What is a rainforest ecosystem? A rainforest is a dense area of jungle that gets a high amount of rainfall. A rain forest is a particularly humid, thick type of forest that is typically found in the tropical regions of the world.
Rainforests are very bio-diverse and they tend to be thought of as having their own distinct ecosystems. Due to the thickness of the tree canopy at the top of a rain forest, the temperature inside tends to be hotter and more humid than that outside. This self regulating climate is very unique and precious.
An ecosystem is a system of plants, insects, animals and other organisms living together as a community within a particular environment. So, a rainforest ecosystem is such a community living in a rainforest. Key example of rainforests can be found in:
- The Amazon region.
- Southeast Asia.
- The Pacific temperate zone.
It is clear that a rainforest gets its name because it receives a lot of rainfall. An ecosystem gets its name from two ancient Greek words, i.e.
- Eco which means relating to the environment.
- Sustema which means a system.
Rain forests can be divided into different strata, comprising, for instance, of the forest floor, the lower canopy and the upper canopy. Different species of plants and animals will live on each stratum. For instance, we might find certain insects and fungi on the lowest level of the rain forest, and species of monkeys swinging high up on the top canopies. Each stratum may even have its very own micro-climate that supports life in subtly different ways.
Now you know what a rainforest ecosystem is in general, you can read on to find out about the main types of rainforest ecosystems and their defining characteristics.
Types of rainforest ecosystem.
Rainforest ecosystems as a whole can be divided into tropical rainforests and temperate rainforests. Each of these two categories of rainforest can, in turn, be subdivided into various subcategories. Let us look at each of them in turn.
1. Tropical rainforests. Tropical rainforest ecosystems are situated near to the equator. This makes them hot and humid environments.
2. Temperate rainforests. Temperate rainforest ecosystems are situated in more temperate zones and usually close to coastal areas. This makes them cooler than tropical rainforests, though they are still very humid.
3. Flooded forests. Sometimes, forests that were once dry can become flooded due to heavy rains. Or, the presence of tidal rivers beside a forest can mean that the forest is flooded for certain parts of the year. The presence of water and a thick canopy of trees can generate high levels of humidity and thus create a rainforest ecosystem.
4. Lowland rainforests. Lowland rainforests are situated in valleys. These rainforest ecosystems can be tropical or temperate, but their low lying position usually entails that the humidity levels, the rainfall levels and the temperature is consistent throughout the year.
5. Cloud forests. These rainforest ecosystems are also often called Montane rainforests. The name cloud forest is due to the fact that this rainforest is located high up on a mountain top and thus is wholly or partially in the clouds. Not all mountain tops in the world are in humid environments, but when they are, they can create cool yet very humid rainforest ecosystems.
6. Mangrove forests. These rainforest ecosystems are also called mangrove swamps. Mangrove trees thrive in waterlogged ground and mangrove swamps are usually tidally flooded once or twice throughout the day (at other times of the day they may be almost completely dry). This means that they attract different types of creature at different times of the day. They are a visibly very dynamic type of rainforest ecosystem.
Characteristic features of rainforest ecosystems.
1. Humidity. High levels of rainfall, the presence of rivers nearby (such as the Amazon river winding through the Amazon rainforest) and the fact that the thick leaf canopy prevents water vapor from evaporating away into the air makes rainforests very moist and humid ecosystems.
2. Many layered. Rainforests typically have around three leaf canopy levels. Different animal, plant and bird species will exist at each canopy level -and each canopy will have its own distinct levels of humidity and temperature. Some scientists even argue that each canopy level of a rainforest ecosystem is in fact a separate ecosystem in its own right.
3. Biodiverse. It is estimated that, though they only take up about 6 % of the earth’s surface, rainforests contain around half of the total species of organisms in the world.
4. The carbon cycle. Rainforests can be described as the lungs of the world (the technical term for this is a biotic pump). They lock in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen. In this way, they are responsible for regulating what is called the carbon cycle in the earth’s atmosphere.
5. Home to indigenous communities. Rainforests are also important because many of the world’s indigenous communities claim the rainforest as their home.
Benefits of rainforest ecosystems.
1. Preservation of species. Because they are so biodiverse, healthy rainforest ecosystems are the perfect places to preserve huge numbers of species that would otherwise be endangered.
2. Combating climate change. Because of their ability to lock carbon away from the atmosphere, rainforests are actively combating the release of CO2 into the air as a result of human industrial practices. The excessive amount of CO2 in our atmosphere is a key cause of global warming and climate change.
3. Beauty. Another advantage of the rainforest ecosystem is its beauty. The mysteriousness and majesty of a rainforest can help humans to reconnect with nature and to recognize its power and its importance.
4. Perfect for moisture loving creatures. Rainforest ecosystems are the perfect locations for creatures that thrive in moist environments. All kinds of amphibians (including some rare frogs), insects and fish can thrive in rainforests.
5. A source of food. The fruits and flower nectar in rainforests is the perfect source of food for a very diverse range of animals, insects and birds. This is one reason for the amazing biodiversity of the rainforest ecosystem.
There is no denying the crucial importance of rainforest ecosystems to our planet. They are hugely important for biodiversity and also for regulating the amount of carbon in our atmosphere. They are beautiful and unforgettable places to visit – as long as we do so in an ecologically responsible way. However, our rainforests are being threatened right now by factors such as deforestation, climate change (which makes it harder for them to thrive) and humans poaching rare and endangered animals either for food or for the exotic pet or gift trade.
As such, it is vitally important that we all take action to safeguard our rainforests right now. There are many ways in which we can do this. For example, we can stop purchasing products that contain unsustainable palm oil. Unsustainable palm oil is produced from palm plantations that are planted in deforested areas of ancient rainforest. We can also take part in campaigns such as sponsoring a plot of land in a rainforest, participating in campaigns to save the rainforest and donating to rainforest protection projects.