Rainforests are one of several different types of tropical forest. Around 65% of the moist forests are rainforests, which are composed of evergreen broadleaved trees. The rainforests are located at low latitudes due to the high humidity and temperature. Tropical rainforests are situated around the Earth along a discontinuous belt between the tropic of Cancer (23.5 degrees north) and the tropic of Capricorn (23.5 degrees south). About one third of the world’s forests are tropical rainforests covering an estimated 12 million km2.
The densest rainforests, or jungles, occur in the hot and humid zone between 10 degrees north and south of the equator. The northern and southern boundaries are mainly set by precipitation, but altitudinal limits are from temperature.
Where Are Major Rainforests
The vast majority of remaining tropical rainforests occur in developing countries providing them with a valuable economic asset. The main rainforests occur in just three of the world’s areas: Latin America, western equatorial Africa, and south east Asia.
The least disturbed rainforests are the Amazon Rainforest, the Congo, and the rainforest wilderness of New Guinea.
The Amazon Rainforest and Orinoco Basins dominate Earth’s Latin American portion of tropical rainforest accounting for over half (56%) of the world’s total. Brazil possesses 48% of this forest, with the rest occurring in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. Africa has around 18% of the world’s rainforests scattered throughout 18 countries. The remaining 26% of the world’s rainforests occur in south east Asia, Oceania, and the oriental Papuan region.
Beyond the Rainforest
At the edges of tropical rainforests, you can find another tropical forest, the moist deciduous forests that lose their leaves in the dry season. The other tropical forests are mainly open woodland, such as shrub land and certain types of partly wooded savannah, pastureland, and grassland.
Towards the north and south of tropical rainforests, the vegetation merges with savannah grassland where the type of grass and density of trees is determined by rainfall. If rainfall falls below 250mm per year, it creates desert areas with little vegetation.
Around 97% of all tropical forests have been modified by human impacts. These are classed as fallow forests where the areas have initially been cleared and farmed then abandoned allowing the forest to regenerate. It is because of these secondary forests that tropical deforestation has no atmospheric signal. This means that there is no increased CO2 clearly attributed to tropical deforestation (Schimel et al 2001), as regenerating forest absorbs released CO2 countering the effect.
A small area of tropical forest is used for plantations to produce commercial timber, pulpwood, and charcoal. The remaining forests are for either non-industrial fuel production or environmental protection.