17 Biggest and Popular Rainforests in the World That Might Surprise You

Rainforests constitute some of the globe’s most important ecosystems and environments. The globe’s rainforests cover nearly 2% of the earth’s total surface area and host more than 50% of the world’s animals and plants. The rainforests are also regarded as the planet’s regulators of weather and environmental temperatures.

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Types of Rainforests

Primarily, there are two types of rainforests – tropical and temperate. Globally tropical forests cover a large part while temperate rainforests occur in few regions around the world.

Tropical Rainforests

These rainforests are rightly called the “jewels of the Earth” and the “world’s largest pharmacy,” because more than one-third of natural medicines have been discovered here.

Tropical rainforests are located near the equator between the Tropic of Cancer at the north and the Tropic of Capricorn in the south of the equator. These evergreen forests have a warm and wet climate with consistent rainfall of a minimum 2,000mm annually.

Tropical rainforests once used to cover 14% of the Earth’s land surface, which is now reduced to only 6%. However, about 80% of the world’s documented species can be found in tropical rainforests.

Tropical rainforests are found in Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Central America, Australia, and the Pacific Islands.

A tropical rainforest typically has several layers, such as the emergent, canopy, understory, and forest floor, each with different types of plants and animals adapted for life in that particular area. 

Temperate Rainforests

Temperate rainforests account for around one-quarter of the world’s forests in a temperate region. These rainforests spread much further north and south than their tropical counterparts. They exist in North America, Europe, East Asia, South America, and also in Australia and New Zealand. 

Temperate rainforests are moist that grow on mountain ranges, usually along western coasts, where high precipitation occurs due to westerly winds. They also receive upwards of 2,000mm of annual rainfall but experience drier summers. Also, they have less biodiversity compared to tropical rainforests.

In the past couple of decades, however, the rainforest has been facing major challenges due to the effects of deforestation and degradation due to anthropogenic activities.

Even amidst such environmental problems, the globe still has lots of reasons to recognize and protect the existent rainforests. In this article, we look at the 17 biggest and popular rainforests in the world.

If man doesn’t learn to treat the oceans and the rainforest with respect, man will become extinct

~ Peter Benchley

17 Biggest and Popular Rainforests in the World

1. Amazon Rainforest (South America)

It is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, also known as Amazonia or Amazon Jungle. It has an area of 5,500,000 km² and covers most of the Amazon Basin of South America and runs through Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. The Amazon River also runs through the forest. About 60 percent of the forest is contained in Brazil.

The forest is estimated to be covered by 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species. Some of the species found in this region include 2.5 million insects, about 2,000 mammals & birds, and tens of thousands of plants.

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To date, an estimated 438,000 species of plants of economic and social interest have been registered in the region, with many more remaining to be discovered. The rainforest also contains several species, and among the largest are predatory creatures, including the jaguar, cougar, and anaconda.

In the Amazon River within the forest, electric eels can produce an electrical shock that can stun or kill, while the piranhas are known to bite and injure humans. Various species of poison dart frogs found here can produce toxins through their flesh.

There are also numerous parasites and disease vectors. Vampire bats dwell in the rainforest and can spread the rabies virus. Malaria, yellow fever, and Dengue fever can also be contracted in the Amazon region.

2. Congo Rainforest (Africa)

The Congo rainforest is the second-largest in the world and covers a total area of 1,780,000 km². It is located in Central Africa and also has one of the longest rivers running from within it. The rainforest covers a bigger part of Northern Congo.

The Congo River is the world’s second-largest river by volume, draining an area of 3.7 million square kilometers known as the Congo Basin. Nine countries, namely Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia, have part of their territory in the Congo Basin.

There are conventionally six countries with extensive forest cover in the region, which are generally associated with the Congo rainforest: Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.

The Congo rainforest is also widely recognized for its high levels of biodiversity, characterized by more than 600 tree species and 10,000 animal species. Some of its most famous residents include forest elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, okapi, and lions.

