Rainforest structure

WHAT IS THE CANOPY?    Click here for more detailed information about rainforests!

In the rainforest most plant and animal life is not found on the forest floor, but in the leafy world known as the canopy. The canopy, which may be over 100 feet (30 m) above the ground, is made up of the overlapping branches and leaves of rainforest trees. Scientists estimate that 60-90 percent of life in the rainforest is found in the trees, making this the richest habitat for plant and animal life. Many well-known animals including monkeys, frogs, lizards, birds, snakes, sloths, and small cats are found in the canopy.

The conditions of the canopy are very different from the conditions of the forest floor. During the day, the canopy is drier and hotter than other parts of the forest, and the plants and animals that live there are specially adapted for life in the trees. For example, because the amount of leaves in the canopy can make it difficult to see more than a few feet, many canopy animals rely on loud calls or lyrical songs for communication. Gaps between trees mean that some canopy animals fly, glide, or jump to move about in the treetops.

Scientists have long been interested in studying the canopy, but the height of trees made research difficult until recently. Today there special facilities with rope bridges, ladders, and towers to help scientists discover the secrets of the canopy. The canopy is just one of several vertical layers in the rainforest. Take a look at the diagram on the left to see the other layers (the overstory, understory, shrub layer, and forest floor).

CANOPY RESEARCH TECHNIQUES





The canopy is just one of several vertical layers in the rainforest. Take a look at the diagram on above to see the other layers (the overstory, understory, shrub layer, and forest floor).


By Rhett Butler

Date published: June 24, 2004 | Last updated: March 21, 2014