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Rainforest Ecosystem Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Terry Dunn

Terry has a master's degree in environmental communications and has taught in a variety of settings.

What makes the tropical rainforest so special? In this lesson, you will learn about the beautiful rainforest ecosystem, where they are in the world, and what plants and creatures live there.

What Is a Rainforest Ecosystem?

Would you believe there is a place where dolphins are pink, birds can have tails as long as a yardstick, and the amount of rainfall each year is as much as a tall adult? This place isn't located on another planet. It's a tropical ecosystem, also known as a tropical rainforest. To qualify as a rainforest, it must have at least 75 inches of rainfall each year--that means that, if rain stayed in the exact place that it fell, it would reach more than 6 feet tall! Rainforests often receive much more than this--most get around 100 inches per year, but rainfall can reach up to 260 inches per year.

The quetzal chick, which is found in rainforests, will grow to have a tail up to 3 feet long.
Quetzal chick

It's always warm in the rainforest, and it feels like summer during every season. The temperature rarely goes below 70 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. All that heat and rain makes for a lot of humidity, which is moisture in the air. Humidity is created when water from the ground and greenery evaporates (changes from water to very tiny droplets in the air). That moisture becomes so heavy that it often falls right back to the forest as rain.

Humidity in the rainforest can become so heavy that it falls back down to the ground as rain.
rainforest humidity

Tropical rainforests don't just grow anywhere. There is a special recipe that includes year-round warmth, lots of rainfall, and plenty of sunlight. The perfect area for these conditions is the Equator, the imaginary circle that goes around the Earth like a belt. So, you can find rainforests in parts of Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia as well as some islands scattered near the Equator. You wouldn't find them in Antarctica near the South Pole or in Canada near the North Pole.

Variety In the Forest

With that much rain and no winter to slow growth, trees and other plants grow in abundance. While the bottom of the rainforest is often shady and pretty easy to walk through, the top level of the rainforest (called the canopy) is very dense with plantlife. The canopy can sit as high as a 24-story building, and plants thrive here because of the strong sunlight.

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