Although rainforests differ in biodiversity, they all have similar structures and are made up of five layers: the emergent layer, the canopy, the under canopy, the shrub layer, and the forest floor. Let’s take a closer look at these amazing ecosystems.
Emergent Layer: This is the upper most layer where the tallest trees in the rainforest the emergents grow as high as 200 feet with trunks that measure up to 16 feet around. Sunlight is abundant in this area. The leaves of these trees are often thick and waxy so they can retain water in the heat of the sun. Eagles, monkeys, butterflies, bats and snakes inhabit this level. Some of these creatures never go below this layer .
Canopy: The rainforest canopy is the most well known level in the rainforest structure. This dense layer forms almost a complete cover over the other layers. Even though the trees and leaves in the canopy block out most of the sunlight, the leaves and trees rarely interlock and barely touch. The canopy is home to hundreds of animals that seek protection from predators on the forest floor. These animals swing and jump from tree to tree for food and shelter.
Under Canopy: The under canopy is still very well shielded from heavy winds and rains. However, it is this part of the rainforest that retains most of the moisture. As a result this area flourishes. Most of the rainforests flora and fauna grow in the under canopy. Plants in this level grow very large leaves to soak up the minimal sunlight.
Shrub Layer – The shrub layer is often combined with the Under Canopy or the Understory of the rainforest structure. If a rainforest has a very dense canopy, it will have a very thinly populated shrub layer. However, if the canopy is more open, it will have a densely populated shrub layer. Generally, only 5% of sunlight reaches the shrub layer. It is within the shrub layer that short trees and shrubs with medicinal qualities grow. Many insects live in the shrub layer.
Forest Floor – Only 2% of sunlight reaches the forest floor, as a result, this part of the rainforest is very dark and humid. The forest floor is covered with fallen leaves, few shrubs and different types of moss that thrive in this warm, dark area. The forest floor is also littered with fallen tree branches and leaves. Many invertebrates and insects live among the leaves and moss. Additionally, large cats,elephants and gorillas (depending on the location of the rainforest) live along the forest floor.