Important characteristics of tropical rainforests

Are you interested in exploring a tropical rainforest? Do you want to know the important characteristics of a tropical rainforest? Read this article to explore and know more about the rich biodiversity and other unique features of tropical rainforests.


What is a tropical rainforest

A tropical rainforest is the richest biome in the world and is one of the most diverse and productive biomes on Earth. It is rich in biodiversity and lies in a broad equatorial belt of Earth typically between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

(Note: A biome is a specific geographic region on Earth with similar climatic conditions and is notable for the living species in the region. There are two major biomes on Earth - Terrestrial Biome and Aquatic Biome. A biome includes both abiotic (non-living) and biotic (living) factors.)

The largest tropical rainforests of the world are found in the equatorial regions of South America, Africa and Southeast Asia.

Salient features of tropical rainforests

Some of the unique features / structural pattern of the forest make it the most special one. Following are some of the unique features of the biome:
  • Climate

    One of the distinctive features of the tropical rainforest is its climatic conditions that include rains, humidity and temperature. These forests experience equatorial climate with average day temperature of 27oC. The temperature and rainfall of tropical rainforests supports the greatest biodiversity on Earth. These are rich in lush green vegetation due abundant moisture and sunlight. Tropical rainforests experience only wet and dry seasons.

  • Abundant rainfall

    Tropical rainforests are characterized by rainfall and evergreen species. The forests are located in the tropical wet / humid regions with an average annual rainfall of around 200-225 cm. Transpiration from the evergreen trees results in increased humidity and cloud formation in these forests. The high levels of rainfalls in these forests are evenly distributed throughout the year.

    Tropical rainforests receives maximum insolation (meaning: the amount of solar radiation received by a given area) due to geographic location. As a result, the rate of evaporation subsequent condensation and eventual precipitation are high. The weather turns stormy during late afternoon as a result of intense heating during the daytime. These tropical rainforests help in maintaining the rains and weather patterns on Earth.

    The high levels of rainfall in these forests along with the temperature create an incredibly humid environment and a year-round growing environment for the plant kingdom.

  • Rich biodiversity

    The rainforests are home to half of the Earth's plant and animal species. The ecosystems in these forests contain the greatest biodiversity in the world with over 15 million species of plants and animals living within the biome.

    (Note: An ecosystem is a biological community in which the living organisms in a given area interact with each other and with the physical environment.)

    The hot and humid conditions make the forest suitable for the growth of a wide variety of plants and animals including bacteria and other microorganisms and thus promote biodiversity. The microbes (decomposers) remain active throughout the year and help in the quick decomposition of organic matter on the forest floor which helps in rapid plant growth. The tropical rainforest has some great diversity of orchids, birds, mammals and plants. Nearly 50% of the living organisms on Earth are found in these forests. There may be many more species of plants, insects and microorganisms still undiscovered in tropical rain forests. Due to the rich biodiversity tropical rain forests are called the 'Jewels of the Earth'. The rich biodiversity of these forests provide the most beautiful wilderness on Earth.

  • The unique 4-layer structure

    The forests are the most abundant and biologically diverse biomes of Earth. The abundant rainfall and sunlight allows the rich growth of flora. A tropical rain forest is typically characterized by four layer structure that include:

    1. The tallest trees of the forest that make the emergent layer. These giant trees receive the most sunlight.

    2. The thick branches of the tall trees that provides a coverage forms the canopy. This layer provides shelter and plenty of food to most of the animals in the forest.

    3. The layer between the forest floor and canopy form the under-canopy which is hot and dark with very less sunlight. Shrubs and smaller plants grow in this layer. Varieties of moss, algae, ferns and climbers flourish in this layer.

    4. The ground of the forest with a carpet of dead organic matter forms the forest floor. Sunlight hardly reaches the floor and it makes a perfect habitat for many insects and fungi.

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  • Soil and nutrients

    Latosol is one of the typical soils of the tropical rain forest. The deep soil is formed as a result of weathering of rocks due to high rainfall in the region. The soil is mostly red in color due to rich iron content. The lower layers of the soil are poor in nutrients due to leaching of the soil by rain water.

    The hot and damp conditions on the forest floor allow the rapid decomposition of organic matter / leaf litter which leads to the formation of a thin layer of humus. Thus there is plenty of nutrients available for the plant growth which are easily absorbed by the plants. However, there is a high demand for nutrients in these forests due to fast growth of plants and high competition for survival. If the vegetation is lost, the soil is highly vulnerable to erosion and becomes infertile.

  • Rich flora and fauna

    The tropical rainforest supports rich biodiversity. The forests are rich in wide varieties of flora and fauna. There are several species of plants and animals that have adapted to survive in trees. Insects, ants, mosquitoes and butterflies are in abundance in these forests. Birds like parakeets, toucans and other colorful birds are seen in these forests.

  • Interdependence of living organisms

    Due to canopy, the sunlight does not penetrate and there is a constant fight for sunlight among the plants which is needed for photosynthesis. It results in competition among the living organisms for resources for their survival and thereby interdependence of one organisms on the other. The ecosystem of these forests is based on the most complex interdependence of living organisms. The slightest disturbance in the ecosystem will have a great impact of the food web.

  • Tribal culture

    Tropical rainforests are home for certain indigenous groups of tribes. Kayapo is one such tribes in Brazil that is living in the forests for generations in harmony with the nature.

The other distinct features of tropical rainforests include abundant presence of microorganisms and soil fauna, abundantly flowing rivers in the damp, warm and sunny areas of the forest that contribute to the delicate balance of ecosystem in the forest. The forests are rich resources of medicinal plants with high medicinal values.

Article by Kalyani
Kalyani is basically an educationist and presently a home-maker who is fruitfully utilizing her free time in freelancing, online content writing and above all blogging. She is an active lead editor at for over 2 years. She is an environmentalist who strives to protect the environment through the revival of age-old eco-friendly practices. She also strives to preserve the rich cultural heritage of India.

Follow Kalyani or read 227 articles authored by Kalyani

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