Tropical rainforests are home to half of the world’s estimated 10 million plant and animal species. However, scientists can estimate the number of stars in the sky with more accuracy than they can estimate the number of species living in the tropical rainforest. To date, only 6% of the species living in the rainforest have been discovered. Of that 6% only a tiny proportion (about one sixth) has been intensively studied.

Each of the world’s rainforests maintains different levels and types of biodiversity. More than 250 different species of trees exist in 2.5 acres (or 1 hectare) of tropical rainforest. Each tree provides a habitat for hundreds of species. For example, up to 40-50 species of ants can live in one tree in Brazil.


There are more species of birds in the Peruvian rainforests than in the entire United States. Whereas, one small pond in Brazil can contain a larger variety of fish than all of the rivers in Europe combined. In fact, one bush or shrub in the Amazon rainforest can hold more species of ants than the entire British Isles. Tropical rainforests also contain over 95% of primates found nowhere else in the world. Many species found in rainforests are unique to a specific rainforest, or are uniquely indigenous to a specific area of one rainforest.

The biodiversity found in the world’s rainforests is invaluable. Currently, rainforest plants are the basis for many modern day medicines. The National Cancer Institute has performed research on rainforest plants in order to find plant-based cures for cancer. Of the 3,000 plants identified as having elements that could potentially cure cancer, 70% are found only in tropical rainforests. The rainforest is a resource with boundless possibilities but it must be protected in order for us to reap its benefits.

Tropical rainforests can typically be divided into four main layers, called strata. The four strata are: the Emergent Layer, the Canopy, the Understory, and the Floor. Each strata has its own community of plants and animals.