Rain Forests of the World 
 

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Tropical Rain Forests

Distribution of tropical rain forests, from Liza's ReefTropical rain forests are found only in a relatively small area on earth, between the latitudes 22.5 degrees North (Tropic of Capricorn) and 22.5 degrees South of the equator (Tropic of Cancer). Originally covering much vaster areas, rain forests in the world, though man's activities, have been reduced only about 2% of the earth's surface, (about 2.41 millions square miles or 625 million hectares). They are found in 85 countries in the world but the largest continuous rain forest is found in the Amazon river basin in South America, much of which lies in Brazil. The second largest contiguous rain forest is that found in the Congo Basin in Africa. Ninety percent of the tropical rain forests i the world are concentrated in fifteen countries. There are five major tropical rain forest regions in the world: Central America, the Amazon Basin, Africa, Southern Asia and Australia.

CENTRAL AMERICA

 

This region was once entirely covered with rainforest, but large areas have been cleared for cattle ranching and for sugar cane plantations. Extensive rain forest tracts are found in Belize, where 65% of the frontier forest (large tracts of relatively undisturbed, old growth forest) remain. This is the highest percentage among Central American countries, and while only 800 acres of Belize's forests are protected, it is 12.7% of the country's total land base, the second highest in Central America.

Costa Rica, another Central American country with extensive tropical rain forests, has made great efforts to conserve its natural environment and over 12% of the country's total land mass is protected. It also has one of the largest national park systems in Central America. However, even with these efforts, many of Costa Rica's rain forest plant and animal species are still threatened.

El Salvador, on the other hand, with one of the most dense populations in Central American (6,000,00+ in only 8,009 square miles) has experienced deforestation on a catastrophic scale, and its rainforests, once abundant, have all but disappeared.

Guatemala has also lost extensive rain forests, with over 98% of its original undisturbed old growth forest disappeared. It is home some of the most threatened tropical rain forests in the world. The cutting of forests for firewood, agriculture and timber sales, exacerbated by the extreme poverty among the rural population, have been the driving forces for this forest loss.

Honduras is also home to some of the most threatened forests in Central America. Both temperate and tropical rain forests have been cleared to support urban development and huge banana plantations, operated by United States corporations. Only a very small percentage of the country's land is protected, just under 5%.

Mexico, with both extensive  temperate and tropical rain forests, is one of the most biologically diverse of the world's countries.

Nicaragua has some of the largest remaining rainforests in Central America, but unfortunately, this country too is experiencing rapid deforestation. The Indio-Maiz Biosphere and the Bosawas Biosphere Reserves in southeastern and northeastern Nicaragua are large protected tracts of intact rain forests.

Panama, with over 30% of its original old growth forests still intact has the second largest percentage of such forests of any Central American country. It does have the largest protected percentage (17%)  but in spite of this, many species of plants and animals are still threatened.

 

AMAZONIAN BASIN IN SOUTH AMERICA

Amazon Horned Toad, Photo by George GrallSouth America is home to the world's largest contiguous tropical rainforest, the vast Amazon rainforest.  This lush and biologically rich forest covers the basin of the Amazon (also known as Amazonia), the world's second longest river and spreads intoAmazon Basin, Lizasreef.com nine countries: Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam and French Guiana. The Amazon basin encompasses 7,000,000 square kilometers (1.2 billion acres), while the forest itself, home to the greatest variety of plants and animals on Earth. It occupies some 5,500,000 square kilometers. The landscape contains one in ten known species on Earth,1.4 billion acres of dense forests, half of the planet's remaining tropical forests,4,100 miles of winding rivers and 2.6 million square miles in the Amazon basin, about 40 percent of South America 

More than 30 million people from including 350 indigenous and ethnic groups, live in the Amazon and depend on nature for agriculture, clothing and traditional medicines. Most live in large urban centers, but all residents rely on the Amazon’s natural bounty for food, shelter and livelihoods.

This vast forest home, which represents over half of the world's remaining rainforests, is under attack from many fronts and the world is in danger of losing this precious resource. Deforestation, serving the interests of both primitive slash and burn and modern agriculture (especially soy production), logging and exotic timber harvest and cattle raising, is the major threat. The construction of the Transamazonian highway not only destroyed millions of acres but has opened the region up to constant and relentless pressure from the outside world. At the current rate of forest loss, it is entirely possible that the Amazon rain forest will cease to exist within the next 50 years.

More Resources
Amazon Conservation Team
The Pachamama Alliance

The Amazon, photo www.marketsinitiative.org


CONGO BASIN IN AFRICA

Central Africa, home to the Congo Basin,  holds the world's second largest contiguous rainforest. This vast forest runs through six African countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Congo and Zaire) stretching from the Mountains of the Moon in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. Second only to the Amazon Basin in size, the Congo Basin covers more than 1,000,000 square miles.  Logging and agricultural clearing are the two major threats to this biologically diverse and rich region and deforestation is happening at an alarming rate. Since the 1980's, this region the one of the highest loss of forest rates in the world, if not the highest. Other threats include the bushmeat and wildlife trades, Ebola, poaching, climate change and population growth.

