What are rainforests? Definitions and basic rainforest facts say they represent areas of tall, evergreen trees that get consistent, heavy rainfall. But, in reality, they are so much more. Home to some of the most unique and unusual animals and plants, rainforests are full of breathtaking scenery and stunning landscapes.
In addition to being tropical sanctuaries and the most biologically diverse regions in the world, rainforests keep the planet healthy and provide all of us — animals and humans alike — with water, oxygen, and food. They really are a true masterpiece of nature.
The Most Interesting Facts About the Rainforest
- Rainforests cover 2.5% of the Earth’s surface.
- There are two types of rainforests — tropical and temperate.
- The Amazon is the biggest rainforest in the world.
- Tropical rainforests are home to half of the world’s plants and animals.
- 53% of rainforests are located on the American continent.
- Over 450 species of reptiles live in the Amazon rainforest.
- 50% of all bird species live in the Amazon Basin and Indonesia.
- Rainforests help mitigate the effects of climate change.
- A quarter of drugs used in Western medicine come from rainforest plants.
- Rainforests might lose 5–10% of their species every 10 years.
General Rainforest Statistics and Facts
1. Rainforests cover only 2.5% of the Earth’s surface.
It is difficult to estimate rainforest coverage as it depends on what science actually defines as a forest. Nevertheless, researchers believe that around 8% of the land on Earth is made up of rainforests. In other words, tropical rainforests are believed to span across 5–6.8 million square miles.
2. 53% of rainforests are located on the American continent.
(World Atlas, National Geographic)
Although rainforests are found on all continents except Antarctica, facts about the rainforest reveal that nearly half are located in the Americas. Furthermore, 27% of all rainforests are found in Africa and 20% in Asia and Oceania.
3. Rainforests typically have 4 layers.
- The emergent layer that has 200-feet-tall trees;
- The upper canopy, which is a deep sea of vegetation around 20 feet thick and home to most animal species in the forest;
- The understory, comprising of shorter plants, like palms and philodendrons;
- The forest floor, to which decaying matter from the upper layers falls and feeds the trees.
The forest floor is also home to animals such as rhinoceroses, elephants, bears, armadillos, and other burrowing animals that live under the soil, which is another interesting fact about the rainforest.
4. The canopy is so dense that it can take raindrops 10 minutes to fall to the ground.
(Fascinate, Conserve Energy Future)
The tree canopy in rainforests is so thick that it allows just 5% of sunlight to reach the understory, while only 2% of the sun reaches the forest floor.
5. There are two types of rainforests, rainforest facts show.
In addition to tropical rainforests, which are the most popular, there are also temperate rainforests. Tropical rainforests are found closer to the equator and have warm and moist climates. Temperate rainforests, on the other hand, are located further to the north, closer to coastal areas, and are generally cooler than tropical rainforests.
6. Temperatures in tropical rainforests move between 70°–85°F.
(Britannica, National Geographic)
Temperatures in tropical rainforests remain high even at night — around 68°F. Tropical rainforest facts indicate that high temperatures lead to higher humidity levels (ranging from 77–88%), which in turn allow various species to thrive and make tropical rainforests so biologically diverse. Tropical rainforests get annual precipitation of 80 to 400 inches.
7. Temperate rainforests make up 25% of all forests in the world.
(Atlas & Boots, National Geographic)
The temperate rainforest is less sunny and gets less rainfall than its cousin — the tropical rainforest. Rainfall in these regions is around 60–200 inches per year. They are also cooler (temperate rainforest climate experiences temperatures between 50°–70°F) and not as biologically diverse, but they are still home to many unique animals and plants.
8. There are only seven temperate rainforests in the world.
(Mother Nature Network, National Geographic, USA Today)
The Pacific Temperate Rainforest is the biggest of these. Stretching for 23,300 square miles across North America, it encompasses the Tongass National Forest and the Great Bear Rainforest. The latter, called the “Amazon of the North,” is another hotbed of biological diversity, Great Bear rainforest facts tell us, and it’s home to one of the rarest bear species in the world – the white spirit bear.
9. Temperate rainforests have around 20 tree species.
Although they are not as diverse, trees in the temperate rainforest are bigger, taller (up to 300 feet), and tend to live longer (500–1000 years). Trees in tropical rainforests can grow up to 115 feet and live between 50–100 years.
10. Rainforests can also exist in drier regions.
According to rainforest facts, these ecosystems are not only found in areas with high levels of annual rainfall. “Dry rainforests” are located in northeastern Australia, where annual rainfall is lower, and most of the trees, or 75%, are deciduous as opposed to the evergreen trees in tropical and temperate rainforests. Other types of rainforests include monsoon forests, which have lush and dense vegetation and mangrove forests, which are found along estuaries on tropical coasts.
