If the “International Day for the Conservation of Tropical Forests” is held every year on June 26th, why do we also need “World Rainforest Day”?
To answer this question, let’s first look at how the world’s forests are classified.
Forests are generally classified based on their seasonality and their climatic conditions, first according to their position relative to the equator, and then according to other climatic factors such as the amount of precipitation they receive in a year.
This classification is essential to understanding why we need to celebrate both the “International Day for the Conservation of Tropical Forests” and “World Rainforest Day”.
Latitude is the major determinant of climate and seasonality on a global scale, and forests are markedly different in terms of composition and function in places with distinct winters and in places with only wet and dry seasons.
This is why they are classified into three major types:
1. Boreal forests, furthest from the equator
2. Temperate forests
3. Tropical forests, found in the tropics, closest to the equator.
The term “Tropical Forest”, therefore, refers to all the forests that are found in the tropics, which are a large area around the equator, bound by the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, with only two seasons, dry and wet, and no true winters.
It is no surprise, then, that covering such a large area of the world, tropical forests comprise a wide range of forest ecosystems, each with unique characteristics and combinations of plant and animal species, temperature ranges, and precipitation patterns.
Rainfall patterns are another big determinant of a forest’s characteristics, so, like a forest’s location, they are used to classify and distinguish between different forest types.
“Rainforest” is a term that is used to describe all forests that get continuous and abundant rainfall all year round, unlike dry forests, which get only small amounts of rain throughout the year. These types of forests are partly self-watering. Mostly filled in with evergreen trees and plants, they release water into the atmosphere through a process called transpiration.
This essential feature is what makes them so important in regulating global water flow and climate. They are found in every continent, except Antarctica. Among rainforests, cloud forests are the ones found at higher altitudes, getting most of their moisture from low-level clouds.
Therefore, a “tropical rainforest” is a forest located in the tropics that gets continuous and abundant rainfall; tropical rainforests, then, are a subtype of tropical forest.
Tropical rainforests stand out for several very important reasons besides their function as water cycle regulators such as their high biological diversity, and their outsized contribution to the mitigation of climate change.
Of all the forests in the world, tropical rainforests are the most effective in sequestering and storing carbon; however, they are also some of the most threatened ecosystems, especially by deforestation and fires.
By having the International Day for the Conservation of Tropical Forests, a day to raise awareness about tropical forests, we ensure that the whole diversity of forest ecosystems that thrive in the tropics, such as dry tropical forests, mangrove forests, cloud forests, and tropical rainforests, get the attention they need and deserve.
Nonetheless, since tropical rainforests have such a major impact on climate mitigation, biodiversity preservation, and the regulation of the water cycle - and are at the same time in peril due to global economic drivers- having a day specifically dedicated to them ensures that the need to protect them is honored.
The International Day for the Conservation of Tropical Forests and World Rainforest Day celebrate the beauty and importance of these ecosystems and they encourage actions to preserve them for generations to come.
Want to take part in this year’s World Rainforest Day celebration? Visit our website or download our partner guide for more info on getting involved! See you on June 22 at the second annual World Rainforest Day Global Summit!