Rainforest Ecosystem Definition – Characteristics, Types and Importance

Everything about rainforest ecosystem in detail


A rainforest ecosystem is composed of tall evergreen trees. Rainforests are featured with heavy annual rainfall, high average temperature, poor quality soil due to lack of nutrients, and rich in biodiversity. Rainforests generally grow in the moist uplands and lowlands near the equator between tropic of Cancer & tropic of Capricorn.


It plays an essential role in the environment of the Earth. Unfortunately, deforestation is affecting the environment quite severely. If something unfortunate happens to the rainforests, it will be a significant loss for biodiversity supporting the environment peacefully.

Rainforest Ecosystem Definition

Definition – A forest ecosystem region near the equator that receives heavy annual rainfall is termed as a rainforest ecosystem. Tropical rainforest witness the natural beauty of the planet with beautiful landscapes, stunning greenery, breath-taking views, millions of species, etc. 

The climate of the rainforest is similar almost throughout the year. It feels like the summer season in all the seasons. The heat, heavy rainfall, humidity, moderate sunlight, etc. combine to make a perfect climate for the species living in a rainforest ecosystem.

Characteristics of Rainforest Ecosystem

A rainforest is covered with dense vegetation including tall & thick trees. Here you will find a wide variety of flora and fauna due to the favorable climate of the rainforest ecosystem. The features of the rainforest that makes it one of the oldest ecosystems is as follows.

Heavy rainfall

  • One of the primary characteristics of the rainforest ecosystem is that it receives an average rainfall between 80 inches and 430 inches annually. The rainforest is found in an area of wet tropical climatic conditions.
  • The main factors that influence heavy rainfall in the rainforest ecosystem are the transpiration process, increased humidity, and the formation of clouds, etc. This is why the rainforest ecosystem receives heavy rain almost every year.

Largest biodiversity

  • In terms of biodiversity also, the rainforest ecosystem is one of the most significant natural habitats as compared to any other habitat on the Earth.
  • Rainforest is a home for millions of plants and animal species. All these species living together in the rainforest makes it rich biodiversity on the planet.

A warm climate and low latitude

  • Most of the rainforests are characterized by warm climatic conditions throughout the year (except those rainforests situated at higher altitudes). The average temperature recorded in a rainforest ecosystem ranges from 72 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit. However, fluctuation in the temperature is quite reasonable.
  • As rainforests are situated within the tropics, hence most of them are found in the areas near the equator. The majority of the rainforests are located with latitude below 23 degrees North and South.

Huge variety of flora and fauna

  • The rainforest ecosystem provides the most favorable climatic conditions for the survival of plant and animal species. Rainforest is a treasure of a huge variety of mammals, amphibians, insects, freshwater animals, carnivorous, herbivorous animals, etc.
  • As far as the vegetation of a rainforest ecosystem is concerned, it supports millions of plants, trees, fungi, medicinal plant species, etc.  

Soil and nutrients of the rainforest ecosystem

  1. The typical type of soil present in the tropical rainforest is latosol. The soil of the rainforest appears red due to the presence of many amounts of iron content. The lower layer of the soil is quite weak in terms of nutrients caused due to soil erosion. 
  2. The organic matter decomposes quite faster due to the moist floor of a rainforest. This decomposition forms a fine layer of humus that provides a little number of nutrients for plant growth. 
  3. If the vegetation is lost from a rainforest, it may lead to soil erosion at a faster rate. This is why the flora of rainforest need a considerable amount of nutrients for its growth. 

Unique four-layer canopy structure

The four-layer canopy at rainforest includes an emergent layer, canopy layer, under story, forest floor.

Emergent layer

It is the highest layer of the canopy structure of a rainforest. This layer includes the tallest trees about 130 feet high from the forest floor. 

Canopy layer

It is the primary layer of the canopy structure found in a rainforest. The canopy layer is featured with trees whose height ranges between 100 to 130 feet.


The under story is the canopy layer of rainforest where plants rarely grow. This layer is generally structured with trees and shrubs with heights ranging between 20 to 60 feet from the surface area of the forest.

