Rainfall is the most important abiotic factor that can be found in the rainforest ecosystem. The rainforest biome receives more rainfall than any other ecosystem in the world, and it’s where the rainforest gets its name.
The amount of water that the ecosystem receives determines the types of plants and animals that can survive in the area. Rainforests have an incredibly diverse range of plant and animal species that thrive because of the consistent rainfall.
The tropical rainforest biome is characterized by high levels of rainfall, high humidity, and warm temperatures throughout the year.
Other abiotic factors that determine the composition of a rainforest include climate, soil type, temperature, sunlight, and rocks. Precipitation in a rainforest environment is substantial, ranging from 50 to 300 inches of rainfall per year.
This incredible amount of moisture leads to many unique adaptations in plant species since capturing nutrients before they get washed away by heavy rainfall is essential to survival.
The soil in tropical rainforests is generally very poor in quality, as all soluble nutrients are washed away by the heavy daily rainfall in the regions. The forest floor barely receives any sunlight, allowing for a wide variety of insects and fungi to thrive, as they feed on the decomposing bodies of other less fortunate organisms.
What Is The Role Of Sunlight In The Rainforest Ecosystem?
Sunlight plays a crucial role in the rainforest ecosystem. It provides the perfect amount of light that plants need to make their food through photosynthesis. Rainforest plants are very picky and require the perfect amount of sunlight, water, and heat to survive.
If rainforest plants got less sunlight, they would not survive, and the animals that eat these plants would also die, leading to an imbalance in the ecosystem. Sunlight is captured in the leaves of canopy plants via photosynthesis, converted into simple sugars, and transferred throughout the forest.
Competition for sunlight is also a significant factor in shaping the structure of the rainforest. When a tall tree falls and creates a gap in the canopy, the gap enables sunlight to reach the forest floor and fuel the rapid growth of small trees.
Over time, the trees’ crowns grow to fill the gap until the point where not all of the trees can fit in the sunlit patch, and some will be left behind in the shade of their competitors.
This process of moving from fast growth in the sun to slow growth in the shade sets up the characteristic size structure that is common across tropical rainforests, despite the differences in their environments.
Sunlight is also the main factor in determining the growth of the hundreds of tree species in tropical forests. The variation in physiological characteristics between tree species explains how the various species fit into their ecological niches, thereby contributing to diversity in tropical forests.
The sensitivity of stomata to drought in the various species also varies, but this does not lead to trees becoming specialized for dry or moist locations in the same forest. The researchers conclude that even in relatively dry tropical forests, light is the driving force behind niche specialization in tree species.
How Does Soil Fertility Affect The Rainforest Ecosystem?
Contrary to popular belief, the soil in tropical rainforests is actually very poor in nutrients. The high temperature and moisture of tropical rainforests cause dead organic matter in the soil to decompose more quickly than in other climates, thus releasing and losing its nutrients rapidly.
Additionally, the high volume of rain in tropical rainforests washes nutrients out of the soil more quickly than in other climates.
Over two-thirds of the world’s rainforests, and three-fourths of the Amazonian rainforest, can be considered “wet deserts” in that they grow on red and yellow clay-like laterite soils which are acidic and low in nutrients.
Despite the poor soil quality, the rainforest ecosystem is able to thrive due to the rapid nutrient cycling that occurs within it. Most of the carbon and essential nutrients are locked up in the living vegetation, dead wood, and decaying leaves.
The few plants remains that do reach the ground are decomposed quickly by fungi and bacteria thanks to the year-round warm and humid climate, and the nutrients released are immediately reabsorbed by the roots. Therefore, the rainforest feeds itself, and most nutrients are absorbed by the plants and do not get into the soil at all.
Soil fertility and species traits, but not diversity, drive productivity and biomass stocks in a Guyanese tropical rainforest. This study found that soil fertility and species traits were the main drivers of productivity and biomass stocks in the rainforest ecosystem, rather than diversity.
What Is The Average Temperature In The Rainforest Ecosystem?
The average temperature in the rainforest ecosystem varies depending on the type of rainforest. Tropical rainforests are found closer to the equator where it is warm, and the average temperature ranges from 20°C (68°F) to 25°C (77°F).
The environment is pretty wet in tropical rainforests, maintaining a high humidity of 77% to 88% year-round. The yearly rainfall ranges from 80 to 400 inches (200 to 1000 cm). Mean temperatures in tropical rainforest regions are between 20 and 29 °C (68 and 84 °F), and in no month is the mean temperature below 18 °C (64 °F).
Temperate rainforests are found near the cooler coastal areas further north or south of the equator. Temperate rainforests are also wet, but not as rainy as tropical rainforests. It rains about 60 – 200 inches (150 – 500 cm) each year, while the other moisture comes from the coastal fog that lingers on the trees. The fog provides about 7 – 12 inches (18 – 30°C) of moisture.