11. The Amazon is the biggest rainforest in the world.
(Top100arena, Green Peace)
How big is the Amazon rainforest? Covering around 2.6 million square miles, the Amazon rainforest is home to hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples and thousands of plant and animal species, as well as more than 2.5 million insect species. In fact, 10% of all species on Earth live in the Amazon rainforest. Although it stretches across nine South American countries, around 60% of the Amazon is in Brazil.
12. Over 30 million people live in the Amazon rainforest, rainforest statistics show.
(WWF, The Independent)
Indigenous people make up around 9%, or 2.7 million, of the Amazon population. They are divided into 350 different ethnic groups, with 77 tribes in Brazil living in almost complete isolation from the rest of the world. Some tribes came out in protest against deforestation, which proves how much these practices disrupt their habitat and lifestyle.
13. The Congo Basin is the second-largest rainforest, facts about the tropical rainforest indicate.
(National Geographic, Mongabay)
The Congo Basin is home to 700 species of river fish, as well as forest elephants and great apes. This African rainforest is also home to the Mbuti people. The Mbuti are rarely taller than five feet, and even though their population was much larger in the past, today, there is fewer than one person per every 1.5 square miles.
Rainforest Animal and Plant Facts
14. Tropical rainforests are home to half of the world’s plants and animals.
Rainforests are so amazing that just four square miles of forest contain 1,500 flowering plants and 750 species of trees, as well as 400 species of birds and 150 butterfly species.
15. Ever heard of a rainforest monkey? Facts show they’re divided into two groups.
(All About Wildlife)
These include Old World monkeys, which are found in the rainforests of Africa and Asia, and New World monkeys that live in Central and South America. Old World monkeys are bigger and more closely related to humans than their American counterparts.
16. Only 104,700 Bornean orangutans remain in the world.
(WWF, USA TODAY)
An endangered species, the Bornean orangutan lives in the Heart of Borneo, one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Even though it covers only 1% of the Earth’s terrain, this rainforest houses 6% of the world’s animal and plant species.
17. The Sumatran tiger is on the verge of extinction, scary rainforest facts reveal.
Indonesian rainforests are also home to the Sumatran tiger, the only species of the large Indonesian tigers left. The Balinese and Javan tigers have gone extinct, and with a population of less than 500 in the wild, the Sumatran tiger is also in danger of disappearing forever.
18. All hope is not lost, though, as a plant lost for 151 years reappeared in the rainforest in Borneo in 2018.
An alien-looking plant that doesn’t need sunlight to survive reappeared in Malaysia a century after it was first documented. Being one of the rarest rainforest plants, facts reveal that the 2018 discovery of the Thismia neptunis, or Fairy Lantern, is the first-ever recorded finding of the species. This is just another example of the strange and beautiful plants and animals that live hidden in rainforests.
19. Plant diversity in Indonesian rainforests is second only to Amazonia.
Speaking of plants in Indonesia, there are more than 25,000 species of flowering plants, 40 of which only grow in this region. Borneo alone boasts 2000 species of orchids, facts about orchids in the rainforest reveal.
20. The New Guinea rainforest has the most orchid species in the world.
(USA TODAY, EMTV)
13% of all the orchid species in the world are found in this rainforest, making it the ultimate destination for orchid lovers. As of 2018, there are 3,000 known and registered species of orchids, while scientists believe 2,000–3,000 species are waiting to be discovered.
21. The African rainforests are home to many endangered species of animals and plants.
Tropical rainforest plants are precious, as facts reveal that there are over 10,000 species of these in the Congo Basin, 30% of which are not found anywhere else in the world. The Congo is an incredible place full of fascinating and endangered creatures like the Okapi, mountain gorillas (over 1,000 left in the wild), chimpanzees, and forest elephants, in addition to 400 other species of mammals, 1,000 species of birds, and 700 species of fish.
22. When it comes to rare rainforest animals, it’s a fact that the biggest nocturnal primate in the world can only be found in Madagascar.
Found in the rainforest of Madagascar, the aye-aye is one of the strangest creatures on the planet. This long-fingered lemur is recognizable for its huge eyes and bat-like ears. The aye-aye uses echolocation to find prey, and it has rodent-like incisors, both characteristics not found in other primates.
23. The Daintree Rainforest houses 395 rare or endangered species.
(Experience Oz, Daintree Discovery Centre)
The oldest rainforest in the world, the Daintree is also home to more than 3,000 species of plants and 12,000 types of insects, Daintree rainforest facts show. Certain animals such as the large, endangered bird, the cassowary, and the white-lipped tree frog, also live in the Daintree.
