Rainforests

Half of the world's plants and animals can be found in which type of habitat?

And the answer: rainforests.    

Even though they cover just 6% of Earth’s surface, rainforests are home to 50% of the world's plants and animals. Just about all types of animals, including insects, live in rainforests. The largest rainforests can be found around the Amazon River in South America and the Congo River in Africa.

Photo credit: Dukeabruzzi

Rainforests are the oldest living ecosystems on the planet. Scientists have traced the origins of some to over 70 million years ago, back to a time when dinosaurs still lived. Although those giant reptiles have since gone extinct, rainforests continue to support life in abundance today. They continue to thrive on every continent except Antarctica.

Two types of rainforests are scattered across the globe: temperate and tropical. Temperate rainforests are found closer to cooler, coastal mountain regions, while tropical rainforests are found in warmer climates between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. As their names imply, these forests are some of the wettest on Earth. They receive about 33 feet of rain per year, which is critical for the lush, biologically diverse habitat that rainforests support.

The biodiversity of rainforests creates benefits that extend far beyond the line of trees. Rainforest plants produce an assortment of food items that are useful in everyday products and medicines — in fact, an estimated 70% of the plants used in cancer treatments are only found in rainforests.

On a larger scale, rainforests help regulate the planet's climate. The vegetation helps absorb massive amounts of radiation and carbon dioxide, which they convert to oxygen. About 40% of the planet's breathable air comes from rainforests.

Learn more about these incredible ecosystems here.


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