Layers of the Rainforest


The 4 layers of the rain-forest.
There are four different layers of the rain-forest, each marked with different characteristics. They include the emergent layer, the upper canopy, the under-story (lower canopy), and the forest floor.

Emergent Layer:
The emergent layer has trees which are spaced widely. They are 100 to 240 feet tall with umbrella-like canopies. They have small, pointed leaves and some species of trees lose them during the short tropical dry season. Because they have few branches and the root system is shallow, they have buttresses to maintain balance that can spread outward to up to 30 feet!

Upper Canopy:
The trees in the upper canopy generally are 60 to 130 feet tall. There is lots of light at the top of this layer but very little underneath it. Most animals of the rain-forest live in this layer. There is so much food, some animals never venture down to the floor. Also, because of leaves' drip spouts, the animals can remain dry and free of mold or mildew in their habitats.

Under-Story/Lower Canopy:
The understory, or lower canopy, has only 60 foot trees. There is little air movement, so the humidity is constantly high. This level is in constant shade.

Forest Floor:
The forest floor is completely shaded, unless a canopy tree falls and creates some light. Therefore, little plant life exists, and people can easily walk through the rain-forest. In fact, less than 1% of the light that hits the emergent layer actually penetrates to the forest floor. The soil is very thin and of poor quality because anything that falls to the ground is broken down into organic matter and is then very quickly absorbed by a tree's roots.