24. The Daintree Rainforest is home to the idiot fruit — one of the rarest and oldest plants in the world.
The idiot fruit tree is known by its scientific name Idiospermum australiense, and it is also called Green Dinosaur due to its lineage. This plant has similar characteristics to 88 million-year-old fossils. It also has one of the biggest seeds of all plants found on the Australian continent, rainforest facts indicate. The seeds of the idiot fruit weigh 225 grams and are very toxic to the animals that eat them.
25. The Valdivian rainforest in Chile is home to the smallest wildcat in the Americas.
(Animal Diversity Web, WWF)
The Kodkod (Leopardus guigna), a feline the size of a domestic cat, is currently listed as vulnerable by the IUCN as its population is decreasing. Besides the enigmatic wildcat, the Valdivian also houses South America’s biggest woodpecker, as well as the pudu — one of the smallest deer in the world. Other endemic species in the Valdivian temperate rainforest, the only one of its kind in South America, include the monkey puzzle tree, which has been around since the time of the dinosaurs.
26. The world’s biggest spider lives deep in the South African rainforests.
(Live Science, ThoughtCo.)
The Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) weighs around 6.2 oz and is big as a puppy. As the name suggests, it’s big enough to eat birds, and it sometimes gets eaten by humans.
Amazon Rainforest Facts on Animals and Plants
27. There are over 4,000 species of amphibians in the world, and 427 of them live in the Amazon rainforest.
One of the most famous residents of the Amazon is the poison dart frog. These tiny, brightly colored frogs excrete poison from their skin. They are so dangerous that 2.5 milliliters of their venom is enough to kill an adult human.
28. Over 450 reptile species live in the Amazon rainforest.
(Amazon Aid, Mongabay)
In addition to many lizards, facts about the Amazon rainforest show that this ecosystem is home to numerous species of turtles and tortoises. Some of these species are very old. For instance, the South American river turtle has been around for 158 million years.
29. There are 2.5 million insect species in the Amazon rainforest alone.
(Active Wild, Tropical Rainforest Facts)
Insects make up 90% of all living things on the planet, and a quarter of them are found in rainforests. When it comes to rainforest insects, facts suggest there are thousands of species in the Amazon rainforest that haven’t even been identified yet.
30. Rainforests are the perfect habitat for snakes.
(All About Wildlife, National Geographic)
Therefore, it’s not surprising that rainforests are home to many of the most famous snakes, such as the green anaconda. It’s the biggest snake in the world, and it can weigh up to 550 pounds. According to rainforest snakes facts, other snakes that inhabit rainforests include the king cobra (the biggest venomous snake in the world), mambas, and the coastal taipan — a snake found in Australia which has the third most potent snake venom on the planet.
31. A staggering 50% of all bird species live in the Amazon Basin and Indonesia.
(Mongabay, Rainforest Facts)
The birds of the rainforests come in all shapes and sizes, from the colorful parrots to the tiny hummingbirds. Rainforest birds, according to facts, range from the classic long-beaked toucan and pink flamingo to the unique cassowary and rhinoceros hornbill.
32. Besides birds and amphibians, other Amazon rainforest animals also include the biggest rodent on Earth.
Looking like an oversized guinea pig, the capybara is a semi-aquatic animal that can weigh up to 140 pounds. Called “Master of the Grasses,” adult capybaras eat six to eight pounds of grass every day, as well as their own feces to digest the cellulose in the grass better.
33. The Amazon rainforest is home to aquatic animals, too, as facts reveal that it contains the biggest number of freshwater fish species on the planet.
With over 1,100 tributaries, no wonder the Amazon is home to over 5,600 species of freshwater fish, including the biggest one — the 16-feet-long arapaima gigas.
34. Only male dolphins in the Amazon River turn pink.
One of the more famous animals of the Amazon rainforest — the pink river dolphin, or boto — is recognizable for its smile, long, skinny beak, and distinctive pink color, which is the result of scar tissue from fights. The pinker the male, the more attractive it is to females, especially during mating season.
35. Another one of the famous rainforest animals inhabiting the Amazon Basin is the piranha, facts reveal.
Even though they are usually portrayed as vicious species that eat their prey in a matter of seconds, piranhas are not as aggressive as shown in movies. The truth is, piranhas are omnivores, which means that they eat plants and fruit too, and they only consume the flesh of the dead or dying animals that have fallen in the water. Some piranhas are vegetarians, and they can be quite peaceful.
Why Is the Rainforest Important? Here Are Some Facts.
36. Rainforests help mitigate the effects of climate change.
(AP News, National Geographic)
Global annual CO2 emissions are around 40 billion tons, and rainforests help absorb much of these harmful emissions. The Amazon rainforest alone takes in 2 billion tons of CO2 or 5% of CO2 emissions across the world. Rainforests also absorb solar radiation and reduce the effect of greenhouse gas emissions, thus regulating the temperature and weather cycles of the planet, the rainforest facts show.