3. Valdivian Temperate Rainforest (South America)

The Valdivian temperate rainforest spreads over an area of about 248,100 km² can be found on the west coast of southern South America in Chile and Argentina. Angiosperm trees, bamboos, ferns, conifer trees, narrow coastal strips, ice sheets, glaciers, and a central valley highlight the forest. The temperature here is usually humid due to heavy rain. It is generally very foggy.

The rainforest is named after Valdivia, in Southern Chile and named after the city’s founder Pedro de Valdivia. The forest is famous for the endemic plants and 150-foot tall trees in addition to rare species of animals. Some of the old tree species are Alerce and Olivillo.

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4. Daintree Rainforest (Australia)

The Daintree tropical rainforest is found on the northeast coast of Queensland in Australia named after Richard Daintree. It covers around 2,600 km². The area between Bloomfield River and Mossman Gorge is entirely covered by the forest and also has the Daintree National Park. Its main river is the Daintree River.

The forest is home to some of the earliest plants on Earth, such as the Lycopsida and Psilotopsida. It contains the highest number of animals and plant species that are very rare to find.

5. Southeast Asian Rainforest (Asia)

The forest is found in Asia, covering Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, and the Malay Peninsula. It once covered even a greater area in Asia, but deforestation destroyed most regions of the rainforest. The forest is home to many rare birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.

At one point, there were 200 different species of trees in a hectare, but deforestation has put those species in danger. One exciting feature of this rainforest is the dominance of one family of trees, with numerous species of animals, such as Bengal Tiger, Dawn bat, king cobra, and proboscis monkey, among others.

6. Tongass National Forest (North America)

The Tongass national forest is the biggest national forest in the United States. It extends to an area of 17 million acres. It is home to rare and endangered species of fauna and flora. It covers the peaks of the Coast Mountains, fjords, glaciers, and islands of the Alexander Archipelago.

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Wildlife found here is abundant throughout with two main predators being wolf and brown bear. Marine mammals are also found along the shores.

7. Kinabalu National Park (Malaysia)

Also known as Tama Kinabalu, it is found on the west coast of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. It was established in 1964 and the first national park in Malaysia. Also, the forest is Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site.

Kinabalu National Park is home to more than 4,500 species of flora and fauna, including 100 different species of mammals. Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain on the island of Borneo, attracting many visitors and climbers to the park.

8. Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve (Costa Rica)

This forest is in the Costa Rican reserve found along Cordillera de Tilaran in Alajuela and Puntarenas provinces. It consists of about 26,000 acres of the cloud forest. It’s also known as a “terrain of the cloud forest.” The forest is covered with a lush garden of mosses, flowers, ferns, and epiphytes on nearly every tree.

The forest consists of six ecological zones containing more than 2000 species of plants, 80 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, around 100 amphibian and reptile species, and thousands of insects.

9. Sinharaja Forest Reserve (Sri Lanka)

The Sinharaja forest covers a total area of 8,864 square kilometers. The forest, which is located in Sri Lanka, is home to about 830 endemic species such as trees, insects, birds, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians.

It was declared a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978 by UNESCO. It has dense vegetation; hence it’s hard to see wildlife here. Some of the wildlife found in this forest include leopards and elephants.

10. Pacific Temperate Rainforest (North America)

It is found in North America along the western side of the Pacific Coast Ranges and it’s the largest temperate rainforest in the world. Its Ecoregions are predominantly composed of conifers.

Redwoods trees dominate the southern limit in northern California and they are the tallest, biggest, and the longest living trees on Earth.

It is estimated that most of the redwood trees have been in existence for more than 2,000 years, reaching heights as high as 90 meters. It also has different and numerous animal species, including black bears, grizzly bears, endangered spotted owl, wolfs, Sitka dear, and bald eagle.

11. Sundarbans Reserve Forest (India & Bangladesh)

The Sundarbans Reserve Forest is within the Bangladesh area and also covers 40 percent of India. The entire land area covered by the forest is 10,000 km².

