Tropical Rainforest Biome: Location, Temperature, Precipitation, Plants and Animals

The tropical rainforest is one of the world’s most threatened biomes despite being home to some of the planet’s most diverse and unique species. Many of the world’s most colorful creatures reside in rainforests, and animals, from tiny organisms to large wild cats, find homes amongst the range of plant life.

For many years, tropical rainforests were safe from the presence of man, other than native tribal individuals who lived harmoniously with the land. However, the issue of human encroachment on rainforests for purposes such as logging, agriculture, and development is now causing significant and potentially irreversible impacts on the long-term survival of these invaluable regions.

In this article, we’ll provide all the information there is to know about the tropical rainforest biome. From its climate to information on precipitation, plants, and animals living there, there’s so much in line for your consumption!


Tropical rainforests are defined by the fact that they are hot and wet, typical of tropical climates. Found near the equator, where it is warm, these regions have rainfall year-round, with little to no dry season. The climate of the tropical rainforest biome is perfect for plant and animal growth.

The hot and humid conditions create an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. Tropical rainforests cover about 6% of the Earth‘s surface and are found all over the world, but mostly in South America, specifically Brazil. Even though they cover a small percentage of land on Earth, they are home to the largest number of plant and animal species in such a concentrated area.


Rainforest trees

Tropical rainforests are found in the world’s hottest and wettest areas, namely those closest to the equator.

The world’s largest tropical rainforests are in the Amazon basin in South America, lowland regions in Africa, and the islands off of Southeast Asia. While they are found abundant in Sumatra and New Guinea, small areas are also found in Central America and parts of Australia.

Some of the world’s best-known rainforests are:

  • The Amazon rainforest in Brazil
  • El Yunque, a rainforest in Puerto Rico that attracts millions of tourists
  • The Congo Basin in Africa


Tropical rainforests are warm and humid, with temperatures ranging from 21 to 30 degrees Celsius (70 to 85°F). The average annual temperature of tropical rainforests is above 20 °C.

These areas often receive lots of sun due to their location around the Earth’s equator. On average, rainforests receive about 12 hours of sun a day, but most of that is concentrated on the canopy cover of the highest trees.


Rainforests are known for lots of precipitation every year. Rainfall in the tropical rainforest is year-round, particularly as there are little to no seasonal changes to the weather.

Tropical rainforests receive annual precipitation amounts of 60 to 160 inches (152 to 406 cm). But then, it’s still worth noting that some rainforests experience annual rainfall amounts of almost 400 inches (over 1,000 cm). It can downpour as much as 2 inches (5 cm) in an hour.

Rainforests are typically classified by the amounts of precipitation they receive.

  • Lowland equatorial evergreen rainforests: These rainforests receive the most rainfall yearly, with averages of more than 80 inches annually. They are typically located closest to the equator.
  • Deciduous and semi-evergreen seasonal forests: These rainforests have more variation in wet and dry seasons, with summers typically having higher rainfall and winters a bit lower. These can be found in coastal parts of Africa, India, the Caribbean, and parts of Central and South America. Rainfall range is usually 250 to 2000 mm per year.
  • Montane rainforests (also sometimes known as cloud forests) are found in mountainous areas that are much cooler. Annual rainfall can range from 500 to 10,000 mm, with temperatures between 8 and 20 °C (46.4 and 68 °F).
  • Flooded forests: these types of rainforests closely resemble swamps, with almost constant water saturating the ground. Flooded forests typically receive abundant rainfall, often exceeding 100 inches (about 254 cm) annually, supporting diverse aquatic ecosystems.

What is interesting about the amount of precipitation in rainforests is that because they are so moist, the soil is typically less full of nutrients because they are being flushed out by constant rain. Therefore, many plants have adapted to reach and store nutrients off the ground.


Soil types are highly variable in tropical rainforests due to a combination of several variables such as climate, vegetation, topographic position, parent material, and soil age.

In the tropical rainforest, rainfall is year-round and can be daily. This strips out most of the nutrients, so most tropical soils are characterized by significant leaching and poor nutrients. However, some areas contain fertile soils.

In tropical rainforests, soils fall into two classifications, which include:

  • Ultisols
  • Oxisols

Ultisols are known as well-weathered, acidic red clay soils, deficient in major nutrients such as calcium and potassium.

Similarly, oxisols are acidic, old, typically reddish, highly weathered, and leached. However, they are well-drained compared to ultisols. The clay content of ultisols is high, making it difficult for water to penetrate and flow through.

The reddish color of both soils results from heavy heat and moisture forming oxides of iron and aluminum, which are insoluble in water and not taken up readily by plants.

Both of these types of soils are low in organic matter and have weathered for thousands of years to create the characteristic red and yellow soils of Africa, Australia, South America, and Southeast Asia.

Rainforest plants

Plants of the Tropical Rainforest

The combination of lots of moisture and consistent year-round warm weather makes tropical rainforests particularly lush areas of plant life.

In fact, statistically speaking, tropical rainforests are estimated to be home to a staggering 15 million different species of plants and animals, making them some of the world’s most diverse locations. That means almost two-thirds of all of the world’s flowering plants are found in rainforests.

Rainforests typically have four major levels of plant growth, depending on their height to the ground and how much sun and moisture reaches them.

