What makes a forest a tropical forest?

What makes a forest a tropical forest?

I’m a student International forest and nature management. And specializing in tropical forest, but what makes the difference between tropical forest and a normal forest? Basically, a forest is tropical when it is between the Tropic of Cancer (Northern tropic) and the Tropic of Capricorn (Southern tropic). Of course, this is not the only criteria to be classified as a tropical forest. But almost everything can be brought back to lying between this two tropics.

The climate in the tropical region

Tropical forest
The tropical forest around the equator

The tropical forest is appearing around the equator, where the rainfall is really high. Also the temperature is higher than in our region. In the tropics the temperature will rarely drop below the 16 degrees Celsius! There is an almost consistent day temperature of 28-30 degrees Celsius. There is only a difference in temperature throughout the year, following the rainy and dry season.

The rainfall can be quite extreme. Not only the amount of rain is high but also the frequency. There is rarely a day without at least one shower, sometimes there are even up to 7 big showers in one day. Then you will probably understand how it is possible to have a precipitation of at least 2000 mm per year. Although in some parts of the tropics, especially a bit farther away from the equator. You can define dry and wet seasons, but even in the dry season, there is some significant rainfall. To be identified as a tropical forest, you need an almost consistent amount of rainfall and temperature throughout the year.

The soil in a tropical forest

What is very typical for a tropical forest and also a problem. Is that the soil is fertile for just a very short time. Because of the high precipitation and the high temperature, all the dead litter is decomposed in a quick time span. And the nutrients in the soil are very vulnerable for leaching because of the amount of rainfall. Because of this vulnerability, there is a really sufficient way of recycling inside of the ecosystem. All the nutrients are taking into the vegetation as soon as they have been released. Just to make sure that nothing gets lost.

This is a big problem when there is logging in the forest. When they remove to much timber in a short time period the forest cannot recover fast enough. So there will be an infertile and degraded land left.

Different types of tropical forest

We can divide the tropical forest in 3 categories, the criteria are the height, precipitation and temperature.

  • Lowland rainforest
  • Mountain rainforest
  • Cloud forest

When there are changes in the precipitation or temperature but is between the tropics, then you can speak of:

  • Monsoon forests
  • Savannah forests

Forest outside of the tropics

coniferous forest
Coniferous forest

All the forest that appears outside of the tropics are not the tropical forest and do have fewer criteria. We just divide it by deciduous forest, coniferous forest and mixed forest. Deciduous forest is the forest for nutrients rich soils and cannot live with big temperature differences. It also wants to have regular rainfall. Although this will never be as high as in the tropics. Coniferous forest lives on the nutrient poorer soils. Can survive with more extreme temperatures and can live without rain for a period.


One thought on “What makes a forest a tropical forest?

  1. Awesome website you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics discussed in this article? I’d really love to be a part of community where I can get responses from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Appreciate it!

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