Layers of the Rainforest: Emergent, Canopy , Understory and Undergrowth


The 4 Layers of the Rainforest

The rainforest is the unique ecosystem in the world. Up to 75 percent of all plant and animal species are in rainforests worldwide. The different layers provide protection, food, and perfect breeding grounds for all different types of plants and animals. Although we know it is the most densely populated ecosystem with all types of plants and animals, there are still so many yet to be discovered. Between 2014 and 2015, at least 381 new species were discovered. With every passing year and every new scientific expedition into the rainforest, more and more species continue to be discovered.

The Emergent Layer

This is the tallest layer of the rainforest; the leaves are the fewest up here with the least sturdy branches. Only animals that can fly live in the emergent layer, such as bats, birds, and butterflies. Leaves in the emergent layer are often large and waxy, soaking up as much sun as possible and retaining as much water as possible.

The Canopy Layer

This is the thickest layer of the rainforest. It forms a thick, protective layer covering the lower two layers, providing cover from the perpetual rainfall and the year-round sun. Most animal species in the rainforest live in the canopy layer because of its protection from the elements above, from apex predators below, and the abundance of food available. Because it is so dense with vegetation, it traps moisture and heat, acting like a greenhouse. Animals in this layer have adapted to be able to camouflage themselves and to be able to communicate with their species. Primates, rodents, sloths, lizards, birds, and insects live here. It is estimated that between 60 and 90 percent of animal species live in the canopy layer.

The Understory Layer

This layer is extremely humid and dark all year long. It is completely protected from the layers above, receiving minimal sunlight and no hard rainfall. This is the ideal habitat for smaller animals, such as insects, lizards, snakes, birds, and small primates. This is also where jaguars live and hunt. Because of its protection from above and below, the understory allows for the year-round reproduction of animals and insects in a never-changing habitat.

The Undergrowth Layer (The Forest Floor)

The final layer of the rainforest is the undergrowth layer. This is the darkest and most humid layer of the rainforest. All the seeds from nuts, berries, flowers, and trees fall to the forest floor, providing food and nutrients for animals and plants to flourish. The largest animals live in the understory layer. Animals include large cats, elephants, primates, pigs, tapirs, and many more. The herbivores eat the seeds and then transport them throughout the jungle, providing food for the omnivores and carnivores. This layer is the most well-documented because it is easy to access.

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