A feature that makes a species of organisms better suited to live and reproduce in its environment.

The uppermost layer of a forest; most of the forest's photosynthesis occurs there, since it receives the greatest amount of sunlight.

Cone-bearing trees and shrubs with small evergreen leaves usually in the shape of narrow needles or flat scales.

A community of organisms and the physical environment in which they live.

emergent tree
A tree that sticks up above the canopy of a forest.

A woody plant that retains leaves throughout the year.

food chain
A feeding pattern in an ecological community, in which energy passes from one organism to another.

rain forest
An ecosystem characterized by a dense growth of trees in a very wet climate.

The shady layer of a forest beneath the canopy.

An ecosystem characterized by a dense growth of trees in a very wet climate is called a rain forest. There are two types of rain forests: tropical and temperate. The largest areas of rain forest are in the tropics, and they are amazingly rich in life: they are home to more species of plants and animals than all the rest of the world's ecosystems combined. The dominant plants in tropical rain forests are broadleaf evergreen trees. They grow to heights of 27 m (90 ft), forming a canopy that shades the lower layers of the forest. Vines rooted in the soil grow up tree trunks and along branches until their leaves also are part of the canopy. Reaching above the canopy are lofty trees that may attain heights of 60 m (200 ft). Below the canopy is the understory, which includes young trees, ferns, and herbaceous plants. The dark floor of the forest is generally covered with leaves, seeds, fruits, and other matter that falls from the upper layers. Animal life includes monkeys, parrots, jaguars, bats, and sloths. Temperate rain forests usually occur in wet coastal areas. The dominant trees often are conifers such as redwoods and spruces. Wildlife includes hawks, owls, wolves, and martens.

Here are some topics to explore that relate to rainforests. Looking at the articles, images, and other materials in this Research Starter may give you more ideas. Each topic has one or more articles to start you on your research, but remember that it takes more than one article to make a research paper. Continue your research with our list of articles below.

Describe the purpose of the layered ecosystem of the rainforest.

Forests and Forestry

What is the food web contained within the rainforest?

What role to primates play in the rainforest?
What's happening to the world's rain forests, and why should we care?
Rain Forest

Amazon River


Forests and Forestry
Olympic National Park
Puerto Rico
  Puerto Rico Facts
  Rain Forest

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American Forest and Paper Association
American Forest and Paper Association's Web site features sections on forestry, paper, wood products, recycling, and more.

American Museum of Natural History
Includes an overview of the diversity of earth's habitats, a discussion of endangered species, a time line of mass extinctions, and a look at environmental conservation. Maintained by the American Museum of Natural History.

Online issues of the conservation-oriented publication 'Arabian Wildlife,' dealing with ecological issues concerning plants and animals of the Middle East.

Biodiversity and Conservation
Online text discussing the origins of and threats to biodiversity. Includes information on global biodiversity patterns. Written by Peter J. Bryant, with the School of Biological Sciences, University of California at Irvine.

Biodiversity and WORLDMAP

Discusses the various methods scientists use to measure the diversity of plants and animals within a specific area. Maintained by the biogeography and conservation lab at London's Natural History Museum.

Biomes: Table of Contents biomes/main.html#tabcont
Images and descriptions of the world's major biomes. Developed for educational use as part of the Virtual Geography Department Project, at Radford University in Radford, Vermont. Includes a glossary of biogeographic terms.

Country Analysis Briefs
Detailed background information on the energy industry of each country, continent, and major geographical region of the world, with maps, graphs, statistics, and hyperlinks to related resources. Provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
Named for researcher Dian Fossey, this fund promotes protection of the mountain gorillas of central-east Africa. Its Web site has natural history information, pictures, audio/video, conservation news, and profiles of gorillas studied by the organization. — Make EVERY Day Earth Day!
The official Earth Day Web site provides information on the history of Earth Day as well as on current celebrations. Well-organized links offer a gateway to environmental resources on the Web.

