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Rainforest Basics
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What is a Rainforest?
Is there a difference between a rainforest and a jungle?
Is the Amazon a jungle or a rainforest?

Where are the rainforests of the world?
Where are the rainforests in South & Central America?

Rainforest Quick Facts
Amazon Quick Facts
Some Fascinating Facts

From "The Neotropical Companion" by John Kricher:

A rainforest is essentially a non-seasonal forest, where rainfall is both abundant and constant.

From "The Neotropical Companion" by John Kricher:

When a rainforest is disturbed, such as by hurricane, lightning strikes or human activity,
the disturbed area is opened, permitting the penetration of large amounts of light.

Fast growing plant species intolerant of shade are temporarily favored
and a tangle of thin-boled trees, shrubs and vines result.

Like a huge, dense pile carpet, a mass of greenery, or "jungle",
soon covers the gap created by the disturbance.

Another explanation:

A tropical rainforest has more kinds of trees and other plant life than any other area of the world. Most trees in the tropical rainforest are broad leaf trees that grow closely together. The tallest trees may grow as tall as 200 feet. The tops, called crowns, form a covering of leaves about 100-150 feet above the ground. This cover is called the upper canopy. The crowns of the smaller trees form one or two lower canopies. These canopies share the forest floor so that it receives less than one percent as much sunlight as does the upper canopy. As a result, only ferns and other plants requiring little sunlight grown on the forest floor. This makes it possible for a person to easily walk through most parts of a tropical rainforest.
However, areas of dense growth occur where much sunlight reaches the ground. These areas are called jungles and grow in swamps, near broad rivers or in former clearings.


According to www.dictionary.com whose source is Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary,
the definition of "amazon" is:
  1. One of a fabulous race of female warriors in Scythia; hence, a female warrior.
  2. A tall, strong masculine woman; a virago
  3. A name numerous species of South American parrots of the genus Chrysotis
According to WordNet, the definition of "amazon" is:
  1. A large strong and aggressive woman
  2. (Greek mythology) one of a nation of women warriors of Scythia (who burned off the right breast in order to use a bow and arrow more effectively
  3. A major South American river; flows into the Atlantic; the world's 2nd longest river (4000 miles)
  4. Mainly green tropical American parrots
According to Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary Unabridged Second Edition:
  1. In Greek Mythology, a female warrior of a race supposed to have lived in Scythia, near the Black Sea
  2. a woman or girl soldier
  3. a large, strong, masculine woman; a virago
  4. a South American parrot of the genus Chrysotis
  5. any of the South American hummingbirds
  6. an Amazon ant

You will note that NONE of the definitions associate "jungle" or "rainforest" with the definition of Amazon.

However, in everyday language "amazon" most commonly refers as equally to "rainforest" and-or "jungle" as it does to the actual river and river basin itself.

So, is the Amazon a "rainforest" or a "jungle"?
Both, depending on where you are in the Amazon.

According to Grolier Inc, there are two major types of rainforests:

  • tropical, characterized by broadleaf evergreen trees that form a closed canopy, below which is found a zone of vines and epiphytes (plants growing in the trees), a relatively open forest floor and a very large number of species of both plant and animal life. The largest areas of the tropical rainforest are in the Amazon basic of South America, in the Congo basin and other lowland equatorial regions of Africa, and on both the mainland and the islands off Southeast Asia where they are especially abundant in Sumatra and New Guinea. Small areas are found in Central America and along the Queensland coast of Australia.
  • temperate, growing in higher-latitude regions having wet, maritime climates and less extensive than those of the tropical forests. Some of the notable forests in this category are the northwest of the USA, southern Chile, in Tasmania and in parts of southeastern Australia and New Zealand.


According to International Preservation in 1997:

Among the world's 200 nations, just 17 are home to 70% of all of the biodiversity, the natural riches of the planet.

Of these 17 mega-diverse countries, 7 are in the Western Hemisphere and 5 are in South America.