Forest Floor

The forest floor is the last layer of the canopy structure found in the rainforest ecosystem. The forest layer is the dark layer as compared to other canopy layers that do not allow plants to grow.

Also check: All types of ecosystems on our earth.

Types of Rainforest Ecosystem

There are two kinds of rainforest ecosystems – tropical rainforest ecosystem and temperate rainforest ecosystem. The characteristics of tropical and temperate rainforests are more or less equal; still, the tropical rainforest is more magnificent in terms of diversity.


Tropical Rainforest Ecosystem

In simple definition, a rainforest that found in a tropical region and receives high rainfall every year is known as a tropical rainforest. The tropical rainforests grow near the equator which divides the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere.

Amazon is the largest tropical rainforest in the world situated in South America. Apart from this, some other tropical rainforests include Australia’s Daintree Rainforest, Africa’s Congo rainforest, rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo, etc.

Tropical Rainforest Ecosystem Facts

  • Rainforest ecosystems cover approximately two percent area on Earth’s surface but quite interesting is that it provides habitat to almost 50% flora and fauna of the Earth.
  • The tropical rainforest is the oldest ecosystem found on the Earth. It plays an important role in regulating the climatic conditions of the planet.
  • The tropical rainforest also has medicinal importance for mankind as we get almost 1/4th of natural medicines from rainforests.
  • There was a time when the rainforest has a huge area of about 6 million square miles. Unfortunately, this has been decreased by almost less than half of this around the world due to deforestation.
  • We fulfill our many demands from tropical rainforests in the form of different products such as timber, coffee, cocoa, black pepper, vanilla, allspice, etc.
  • Do you like orchids? This is a beautiful flower found in different colors. Orchid is a typical type of epiphyte plant found in the tropical rainforest ecosystem.
Also check: Importance of reforestation in our lives

Temperate Rainforest Ecosystem

Like the tropical rainforest, temperate rainforests also receives heavy rainfall annually. The temperate rainforest typically grows along the coasts (cooler coastal areas) in temperate regions like the Western edge of North and South America.

As far as the climatic conditions of temperate rainforest ecosystems are concerned, it has seasonal variation, unlike the tropical rainforest ecosystem. The average temperature of the temperate ecosystem rises up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and during winter season the temperature decreases up to a freezing point. The temperate rainforest has minimal ecology as compared to the tropical rainforest.

The biggest temperate rainforest of the world is on the Pacific Coast in North America (spread from Alaska to Oregon). Some other examples of temperate rainforests are found on the coast of Chile, Norway, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Japan, etc.

Rainforest Ecosystem Animals

The rainforest ecosystem supports numerous varieties of animal species. Starting from carnivorous animals to small insects, it has a wide range of animal species. Few examples are as follows-

  • Mountain Gorilla
  • Blue Morpho Butterfly
  • Jaguar
  • Capybara
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Okapi
  • Poison Dart Frog
  • Black Howler Monkey
  • Sulawesi Bear Cuscus
  • Brown-Throated Three-Toed Sloth
  • Green Anaconda

How Is Rainforest Ecosystem important for the planet? 

  1. Rainforests help in maintaining a proper balance in the world’s climate.
  2. The rainforest ecosystem provides a home to various species of plants and animals.
  3. It also provides shelter to various tribes.
  4. The rainforest ecosystem is also a great source of food, medicines, etc.
  5. It helps to maintain a proper water cycle.
  6. Rainforests provide almost 20% of the world’s oxygen and known as the “lungs of the planet”. 
  7. This ecosystem also helps in protecting the environment by protecting against floods, erosion, drought, etc.

The rainforest ecosystem influences the climate, weather and the complete environment. You may wonder by knowing that rainforests play a vital role in generating oxygen for us to breathe, even if they are far away from us.

We should focus on saving forests instead of cutting it down for development and industrialization. If we have trees then we have oxygen to breathe. Hence, play your individual role in saving forests to save the environment.


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