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Climate Conversations – World Rainforest Day

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Today (22nd June) is World Rainforest Day – a time for celebrating the diversity of rainforests and finding ways to protect this valuable habitat. As part of our Climate Conversations series we’ll be looking at the role rainforests play in relation to climate change.

Rainforests are known for having high biodiversity, meaning there are lots of species. Here’s a staggering example:

The UK is one of those countries.

Why so many?

The world’s rainforests are situated in areas of high sunlight and rainfall, which makes plants productive. They also have a stable climate, where plants and animals can survive all year round without the need to migrate or hibernate. The competition and adaptations to deal with survival and breeding have led to the biodiversity present in the rainforests today.

That’s niche

Plants and insects evolve together so that the plant can defend against insect attack and the insect can go on eating the plant. These competitive interactions between species result in many pockets of individual niches for plants and animals to exploit for their survival. Rainforests have many niches over a small area that are filled with unique species of plant and insect that aren’t found anywhere else. There are also many insects that will eat other insects, which opens up further niches. Of course, that’s just the insects and plants. There are countless more niches and interactions in rainforests around the world.

The 5 largest rainforests in the world:

The Amazon, South America

Probably the most famous. It covers 8 countries across South America. It is also famous for deforestation for cattle ranching.

The Congo Rainforest, Equatorial Africa

Known for its populations of mountain gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees. It is also home to forest elephants and many, many species of birds and other organisms.

Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, Central America

This rainforest is situated in Nicaragua and is a meeting point for species from the North and South American continents. It is estimated that 13% of the world’s species are found in this tropical rainforest.

Wet Tropics of Queensland, Australia

This is the oldest continually surviving rainforest in the world. It stretches across the northeast coast of Australia and reaches all the way down to the sea. It contains the majority of many species found in Australia.

Southeast Asian Rainforest

This rainforest ranges across many countries in Southeast Asia, including Thailand and the Philippines. While it is one of the oldest, this rainforest is being lost faster than any other in the world.

Rainforests and climate change

The world’s rainforests release 20% of the oxygen that we need to breathe, and correspondingly they take in a large amount of carbon dioxide, helping to counteract climate change. Unfortunately, deforestation, mainly for agriculture, means that as this unique habitat is lost, we also lose the rainforests as carbon sinks. As climate change worsens, the rainforests also suffer from the change in climate, exacerbating the problem.

The causes of deforestation:


While there are many restoration projects that seek to plant trees, these can never recreate the diversity that previously existed. Preventing deforestation is much more important. This protects biodiversity and helps mitigate climate change.

Discover More

Read more from our Climate Conversations series 

Kerrie Curzon, Collections Assistant