, including big cats, snakes and giant spiders. Elephants, tapirs, gorillas and wild pigs also roam about the forest floor.
- Equator: an imaginary line circling the middle of the globe
- Intense: strong
- Drench: flood with moisture
- Distinct: obviously separate
- Predator: an animal that hunts other animals for food
Visit the University of California Santa Barbara to learn more about tropical rainforests.
Question: Do rainforests help people?
Answer: Yes, plants dissolve carbon dioxide and produce oxygen in return – which cleans up the air. Tropical rainforests also provide people with food and hard wood for making homes and furniture. Many medicines come from plants in the rainforest.
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