Review of Literature

I. Rainforests: What they are and where they're found...

There are two types of rainforests: tropical and temperate.

Tropical rainforests are found in 85 countries around the world. "Ninety percent of these forests are concentrated into fifteen countries, each country containing over 10 million hectares each." (Malaysian Timber Council, 1995) Tropical rainforests are located near the equator, where temperatures stay above 80 degrees Fahrenheit year round. These dense, damp forests occur in Latin and South America, Africa, and in Southeast Asia. "Although they [tropical rainforests] cover just seven percent of the Earth's surface, they can provide habitat for between 50 and 90 percent of its plant and animal species. In 1990, tropical rainforests totaled some 1.7 billion hectares." (Forest Alliance of British Columbia, 1996) Half of the world's rainforests lie within the borders of Brazil, Indonesia, and Zaire.

A tropical rainforest has three layers: the forest floor, the understory, and the canopy. The forest floor has poor soil. Mainly insects live on this layer, although large mammals like gorillas and jaguars are also found there. Many smaller animals, including anteaters, lemurs, and tree kangaroos live in the understory. This is also where many small trees and shrubs are found. The canopy, or top layer, is made up of the tops of trees which can grow to be over 200 feet high. Many tropical birds, monkeys, apes, snakes, and other animals live in the canopy.

Temperate rainforests are much younger than their tropical relatives. Most temperate rainforests are less than 10,000 years old, compared to the tropical rainforests' millions of years. The soil in temperate forests are full of much more nutrients than that of the tropics.

Temperate rainforests are located along the Pacific coast of Canada and the United States, and are also found in New Zealand, Tasmania, Chile, Ireland, as well as Scotland and Norway. Temperate rainforests are much more scarce than tropical rainforests.

Some countries have both types, for example: "Australia has both tropical and temperate rainforests. Although Australia is mostly desert with little forest, it is recognized as a leader of the scientific understand of rainforests." (National Association of Forest Industries, 1996)

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