The term rainforest itself should tell you that these are forests that receive a lot of rain. But where are these forests located? These rainforests are located in the tropics, close to the Equator. Tropical rainforests are found mostly in the Americas, Asia and Africa and are located between the Tropic of Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer.
Regardless of where the rainforest is located, they all share some common traits. They are extremely warm and humid; they get a lot of rainfall; they have an enclosed canopy, making it difficult for sunlight to reach the ground; and they are home to a huge variety of plants and animals. It is estimated that rainforests have more than 30 million different species of plants and animals. There are so many great tropical rainforest facts for kids that we almost didn’t know where to start!
The Major Tropical Rainforests in the World
Amazon Rainforest, Venezuela
Photo credit: Eric Pheterson under CC license 2.0
There are three main tropical rainforests in the world and they are spread across three different continents.
South America: The largest tropical rainforest in the world is located in the northern part of South America and the southern part of Central America, in the Amazon Basin. Nearly 60 percent of the Amazon Basin is located in Brazil and the Amazon River and Orinoco River flows through the basin.
Central Africa: The second largest tropical rainforest is located in Central Africa and the mighty Congo River flows through the forest. There also are rainforests in Madagascar and Western Africa, but they are not as huge as the one in Central Africa.
Southeast Asia: Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Laos are covered with tropical rainforests and collectively these forests form the third largest rainforest in the world.
There is also an ancient but small rainforest in north east Australia.
Rainforest are very special and are also under a lot of threat so we want to educate kids about these wonderful areas. We thought these tropical rainforest facts for kids was a great place to start.
Layers of a Rainforest
You may think that a rainforest is like any other forest. However, it is not. It is quite different, as it has three distinct layers. Each layer in the rainforest houses different plants and animals and that is why botanists and zoologists are so interested in these forests.
Canopy: This is the top layer of the tall and large trees growing in the rainforest. These trees are 100 feet or more in height and their branches form a kind of umbrella for the forest. Most plants and animals live in the canopy. Some of the fauna that you will find in the canopy include reptiles, birds, monkeys and insects. You may find it strange to learn that many animals spend their entire life in the canopy without ever touching the ground!
Understory: This is the layer under the canopy and comprises mostly of the lower branches and trunks of the taller trees, but can include shorter trees and shrubs. This is the layer where large rainforest predators live. These include leopards and snakes. Other animals that you will find in the understory layer include Frogs, iguanas, bats, insects and Owls.
Forest Floor: The last and final layer of a rainforest is the forest floor. As the canopy of tropical rainforests is very thick, hardly any sunlight reaches the forest floor. It tends to damp and moist, but provides the perfect environment for spiders and other insects to thrive. Here, you will find snakes, wild pigs and deer.
Why Are Tropical Rainforests Important?
Ulysses Butterfly found in Australian Rainforests
Photo credit: Your Kid’s Planet
Without these rainforests, there will be a dearth of oxygen on Earth and you and every other living being will not be able to breathe. Tropical rainforests are responsible for producing about 40 percent of the Earth’s oxygen. Also, the several plants in the forests have medicinal properties and many have been used to make lifesaving drugs to cure serious diseases. Furthermore, these rainforests are home to a variety of plants and animals, making them an extremely important part of the environment.
Unfortunately, we humans are cutting away the rainforests to make way for agriculture, illegal felling of trees and for urban development. It is estimated that nearly 40 percent of the world’s tropical rainforests have disappeared. Today, steps are being taken to preserve the remaining tropical rainforests around the world.
Interesting Tropical Rainforest Facts for kids
- Most tropical rainforests get a minimum of 75 inches of rain, with some getting as much as 100 inches.
- The Amazon rainforest is home to more than 2,000 different species of butterflies
- Rainforests are home to most of the earths animal and plant species
- Rainforests have a profound effect on the weather patterns and temperatures around the world.
- Just 2 percent of sunlight manages to reach the forest floor of a rainforest.
Learn More About Tropical Rainforests