Types of Rainforests

There are two types of rainforests -- tropical and temperate. Tropical and temperate rainforests share certain characteristics. For example, most trees flare at the base. Vegetation is dense, tall and very green. Both types of rainforests are rich in plant and animal species, although the diversity is greater in the tropical rainforest.

Montane forests are found in mountainous areas and may contain plants such as oaks, rhododendrons, and pines, which are characteristic of temperate deciduous forests. At higher altitudes, temperatures are cooler. Even close to the equator, frost and snow can occur. 

Precipitation and Climate
Both tropical and temperate rainforests are very lush and wet. Rainfall falls regularly throughout the year. The tropical rainforest receives 80-400 inches of rainfall per year. It rains a lot in the temperate rainforest, too -- about 100 inches per year. And even more moisture comes from the coastal fog that hovers among the trees. 

Tropical rainforests are warm and moist; while temperate rainforests are cool.

Tropical Temperate
Temperatures warm cool
Number of tree species many (hundreds) few (10-20)
Types of leaves broadleaf needles
Age of trees 50-100 years 500-1000 years
Epiphytes lots of different kinds including orchids and bromeliads mostly mosses and ferns
Decomposition rate rapid slow

Are all Tropical Forests, Rainforests?
Only a small percentage of the tropical forests are rainforests. To be a tropical rainforest, forested areas must: 
  • Lie between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. 
  • Receive rainfall regularly throughout the year (80-400 inches per year).
  • Remain warm and frost free all year long (mean temperatures are between 70° and 85°F) with very little daily fluctuation.
Map of Tropical Rainforests
Consequently, many forested areas in the tropics are not rainforests. Forests that receive irregular rainfall (monsoons followed by a dry season) are moist deciduous forests. Trees in these forests may drop their leaves in the dry season.
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