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What is a rainforest?

A rainforest is a special kind of forest that grows in warm, wet places. The trees are very tall and grow closely together. There are three main types of rainforests; Tropical forests, Cloud forests, and Temperate forests.

The biggest rainforest is in South America. It is so huge that a person could walk in it for thousands of miles without ever seeing the sky between the treetops. Streams and rivers flowing between the tree tops meet up to become the largest river in the world – the Amazon River.

What does a rainforest look like?
There are many, many trees and plants in the rainforest and they all need light to help them grow. There is a constant battle between them as every plant struggles to reach the sunlight. The trees grow as tall as they can and spread their leafy branches to the sky. Beneath them the plants and animals live in areas of increasing shade right down towards the dim forest floor.

Layers in the rainforest
We can think of the rainforest as a tall building with many floors. Each floor, or layer, is home to a different range of plants and animals.

In the canopy
The tops of the trees make up the roof of the forest, called the canopy. Most of these trees are about 40 metres tall. A few even taller trees called emergents, poke their heads through the canopy. The canopy is full of life – most of the animals live here. Monkeys swing from branch to branch. Birds nest here and feed on the nuts and fruits.

The understorey
Beneath the canopy is the understorey. Here climbing plants dangle down to the forest floor. There are plants that cling to the trees and take their water from the air or from tree bark.

The forest floor
Little light passes through the understorey down to the forest floor. Only small trees and palms can live in the gloom. It is damp and warm, so leaves and twigs rot quickly. Creatures such as termites, earthworms and spiders search the floor for food.

 

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