Difference Between Tropical Rainforest and Tropical Deciduous Forest

What Is the Difference Between Tropical Rainforest and Tropical Deciduous Forest?


Two types of forests dominate our planet’s landscape: tropical rainforest and tropical deciduous forest. On the surface, one may find them similar, with long stretches of greenery extending several thousand kilometers. However, when you look deeper, you find that tropical rainforests and tropical deciduous forests differ from each other.

In this post, we will explore the differences between tropical rainforests and tropical deciduous forests and determine the factors that result in these differences.

What is a Tropical Rainforest?

A tropical rainforest is a forest that receives heavy rainfall throughout the year and lies in the tropical climate zone.

Thus, tropical rainforests are found in areas around the equator and extend up-to about 10° north and south latitude. Africa, Asia, and South America all have tropical rainforests. The largest among them is the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, South America.

Hence the tropical rainforests have the following characteristics:

  • High precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year.
  • Very high humidity.
  • Temperatures that constantly stick around 29° C all year round.
  • Diverse and complex ecosystem, also sensitive and vulnerable to human interference.
  • Evergreen vegetation due to year-round rainfall.
  • Wide varieties of plant and animal species.
  • Large biomass production due to favorable climatic conditions in the constantly humid tropics.

A tropical rainforest lies near the equator, where the Earth receives direct sunlight. Intense rays from the sun create a climate that is warm throughout the year. The temperatures remain around 29°C or 85°F throughout the year.

Besides, these forests receive heavy rainfall each year, hence the name ‘rainforest.’ The average rainfall is 1100 to 2000mm per year. High precipitation combined with higher temperatures results in very high humidity.

Despite heavy rainfall, the soil in the tropical rainforest is poor in nutrients. Heavy precipitation washes away all the organic material before it can release its nutrients to the ground.

What is a Tropical Deciduous Forest?

Tropical deciduous forest takes their name from deciduous trees that shed their leaves in the dry season. These forests are marked by a distinct period of heavy rainfall and then dry season. Tropical deciduous forest is generally located adjacent to the tropical and subtropical rainforest biome.

Regions like south-eastern Africa, southern Mexico, central India, New Caledonia, Madagascar, eastern Bolivia, and central Brazil have tropical deciduous forests.

Tropical deciduous forests have the following characteristics:

  • Tropical deciduous forests are mainly found in regions lying between the tropic of cancer and the tropic of Capricorn.
  • A distinct period of heavy and scarce precipitation.
  • The average temperature lies around 28 to 30 degrees Celsius.
  • The vegetation here is not evergreen due to more extended dry periods with no rainfall.
  • Deciduous trees adapted to the harsher climatic conditions that shed leaves in the dry season.

Tropical deciduous forests are further divided into dry and wet deciduous forests. The wet forest receives more rainfall than the dry deciduous forest.

The soil is another essential characteristic of the tropical dry forest, and its wealth of nutrients has led to the establishment of large-scale agricultural and livestock production areas. Incidentally, tropical deciduous forests are the most exploited forests in the world.

Tropical Rainforest vs Tropical Deciduous Forest

One particular differentiating factor between tropical rainforest and tropical deciduous forest is seasonality. The tropical rainforest is continuously warmer with rainfall throughout the year. On the other hand, tropical deciduous forests have distinct dry and wet periods.

Precipitation affects every aspect of these forests. Due to heavy rainfall throughout the year, tropical rainforests remain green all year round. However, in tropical deciduous forests, the trees have adapted to long dry periods and shed leaves to conserve water when rain is scarce. Therefore, the tropical deciduous forest does not remain green throughout the year.

Besides, heavy rainfall washes away essential nutrients in tropical rainforests; therefore, the soil is poor in nutrients. This is not the case in tropical deciduous forests. A warm, humid climate with a marked dry season allows the organic matter to decompose and release all the nutrients in the soil. Therefore, the tropical deciduous forest soil is very fertile and full of essential nutrients.

Differentiate Between Tropical Rainforest and Tropical Deciduous Forest

Tropical Rainforest Tropical Deciduous Forest
Definition Tropical rainforests are forests that receive heavy rainfall all year round and enjoy a warmer climate. Tropical deciduous forests also receive heavy rainfall, but they have marked the wet and dry periods.
Location Tropical rainforests are found near the equator in the equatorial zone and lie between 10 degrees North and south latitude. Tropical deciduous forests are found in the dry areas north and south of the tropical rainforest belt.
Climate The Warm, humid climate throughout the year. Distinct climatic conditions with warm and colder periods.
Soil Nutrition’s poor soil due to heavy rainfall that washes away most of the nutrients. Nutrition’s-rich soil that allows heavy vegetation growth.
Vegetation Evergreen trees reaching great heights. The vegetation here grows in dense canopies with four different layers. These are the emergent layer, canopy, understory layer, and forest floor. Deciduous trees are less tall than rainforest trees. Deciduous trees shed leaves in the dry or winter season to prevent water loss.
Flora Orchids, bromeliads, aroids, and ferns constitute the main floral species. Trees like Kapok, Rubber, Banana, Bamboo, Avocado, and Cassava Trees are common. Sandalwood, Team, bamboo, Sal, Mulberry, and Shisham are commonly found in tropical deciduous forests.
Fauna Okapi, poison dart frog, tapir, bats, monkeys, snakes, lizards, rhinoceros, jaguar, gorilla, boa constrictor, etc. Lions, tigers, bears, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, wood mice, pigs, deer, elephants, etc.


Forests worldwide may look the same, but each has its own unique characteristics. From plants to animals and bird species, every forest has defining wildlife adapted to the particular environment. Tropical rainforests are exceptionally lush and green all year round, mainly due to heavy precipitation. On the other hand, deciduous forests have to experience a dry period each year. It has led to the evolution of trees that drop leaves during the dry period. Although characteristically different, both play an essential role in promoting and sustaining life on Earth.

In the above article, we have covered the difference between tropical rainforest and tropical deciduous forest. If you like it, share it with your friends and family members.


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