Because many large trees in the rainforest receive year-round sunlight and precipitation, the canopy cover does not change during the year as it does in other forest biomes.

Each layer is a unique biotic community containing different plants. Only the emergent layer is unique to tropical rainforests, while the others can be seen in temperate rainforests.

Emergent Layer

The emergent layer contains a small number of very large trees, called emergents, which grow above the general canopy, reaching heights of 45–55 m, although on occasion, a few species will grow to 70–80 m tall.

  • The trees need to be able to withstand the hot temperatures and strong winds that occur above the canopy in some areas.
  • Examples of emergents include Kapok tree(Ceibapentandra), Baliziaelegans, Dipteryxpanamensis, Hieronymaalchorneoides, Hymenolobiummesoamericanum, Lecythisampla and Terminaliaoblonga.

The Canopy

Canopy layer of rainforest

This is the highest level of the rainforest. It’s basically a roof formed by the branches and leaves of the area’s largest trees. Most of the trees reach over 120 feet in height, and combined with their dense cover can mean that little to no sunlight reaches lower areas of the rainforest. Trees at the highest level must be able to tolerate extreme sunlight and changing wind patterns.

  • Large evergreen trees typically dominate the sunlight of the rainforest canopy.
  • Smaller orchids, bromeliads, and types of moss and lichen are also found at the canopy level, living in harmony with the larger trees.

The Understory

This includes mid-range trees and smaller plants. This area typically receives only about 5% of the sunlight in the area because of the density of the overhead canopy. Even the largest plants in this area don’t typically grow over 10 feet (3 m.).

  • Shrubs
  • Herbs
  • Vines
  • The strangler fig is a plant that has adapted to the lower amounts of sunlight that reach the rainforest under layers. When birds eat the tree’s fruit, they spread seeds through waste and by dropping them on the branches of higher trees. This plant is able to take root on the host tree branch, drop a long root to the ground, and eventually “strangles” the host tree as it grows, by taking over its sunlight.

The Ground Stratum

Ground stratum layer

Self-explanatory, the ground layer includes all of the vegetation that receives the least amount of light and is lowest to the ground. It’s also known as the forest floor, and it is estimated that only 2% of sunlight actually reaches the rainforest floor.

The ground in a rainforest is almost always covered by shade due to the canopy, so vegetation is more sparse and restricted at the ground layer. The bottom layer is covered with leaf litter.

The hot and humid conditions allow dead leaves to decompose quickly, sending nutrients back into the soil.

But in the tropical rainforest, the plants grow so fast that they quickly consume the nutrients from the soil, and the leftover nutrients are then leached away by abundant rainfall, leaving the soil infertile. You will find a few plants on the bottom layer of the forest due to lack of sunlight.

The fungus is the most common plant life at the ground level because it is able to thrive in dark, moist areas. It is often found all over the ground layer, near decaying organic matter, and on trees.

In the tropical rainforest, most trees in the rainforest have wide buttress roots. This is to support them as they grow incredibly tall (over 200ft in some cases) as there is great competition for sunlight.

Lianas (vines) grow around trees as they bid to reach sunlight. The leaves of many trees are waxy and have drip tips to allow water to run off them. It is so that water does not gather on leaves and cause them to rot and allows water to reach the roots on the forest floor. Leaf stems are also flexible to allow leaves to move with the sun to maximize photosynthesis.

Animals of the Tropical Rainforest

Rainforests are home to organisms big and small due to their consistently warm temperatures, ample amounts of moisture, and incredibly vast amounts of plant life. There are more living organisms in tropical rainforests than there are in any other biome of the world.

The smallest organisms in a rainforest are bacteria (and by the way, bacteria are neither plants nor animals) and other similar organisms that thrive in the hot and moist environment.

These tiny creatures quickly decompose fallen leaves, wood, and other dead organic material, which is different from other forests in that there is little to no permanent layer of organic nutrients covering the soil.

A fascinating thing about some of the animals of the rainforest is that because the trees and plant life stay lush and fertile all year round, there are literally animal species in tropical rainforests that never touch the ground, remaining in the trees for their entire lives.

For those living in the ground, the amazing vegetation from cloud cover to ground cover gives them numerous places to find protection from predators and the elements and a constant source of food and nutrients.

The presence of humans in rainforests can vary. In recent decades, the number of rainforests in the world has been decimated by both the lumber industries and for agricultural uses.

Rainforest animals

Small rainforest animals include:

  • Monkeys
  • Sloths: They move incredibly slowly and primarily hang from the trees, using their movements and bodies as camouflage amongst the trees. Sloths have also become attractive for certain types of algae to grow on, further camouflaging the sloths and allowing algae to reach nutrients.
  • Snakes: Large Boa Constrictors often live in the understory stratum, amongst the trees. Smaller species often can be found on the ground layer.
  • Rodents
  • Insects
  • Frogs
  • Birds: Many birds live in the canopy layer of the forest, receiving food and shelter from the canopy tree cover. Toucans have adapted their distinctive beaks to reach tree fruit from a distance since the birds are often too large to settle on these tree branches.

Mid- to large-size rainforest animals

  • Tapir
  • Rhinoceros
  • Gorilla
  • Leopards: They typically live in the understory layer of rainforests


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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.