The island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa also has tropical rainforests, and home to over 50 species of indigenous Lemurs, one of the world's most exotic mammals. 75% of the original old growth forest however, is gone and here, as in other parts of Africa, the remaining rainforests are under attack from many directions.

More Resources
Mongabay Congo Rainforest


SOUTHERN ASIA

The tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia are among the most biologically rich in the world.  Here again, deforestation of the rain forests in Southern Asia is a serious environmental problem, with over 85% of original rain forests already gone and more being destroyed daily.

The rainforests of Asia stretch from India and Burma in the west to Malaysia and the islands of Java and Borneo in the east.  Asian countries that are home to train forests are Bangladesh (which has the largest area of mangrove forests in the world), Burma, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

More Resources
Southern Asian Rainforests

AUSTRALIA

Rainforest Dingos, photo by C & D FrithIn modern Australia, the remaining tropical rainforest survive in a narrow band from the Kimberlyes region to Cape York Peninsula and down to Tasmania. This region also contains temperate and other forest types as well. Undergrowth in Australia's tropical forests is dense and lush since the forests lie in the path of wet winds blowing in from the Pacific.

Major rainforest regions in Australia are in Queensland, Tasmania, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Victoria and Western Australia. The area near north-eastern Queensland is known as the "Wet Tropics", with the city of Cairns at its center, is where Australia's highest rainfall occurs, and where the  continent's main tropical rainforest is found.

Queensland
There are five climatic types of rainforest in Queensland. In north Queensland, the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics includes Kuranda Rainforest and the Daintree - the oldest tropical rainforest on earth. Accessible from Cairns, Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation and Cooktown, the Daintree is home to an incredible array of plants and animals.  In the Gold Coast hinterland, Lamington and Springbrook National Parks have sub-tropical and cool temperate rainforests dating back to the supercontinent of Gondwana.
Tasmania
Tasmania is home to Australia’s largest swathes of cool temperate rainforest, most of it protected as part of the island’s World Heritage-listed Wilderness. These cool, dark and magical places support a rich array of life, including species found nowhere else on earth. These include the ancient forests of King Billy Pine in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, the moss-covered Gondwanan on the Creepy Crawly Nature Trail in Southwest National Park and rare Huon pines on the Franklin River Nature Trail in Wild Rivers National Park.
New South Wales
The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia spill across 50 separate parks in northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland. Accessible from Byron Bay, this vast World Heritage-listed area embraces the world’s largest subtropical rainforest, along with warm and cool temperate rainforest types. Included in this region are Nightcap, Mount Warning or Border Ranges National Parks, which all flank the ancient, eroded volcano of Mount Warning Wollumbin. There are also rainforest pockets in the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains near Sydney, in Budderoo National Park in the Southern Highlands and Myall Lakes National Park, north of Port Stephens.
Northern Territory
The south of World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is dotted with monsoon rainforest, home to the spectacular Jim Jim Falls, which drops more than 250 metres to deep, cool plunge pools. Other rainforest habitats include Gubarra Pools and Gu-ngarre Walk through savannah woodlands. Kakadu is famous for its lily-dotted wetlands, rich wildlife and treasure trove of Aboriginal rock art.
Victoria
Victoria’s cool temperate rainforest survives in small patches across Gippsland and the Dandenong, Yarra and Otway Ranges. In Gippsland, there is the Tarra Bulga National Park and Morwell National Park and the famous Errinundra Saddle. Other noteworthy habitats include the towering mountain ash trees in Yarra Ranges National Park, an hour’s drive from Melbourne and the lush, green world of Great Otway National Park located along the Great Ocean Road.
Western Australia
The Kimberley region in Western Australia, with its outback landscapes, has more than a thousand spots of dry rainforest. Scattered across sheltered valleys and high-rainfall coastal areas, these pockets support some 300 species of plants, most of which are found nowhere else. They also provide refuge to declining wildlife species, including some birds and snakes and the endangered Scaly-tailed Possum. The Mitchell River national Park has patches of rainforest dotted throughout which hold unique plant life compared to the surrounding savannah.

More Resources
Rainforests in Australia


Temperate Rain Forests

Redwoods in North California temperate rain forest, the Redwood National Park. Lizasreef.comOutside of the tropics, rain forests can be found  in British Columbia, southeastern Alaska, western Oregon and Washington, the northern coast of California, Scotland and Norway, the western Caucasus (Ajaria region of Georgia), parts of the western Balkans, Japan, southern Chile, New Zealand, Tasmania, and parts of eastern Australia.

Typically, temperate rainforests are coniferous or broadleaf forests that occur in the mid-latitudes in areas of high rainfall and are distinguished from other forests by higher rainfall (minimum is usually 2.000 mm/year), relative proximity to the ocean which supply  moisture laden winds and coastal mountains. These mountains typically increase rainfall on the ocean facing slopes and it is here that the temperate rain forests most often occur.

Temperate coniferous rain forest have the highest levels of biomass in any terrestrial ecosystem and many are distinguished by trees of epic proportions, including the famous Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and the Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). As with their tropical cousins, temperate rain forests throughout the world are also under assault, primarily from logging,  and many are endangered.

More Resources
Temperate Rain Forests