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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 15:51 EDT

What is a Rainforest?

March 11, 2013

Hi, I’m Emerald Robinson, and in this “What is” video, we’re going to discuss our earth’s rainforests.

The definition of a rainforest is straightforward: it’s a densely wooded area that receives a lot of rain fall. Rainforests are one of earth’s biomes, that is, a rainforest is a community of plants and animals that live in a specific climate.

Tropical rainforests are the most common kind of rainforests. Located near the earth’s equator, tropical rainforests rarely get below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, average over 66 inches of rain per year, and stay at about 80 percent humidity.

Scientists who study tropical rainforests divide them into four layers.

The emergent layer consists of the tallest trees, and is inhabited by large birds of prey, bats, and butterflies;

The canopy layer is the thickest layer, made up of the tops of most trees. It’s home to the greatest number of birds and animals;

The understory is the “middle” layer. Found between the canopy and the ground, it’s populated by large cats, snakes, and lizards.

The forest floor, which gets about 2% of the sunlight, makes up the bottom layer. Many of this layer’s animals and plants get nutrition from consuming dead plant and animal matter.

Although most people think of the tropics when they envision a rainforest, there is another kind of rainforest. Temperate rainforests are found in places like the Pacific Northwest of the United States, the British Isles of Europe, and in parts of Australia and New Zealand. These areas are still very wet, but are much cooler, with average temperatures between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rainforest biomes harbor an enormous diversity of plant and animal life. Unfortunately, human destruction of the rainforest is threatening many species with extinction. For this and many other reasons, scientists and other groups continue to work to protect our precious rainforests.