Deciduous forests are forest that lose their leaves at specific times on the year, usually based upon light, temperature or rainfall. There are found primarily between the Tropics, Cancer and Capricorn, and the polar regions, Arctic and Antarctic Circles. Rainforests are stable, layered symbiotic ecosystems that get a specified amount of rain evenly spread throughout the year with 90% humidity and most are found between the two Tropics, near the Equator. That brings up the question of what is a tropical deciduous rainforest?
The simple answer is that it is a rainforest located between the tropics that, while stable has seasonable variation with trees that react to this variation and shed their leaves. They are found usually on the border areas of the planet, within 5 degrees of the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn latitudes. Why that region? Because the weather and light changes enough to alter the trees and yet it is still in the “tropics”.
What really characterizes a tropical deciduous rainforest and how is it different from a regular rainforest?
A “normal” rainforest has a dense canopy comprised of thousands of different species of climbing vines and other plants. Under the canopy it is usually cool and damp with little undergrowth, the vine block the light slowing or even preventing growth of many plants. It has a “musty” odor and a high percentage of saprophytes, mushrooms are everywhere. There is very little change through out the year.
The tropical deciduous rainforest has a thinner canopy and more light, thus much more undergrowth. It is characterized by numerous shrubs, dense vegetation with lots of young plants and, while the saprophytes are there, there are not as abundant or easy to find. The smell is of green, growing plant life rather than decay. There are also seasonal changes as the light and temperature shift just enough to trigger the trees to drop there leaves. The tropical rainforest still is symbiotic plus gets the evenly spread rain and the humidity, otherwise it would no longer be a rainforest, just a jungle!
It is the symbiosis mixed with rain and humidity that defines the rainforest as a rainforest rather than the plant life. The plants support and help each other as well as helping and being helped but the numerous creatures found in the rainforest. This is true of “Evergreen” tropical rainforests, “Deciduous” tropical rainforests, or temperate rainforests!