Frequently Asked Questions About the Rainforest, What is a Rainforest? or Definition of Rainforest. Rainforest is a woodland of tall trees growing in a region of year-round warmth and abundant rainfall. Almost all rain forests lie at or near the equator. They form an evergreen belt of lush vegetation that encircles the planet. German botanist Andreas F. W. Schimper first coined the term rain forest-in German, Regenwald-in 1898.
Tropical rain forests occupy only 6 to 7 percent of the earth's surface. However, they support more than half of the world's plant and animal species (kinds). More kinds of frogs and other amphibians, birds, insects, mammals, and reptiles live in rain forests than in any other area. Scientists believe millions more rain forest species remain undiscovered.
The rain forest provides people with many benefits. Its plants produce timber, foods, medicines, and such industrial products as dyes, fibers, gums, oils, and resins. Rain forests help regulate the earth's climate and maintain clean air. The forests' lush, green beauty and rich wildlife offer a special source of enjoyment.
In addition, rain forests provide homes to millions of people. Such groups as the Yanomami of South America, the Dayaks of Southeast Asia, and the Pygmies of central Africa have lived in rain forests for centuries. They make their living by hunting, fishing, collecting forest products, and farming. Traditional forest peoples have acquired much knowledge about the rain forest's plants and animals.
In spite of these benefits, people cut down thousands of square miles or square kilometers of rain forest each year. This destruction eliminates thousands of species of animals. A number of governments and conservation organizations are working to preserve the rain forests.