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Tropical rainforests are found across the world between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, 22.5° North and 22.5° South of the Equator. Almost half of the remaining tropical rainforest is found in tropical America, a bit more than a third in Asia and Oceania, and fifteen percent in Africa.
Tropical rainforests cover approximately 8% of the world’s land surface - an area of approximately 1.2 billion hectares - and yet contain over half of the earth’s species of animals and plants. The largest rainforest, the Amazon, is found in South America and spans nine nations (Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname, as well as French Guiana), covering a total area of approximately 600 million hectares.
The rainforest is divided into four main layers: the emergent layer consists of the tallest trees (emergent trees) which can grow to heights of 70m. These trees act as a buffer, sheltering the lower trees from heavy rains. Beneath this layer is the main canopy of smaller trees which are intertwined with climbing vines and hold flowering plants, called epiphytes, on their branches. Below this is the understorey containing young saplings and shrubs. The final layer, the dark forest floor contains only a few plants as only 2% of the sunlight reaches this layer of the forest, making it difficult for plants to grow.
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