Of all the many and varied natural environments to be found on the earth, perhaps the most awe-inspiring and popular are the tropical rain forests. Although it is the forests of the Amazon which spring most readily to mind, it is important to remember that they also occur in parts of North America, Asia, Australia, and Africa, for the most part within a narrow band 4 degrees either side of the equator. These forests, with their mighty trees and extraordinary flora and fauna constitute the planet's richest habitats, and one of our most precious natural resources.
In this section we look at some of the fascinating animals, plants and people which inhabit the tropical rain forests along the meridian line, and we consider some of the conservation issues affecting these biological treasure houses. But before we do this, let's first get an idea of what a tropical rain forest actually is.
Tropical rain forests are mainly the product of climatic interactions, particularly temperature and rainfall. In general, tropical rain forests occur where a mean monthly temperature of between 20 and 28 degrees C is combined with an annual rainfall of between 1.5 and 10 metres, evenly distributed throughout the year. This last proviso is very important because it is only to those tropical forests which experience little seasonal variation in terms of rainfall that the term rain forest can legitimately be applied.