It is one of the natural mysteries of the world because of its location that includes the Padma, Brahmaputra, and Meghna river basins. Mangrove trees dominate the forest, and it also serves as a habitat to the Royal Bengal tiger.

12. Monteverde Forest (Costa Rica)

Located in Costa Rica, the forest is named after Monteverde and covers an area of more than 10,500 hectares. Tropical green vegetation covers most of the area, with nearly 2,500 plant species, 120 amphibian and reptilian species, thousands of insects, 400 varieties of birds, and 100 different mammals.

The forest also has natural rivers, medicinal herbs, streams & waterfalls, and because of these natural resources, it’s always referred to as “the virgin forest.”

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14. Papua Rainforest (Papua New Guinea)

Papua rainforest is among those with the most diverse and unique animal and plant species on Earth because of its dense mangrove trees. It is shared between two countries – Indonesia provinces of West Irian Jaya and Papua to the west and Papua New Guinea on the eastern side.

Two-thirds of the plant and animal species in the forest is in New Guinea. The unique animals include carnivorous mice, giant pigeons, and kangaroos with the ability to climb trees, and big rats. The forest also hosts the largest number of orchid species on the planet.

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15. Sapo National Park Rainforest (Africa)

Sapo National Park Rainforest is located in southwest Liberia, Sinoe County. It is the largest protected area and also the only national park in the country. In terms of the area it covered, that is 1,804 km², it is the second-largest in West Africa.

According to conservation international, it has the most numerous mammal species diversity of any area in the world and is regarded as an Ecoregion since it’s located in the Western Guinean lowland forests area.

Animal species found here include elephants, pygmy hippopotamus, African golden cat, African grey parrot, great blue turaco, monkeys, bee-eaters, sunbirds, crocodiles, and the endangered Diana monkey, among many others.

16. Bosawás Biosphere Reserve (Nicaragua)

The Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in northern Nicaragua stretches over an area of 2 million hectares comprising around 15% of the total land area of Nicaragua, making it the second-largest rainforest in the western hemisphere after Brazil’s Amazon. Bosawás is mostly unexplored and extremely rich in biodiversity

It has a very high botanical diversity and hosts a large number of invertebrates (an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 insect species) and vertebrate species. The forest was designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1997.

The booming livestock industry of Nicaragua is the main threat to the rainforest. Ranchers who migrate to the reserve in groups often pay land traffickers to secure title to land illegally.

16. Hoh Rainforest (North America)

The Hoh Rainforest is considered as one of the largest temperate rainforests located in the Western Washington State, USA. It is a part of the Olympic National Park, which is protected from commercial exploitation such as mining. 

The 24 miles of the area of this forest, along with Hoh River, is also the world’s one of the few ecosystems that have remained unchanged even for a thousand years. That is why it has been awarded as a “World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve” by UNESCO.

The rainforest is mostly covered with hanging ferns and mosses. The main trees in the Hoh rainforest are Sitka spruce and western hemlock. Animals found in the Hoh rainforest include Bobcats, Black-tailed deer, Coyotes, Cougars Wolves, Fishers, Olympic Black bears, Porcupines, Pumas, Raccoons, Roosevelt elk, and Snowshoe Hares.

Animals endemic to Hoh Rainforest include the Olympic chipmunk, Olympic marmot, Snow mole, and Short-tailed weasel.

17. Perućica, Sutjeska National Park (Europe)

Located in Bosnia and Herzegovina, close to the border with Montenegro, Perućica is also part of the Sutjeska National Park. It is the oldest and the largest national park in the continent. Perucića is one of the last remaining primeval forests in Europe and is highly conserved.

This rainforest reserve is a UNESCO recognized site with a total area of 1400 hectares. It is home to vegetation that is believed to be 300 years old. It also has the tallest measured Norway spruce (63 m) as one of its assets.

References:

https://www.usatoday.com/picture-gallery/travel/destinations/2019/07/26/largest-rainforests-world-amazon-new-guinea-congo-basin/1835613001/

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/rain-forests/

https://news.mongabay.com/2018/12/the-biggest-rainforest-news-stories-in-2018/

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