Do you love trees? We do! And you should, too. Trees do all sorts of great things for humans, from taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen to providing shade and places to build fabulous tree houses.
Some of the most important trees in the world live in rainforests. Even though the nearest rainforest may be a long ways away from you, you still benefit from rainforests every day.
Tropical rainforests feature a wide variety of tall trees, diverse populations of plants and animals, warm climates and lots and lots of rain. To be a rainforest, an area must receive at least 80 inches of rain each year. Many rainforests receive an inch or more of rain every single day!
Rainforests are found in the tropical areas north and south of the equator. The largest rainforest in the world is the Amazon rainforest in South America. Rainforests can also be found throughout Africa, Asia, Australia and Central America.
All rainforests have a canopy, which is a layer of branches and leaves formed at the tops of the tall trees that make up the rainforest. The canopy can easily be 100 feet or more above the ground.
In rainforests, most plant and animal life exists in the canopy rather than on the ground. And what a collection of plant and animal life it is! Scientists believe that around half of the plants and animals found on the Earth live in rainforests.
Unfortunately, every year a section of rainforest the size of the state of New Jersey is destroyed. Rainforest destruction occurs for many reasons, from cutting down trees for wood to making room for farms or roads. Many groups oppose rainforest destruction because of the important role rainforests play in our world.
Scientists sometimes call rainforests the “lungs” of Earth. The millions and millions of trees in Earth’s rainforests absorb tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produce much of the oxygen humans and animals depend upon for survival.
Rainforests also help to stabilize Earth’s climate. Scientists believe carbon dioxide is a major contributor to climate change. By absorbing carbon dioxide, rainforests help to reduce the effects of worldwide climate change.
In addition to the important role rainforests play in Earth’s climate, they also are an important home to about half of the species of plants and wildlife on the planet. Many of the species found in rainforests are endangered and can only survive in rainforests.
Finally, rainforests help maintain the water cycle by producing large amounts of rainfall every year. Water produced in rainforests makes its way all over the world. As rainforests decrease in size, Earth’s water cycle is affected, leading to droughts in different areas around the world.