Most of Central America has rainforests.
In South America, 5 coutries are considered mega-biodiverse:

  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Peru
  • Brasil
  • Venezuela

SOME RAINFOREST QUICK FACTS found in a variety of places, simplified and organized, sometimes with diverse stats and certainly NOT meant to be a definitive guide:

Brazil - #1 in bio-diversity, according to International Preservation in 1997:
  • 55,000 plant species (22% of those on earth)
  • 1st for mammals (524 species)
  • 1st for fresh water fish
  • 1st for insects
  • 1st for Macaws and parrots


  • 1815 species of birds (out of 9000 on earth)
  • more amphibians than Brazil
  • #2 in plant species
  • #3 in reptiles

Ecuador was added to the mega-biodiversity list because of the variety of eco-systems and diversity due to the Galapagos

  • 11 eco-systems, ranging from arid deserts to snow-capped peaks, from forest clad mountainsides to the tropical rainforests of the lowlands which are some of the most extensive on earth and producing the 4th largest rainfall on earth
  • 1st for butterflies (3532 species)
  • 2nd for birds (1710 species)
  • 3rd in both vertebrae species (excluding 2873 fish) and endemic species (350)
  • 4th for mammals (466 species)
  • has the greatest bio-diversity and density of birds on earth:
    • 1780 species of birds
    • 18.5% of all bird species on earth
    • 45% of all Neotropical birds
  • Manu is 1/2 the size of Switzerland; 2/3 is unexplored; 1000 species
  • in the Peruvian cloud forest every 500 meters of elevation produces a new species

Miscellaneous and un-organized but interesting facts:

  • rain forests cover less than 6% of the earth's total land surface
  • rainforests are home for up to three-fourths of all known species of plans and animals
  • rain forests have three to four different levels:
    • emergent layer (top most level; tops of the tallest trees as tall as 150 feet)
    • the canopy (tops of trees ranging 60-90 feet tall)
    • the understory (trees of up to 50 feet tall; trunks of canopy trees; new trees)
    • the forest floor (branches, roots, leaves, little vegetation, thin layer of soil)
  • 1/3 of all the birds in the world live in rainforests
  • In Central America, a scientist caught over 500 different species of insects by sweeping a net through the air fewer than 2000 times
  • In stead of wind, many hummingbirds, other birds, bats and insects are the main source of spreading seeds throughout the forest floor
  • Frogs in the rainforest are very bright and shiny
  • A rainforest can have more ants, in weight and numbers, than anything else
  • 30 million species of plants and animals liver in the world's rainforests
  • Two thirds of the world's plants are found in the rainforest
  • 30,000 types of species of epiphytes (some examples: bromeliads, mosses, ferns, orchids, cacti)
  • Thundershowers, on average, occur 200 out of 365 days a year which creates a very humid atmosphere

AMAZON QUICK FACTS obtained from a variety of sources, simply organized, none verified and not meant to be the definitive guide to Amazon facts.

  • The Amazon is the largest and densest rainforest on earth
  • The Amazon covers 2.5 million miles, about the size of the USA west of the Mississippi
  • If Amazonas were a country, it would be the 9th largest on earth
  • Each minute the Amazon River discharges 3.4 million gallons of water into the Atlantic, 14 times the discharge of the Mississippi
  • The Amazon runs 4007 miles from its origin in the Andes to the Atlantic, making it the second longest river on earth
  • During its journey it touches and-or travels through 8 countries
  • There are 200 major tributaries of which 17 are more than 1000 miles long and 10 of which discharge more water than the Mississippi
  • Its vegetation represents about 1/3 of the remaining forest on earth and provides about 15% of the world's new oxygen
  • Scientists have catalogued:
    • 2500 species of fish
    • 1500 species of birds
    • 1800 species of butterflys
    • 4 types of big cats
    • 200 species of mosquitos
    • 50,000 species of higher plants