Encyclopedia Smithsonian — Zoology
Zoology-related fact sheets, photo exhibits, bibliographies, and links to additional Web resources. Includes sections on insects, marine animals, birds, several groups of mammals, and endangered species. Maintained by the Smithsonian Institution.

EnviroLink Home Page
Links to materials on an extremely diverse number of environmental topics and to an online environmental magazine.

On this Web site from the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech K-12 students can learn about the basics of forestry equipment, how a tree grows, how to identify and measure trees, and the forest community. Includes interactive exercises.

Global land environments during the last 130,000 years
Maps of the changing distribution of vegetation across the world over the past 18,000 years, including a look at how world vegetation might have been distributed if human-based land development had not occurred. From biologist Jonathan Adams.

Fact sheet for the gorilla, covering physical features, range, environmental status, habitat, diet in wild and at zoo, reproduction, life span, behavior, and more. Provided by Smithsonian National Zoo affiliate Friends of the National Zoo.

Comprehensive resource on the biology of the gorilla. Maintained by SeaWorld/Busch Gardens, this Web site offers pages on classification, habitat, physical features, behavior, diet, longevity, reproduction, and environmental status and a bibliography.

JGI — Welcome to the Jane Goodall Institute Website
Offers information about Jane Goodall (including her curriculum vitae) and the nonprofit institute named for her. Includes sections on the natural history of chimpanzees and Goodall's 40 years of chimp research at Gombe National Park in Tanzania.

Library of Congress / Federal Research Division / Country Studies / Area Handbook Series / Peru
Scholarly handbook, part of the Area Handbook/Country Studies series of the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. Provides information (as of 1992) about the history, culture, economy, and sociopolitical structure of Peru.

Living On Earth: NPR's Environmental News Show
Companion Web site to NPR's environmental news show offers a program schedule, weekly highlights and features (in text and RealAudio formats, with links to related Web resources), searchable transcript archives, and more.

National Wildlife Federation's Homepage
Includes online wildlife publications, infomation on environmental issues, such as preservation of wetlands and protection of endangered species, as well as on government involvement with these issues. Includes child- or family-oriented material.

Olympic National Park
Provided by the National Park Service, this Web site gives extensive information, including detailed visitor information, about Olympic National Park. Online tours and information centers are available or will be soon. Illustrated, educational.

Primate Info Net
Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center provides information on primate biology, behavior, and research. Images and sound files are available.

Rain Forest Materials
Includes links to information on rain forest history and conservation and a general list of Web sites.

Rainforest Action Network
The Rainforest Action Network, an organization working to protect rain forests and support the rights of their inhabitants, provides action alerts, press releases, World Rainforest Reports, information on campaigns, and links to related organizations.

Tropical Forests
Educational resource on tropical forests as ecosystems, maintained by SeaWorld/Busch Gardens. Includes facts and figures, recommended reading for young people, a glossary of terms, and more.

Virtual Trip to Brazil
A map-based guide to the country, its provinces, and its cities. Well illustrated and linked to many other sites about Brazil. Created and maintained by computer consultant and teacher Walter Morales.

Welcome to Puerto Rico!
A useful site with links to information about government, geography, history, and tourism in Puerto Rico. Subsites reveal some flaws in the English language descriptions and narratives.

Wild World @
Wild World clickable maps show the Earth in terms of ecological boundaries, delineating terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecoregions. Materials provided via a partnership between National Geographic Society, World Wildlife Fund, and Ford Motor Co.

World Conservation Monitoring Centre
Centre provides data and other information on threatened plant and animal species, natural habitats, marine and coastal ecosystems, protected areas, and wildlife utilization worldwide.

World Wildlife Fund: Welcome to WWF
Web directory of the World Wildlife Fund, the world's largest conservation organization, active in some 100 countries. Click on any country on the map or on the list to be linked to the Web site of its national WWF organization or program office.