Tropical rainforests are located near the equator. Fifty seven percent of all tropical rainforests are found in Latin America. One third of the world’s tropical rainforests are in Brazil. Other tropical rainforests are located in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands (25% of the world’s tropical rainforests) and West Africa (18%). There are five major rainforests in the world:
1. Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon watershed region is the largest area of unbroken rainforest in tropical America (and in the world) as shown in this map of Latin American rainforest. (Note: green area includes tropical forest outside the Amazon watershed.) Countries with significant rainforest remaining are labelled. Other significant areas are in western Colombia and Venezuela, east of the Andes and along the northeast coast of South America in Suriname, French Guiana and Guyana. Much smaller areas include parts of Central America, as well as a region along the southeast coast of Brazil. Both these additional regions are severely deforested however, due to a combination of logging, ranching and urban development.
2. Central America Rainforest
The relatively small tropical forests of Central America have a relatively high diversity of species, since they sit on the land bridge between North and South America. Tiny Panama is home to more than 700 species of birds, a larger number than found in all of North America. Costa Rica has made ecotourism a major source of revenue, and has established a national network of parks.
3. Southern Asia Rainforest
The rainforests of southeast Asia and associated island archipelagos match the African and topical American forest for diversity of plants and animals. However, of the three, southeast Asia has the lowest proportion of original forest remaining. The most significant areas, in terms of size and biological diversity, are on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, which are part of Indonesia, and the island of New Guinea. Australia, which is mostly desert, has a small but biologically important region of rainforest in the far north of the country in Queensland.
4. Africa Rainforest
Africa has the world’s second largest area of undisturbed tropical rainforest. Most of this is within the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), in the Congo River watershed. Other equatorial regions have little rainforest remaining. Small areas of rainforest are scattered along the Atlantic coast of West Africa. The most significant include pockets along the coast in countries comprising the Bight of Benin, including Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast.
5. Australia Rainforest
In modern Australia, the remaining tropical rainforest survive in a narrow band from the Kimberlyes region to Cape York Peninsula and down to Tasmania. This region also contains temperate and other forest types as well. Undergrowth in Australia’s tropical forests is dense and lush since the forests lie in the path of wet winds blowing in from the Pacific.
The area near north-eastern Queensland is known as the “Wet Tropics”, with the city of Cairns at its center, is where Australia’s highest rainfall occurs, and where the continent’s main tropical rainforest is found.