MadSci Network: Environment

Re: What are the main differences between a tropical rain forest and dry forest?

Date: Sat Sep 4 07:57:13 2010
Posted By: dave armstrong, Faculty, Biology, Cedars Tutoring, Qatar
Area of science: Environment
ID: 1282780110.En

A quick answer for you, Anuja! (I apologise for being delayed in answering you).

Your tropical forest is inevitably rain forest in most situations. If a forest is dry, it can be simply becasue the dry season is longer there than in the rain forest next door. I would describe the biome as a cline because it is continuous with wetter habitats nearby or sometimes hundreds of miles away. Look at Central America, Asia and Australia for examples. Africa has some very dry forests that are studied a lot these days. Politically, the human angle, and particularly the use of trees for fuel, complicates the conservation of many dry tropical forest throughout the continent.

This page ( gives you some ideas on successful African and American conservation projects, and examples of animal adaptations for life in the dry forest, such as amphibians burrowing into the mud and estivating (hybernating over the summer) or primates such as howler monkeys changing their habitat and behaviour.

If you want major differences, instead of simply microclimatic change, then describe the animals and plants. Between Brazil and Mexico, for example, several parrot and dove species survive on leafless trees during the dry forest dry season. The pressure this puts on waterholes, insects amphibians and birds is particularly harsh. Many of the parrots are quite rare having been been collected for captivity. In southeast Asia, efforts are being made to replant forest species that help birds and insects to rehabilitate (and distribute more seeds in) forests that have been destroyed. The dry season there is quite long in some areas, but again mixed with wet tropical forest.

Finally, Australians have produced for you the required diagram of layers of vegetation they have in their "vine-rich" and "small-leaved" forests there.

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