37. Rainforests maintain the Earth’s water cycle.
Rainforests get a lot of rain, but they also make it through a process known as evapotranspiration. This allows rainforests to absorb heat, cool the planet, and create more humidity in the air, which generates more rainfall. The Amazon, for instance, creates almost 80% of its own rainfall.
38. Rainforests are a source of fresh water.
The Amazon Basin stores one-fifth of the world’s freshwater, facts about the Amazon rainforest indicate, while the Congo Basin supplies around 75 million people in Africa with water and food. Rainforests in Malaysia, on the other hand, meet almost 90% of the nation’s freshwater requirements.
39. A quarter of drugs used in Western medicine come from rainforest plants.
(Amazon Aid, Live Science)
On top of that, 70% of the 2,000 tropical plants that the US National Cancer Institute has identified as helpful can be found in rainforests, tropical and temperate rainforest facts show. Despite the many promises rainforest plants hold, only 1% of plant species have been analyzed for their medical effects.
40. 80% of the food we eat every day comes from tropical rainforests.
(The Rainforest Site, The Rainforest Alliance)
We have rainforests to thank for chocolate, bananas, tomatoes, rice, potatoes, coffee, sugar, and spices like cinnamon and vanilla (to name a few). Other products that come from rainforests include forest fibers, used in rugs, mattresses, and ropes, as well as oils and resins found in fuel, paint, and rubber products, fun facts about rainforest inform.
41. 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood.
Most of the people who live near rainforests, or 1.2 billion of them, rely on the forest for their basic needs and use it to earn money and food.
Rainforest Destruction Facts
42. Rainforests might lose 5–10% of their species every 10 years.
(National Geographic, Rainforest Action Network)
Biologists estimate that an average of 137 animal and plant species are threatened with extinction every day in tropical rainforests, facts about rainforest animals warn.
43. Deforestation is one of the main threats to rainforests.
Deforestation statistics reveal that logging, mining, ranching, and farming are the main reasons behind the destruction of the world’s rainforests.
44. 17% of the Amazon forest has been destroyed in the last 50 years.
Most of this loss is caused by the so-called slash-and-burn agriculture — the process of converting forests to cattle ranches.
45. A staggering 12 million hectares of tree cover was lost in tropical forests in 2018.
How much rainforest is left since 2018? Around 3.6 million hectares of primary rainforest was lost in 2018, which is an area roughly the size of Belgium. This is the fourth biggest loss since researchers started keeping track in 2001. The primary rainforest refers to old-growth, or trees that can be between 100–1000 years old. They can store more carbon and are home to many animal species.
46. Over 2.3 million wild animals died in the 2019 fires in Bolivia, according to tropical rainforest animal facts.
(Global News, The Verge)
In addition to 3.8 million hectares lost (rainforest loss hasn’t been this high in the Amazon since 2010), the number of animals that have been affected by wildfires and the slash-and-burn agriculture is staggering.
47. Brazil managed to reduce deforestation rates by 70% between 2007 and 2015.
Other South American countries have not been that successful. In Colombia, the rainforest loss increased by 9% due to deforestation. Moreover, Bolivia and Peru also lost chunks of the rainforest as a result of agriculture, illegal coca production, and illegal gold mining.
48. According to the Congo rainforest facts, Africa also experienced rainforest loss in 2018.
The highest rise in primary forest loss was recorded in Ghana (60%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (38%), and Côte d’Ivoire (26%) in 2018. In the same year, Madagascar lost 2% of its rainforest, which is more than any other tropical country. The rainforest loss in Africa is primarily attributed to agriculture and mining.
How much oxygen do rainforests produce?
It has often been claimed that rainforests produce 20% of the oxygen on the planet, but recent studies have shown that this is not true. In fact, oceans produce most of the oxygen we breathe, but rainforests still play a major role in reducing pollution by absorbing much of the carbon emissions.
What percent of the rainforest has been destroyed?
We are losing tree cover at an unprecedented rate. One and one-half acres of rainforest are lost every second, and the Amazon alone is disappearing at 20,000 square miles a year. Estimates show that if deforestation rates continue, the Amazon rainforest will be gone in 50 years.
Rainforests may be the oldest ecosystems in the world. However, new exciting discoveries and rainforest facts emerge all the time, showing us that there is still more to learn and explore in these miraculous regions. Time will tell what more amazing findings and fascinating new species will be unearthed in rainforests and how they will benefit the planet and the living things that inhabit it.
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- Mother Nature Network
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