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Jungle vs Rainforest (What’s the Difference?)

A tropical jungle lit with sunlight beams.

You probably heard of the confusing terminologies before jungle vs rainforest. When we hear of the jungle, we often think of the fictional character Tarzan. His jungle home has numerous wild animals. He is always surrounded by leafy vegetation, boulders, and rivers. But isn’t it that Tarzan and his allies also enjoy the rainforest? The question now is this: are jungles and rainforests the same thing, or are there stark differences between them?

Jungle vs Rainforests: Are They Different?

The word jungle is a term that describes a thick tangle of plants and vegetations. They are so thick with overgrowth that they are hardly penetrable. There are no human tracks in the jungle. Its floors are littered with various species of insects, rodents, reptiles, and other animals. Some dangerous jungle plants live there too!

On the other hand, the word rainforest refers to the ecosystem that includes layers of trees. The looming vegetation or canopy covers the sunlight. Thus, their thick forest floors are almost dark. All animal activities happen under the canopy. It includes birds, insects, and other animals with aboveground dealings.

It is important to note, however, that experts do not necessarily put a line between the two. According to them, the jungle is not an ecosystem. It is just a descriptive term for referring to a tropical forest.

Here are various ways that point out that the jungle vs rainforest differences blur only slightly:

Attributes of Jungle vs Rainforest

A close look at a jungle's thick vegetation.

Jungles allow the sunlight to reach its forest floors. This is due to the lighter layer of trees and coverings. The bushes, shrubs, and vines are growing thick only on the floor, making them impenetrable.

It is easier to walk on a rainforest floor, but it is much darker and more humid. The thick canopy and towering trees make it harder for small plants to survive. The rainforest floor is deprived of sunlight. Thus, thickets and small groves grow scarce.

Location

Jungles thrive in places with warm weather and an ample amount of rain. The rainforest does too. When based on topography, there is no contest between the jungle vs rainforest. Both of them lie in the land areas near the equator. These areas are blessed with an abundance of rain and humidity.

Aside from topography, its prevailing setting takes apart their difference. It is simple to put them in a clear picture together. A jungle is a vegetation surrounding the edges of a rainforest. Where there is a rainforest, there is also a jungle. Further, the jungle is the remains of the rainforest when it is eventually cleared away.

Climate

Jungles and rainforests exist mostly in the tropical regions of the equator. The climate is mostly humid, hot, and wet. Rain is present every month of the year. There is no dry season at all for the jungle vs rainforest environment. This way, the vegetation keeps their luscious evergreen appearance throughout the year. Without drought, jungles bloom; this explains its dense forest floors. Abundant rain also enhances the layers of the rainforest’s canopy.

The temperature in a jungle and tropical rainforest ranges from 20 to 25 °C. It rarely changes with an approximate 5 to 10° deviation. On some days, it can reach up to 30°, while at nighttime, it can fall to about 10-20°C.

Parts of Jungle vs Rainforest

As mentioned above, jungles describe the bottom part of the rainforest, and the rainforest itself includes the life in elevation above the trees. However, the rainforest is not only a top and bottom cluster. It is further divided into four different layers.

  • Emergent Layer. The treetops that poke out into the open form the emergent layer. It is the part of the forest that gets the sufficient and unbroken amount of sunlight. The tallest trees can reach this layer of the rainforest. They are responsible for the lush greenery since the trees don’t shed their leaves at once to enable photosynthesis. The top layer is home to different species of birds too.
  • Canopy. Most fruit-bearing and low-lying trees form the next layer of the rainforest. They are not as strong and tall to compete for sunlight. But they are thick, and they grow together in patches. This way, they can all get their dose of sunlight without the shadow of the tallest trees.
  • Understory. Shrubs and bushes with big and waxy leaves lie underneath the canopy. Mostly, they are just seedlings of the canopy trees or some smaller tree species. They hardly get enough sunlight, making them impoverished until a gap in the canopy successfully gives way for their growth. Understory trees are common tenants in a jungle.
  • Forest Floor. The lowest layer of the forest differentiates the jungle vs rainforest surroundings. Rainforest floors rarely get the blessing of sunlight. Therefore, they are dark, damp, and humid. Saplings or new trees, foliage, decaying matter, fungi, and insects thrive on the forest floor. Most animals can find plenty of food on the jungle ground.

Animals in the Jungle vs Rainforest

A look at a Siberian Tiger in the wild.

Lions are the king of the jungle. It is a long-known phrase, but it rings a misconception. Contrary to its title, most lions do not live in the jungle. In fact, only about 10% of the lion species thrive in the jungle of India. The majority of the lions are living in the grasslands, savannahs, or open woodlands. They are king mainly because of their fearlessness towards other animals, including those in the jungles.

The animal species also identifies the difference in the jungle vs rainforest dwellers. The jungle is littered with animals on its floor. It includes insects, rodents, reptiles, and amphibians. Large animals like the jaguar, leopard, and other mammals live in the jungle too.

Meanwhile, the rainforest houses thousand more species of animals in its canopy and emergent layers. It includes birds and arboreal or tree-living creatures like sloths and monkeys.

Jungle vs Rainforest Plants

Tall, towering trees define the rainforest. They have a thick canopy where the spiraling trees struggle for a glimpse of sunshine. These canopies are responsible for overshadowing the forest floors and veiling them in darkness. The world’s largest and tallest trees often reside in temperate rainforests. Palm trees, orchids, rubber trees, figs, and oaks are just a few of the plants thriving in a rainforest.

Jungle plants are denser and thicker on the jungle’s floor than the rainforests. They are mostly shrubs and undergrowth with the presence of moss. On its floor also lays the scheming and dangerous plants that are often hiding behind beautiful blossoms.

These plants have natural defenses to hide from predators. Plants like the predatory pitcher plant, castor oil plant, and stinging brush live in the jungle. Bananas, coffees, and cacao, and other trees growing in our regular produce thrive there too.

The Jungle vs Rainforest Fun Fact

Ancient temple ruins in the jungle.

The Largest Jungle in the World

The Amazon Rainforest in South America covers 1.2 billion acres of land. It is teeming with biodiversity because it is home to about 30% of the total animal and plant species in the world. But the Amazon Jungle does not only keep the survival of the wild. It also supplies the earth with up to 20% of the oxygen that humans and animals need for survival. The Amazon Basin has a 20% freshwater source.

The Largest Flower

In the remote jungle of Indonesia lies the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia. It is nicknamed the Giant Panda of the Plant World because of its gigantic dimension. Its largest recorded diameter is 3.6 feet! However, it is not your usual sweet-smelling blossom. Rafflesia reeks of decay earning another nickname – the Corpse Plant. Its strong stench, and the fact that it lives on the remains of dead trees, make the nickname an apt description.

Ant Population

If species are growing abundantly in the rainforest, it’s probably the ants. The swarm of ants is hard to miss when you are walking on a jungle floor. If all the ants in the rainforest are combined, they will weigh four times heavier than all other mammals! E.O. Wilson, a biologist, mostly studying about ants, once discovered 200 different species surviving in just one tree.

Lost City in the Jungle

Beneath the dense canopy of the Cambodian Jungle lies the hidden city of Mahendraparvata. After almost 150 years of searching for the lost city, airborne laser scanners have finally found them underneath the trees. The jungles have taken over the remnant of the ancient city since the eighth century. For something that originates from 802 AD, Mahendraparvata is a well-drafted and organized organic city. It took archeologists some time to find it because the jungle is also flourishing with Khmer Rouge, Cambodia’s revolutionary armies.

Tenants of the Jungle

Animals and plants are not the only residents of the jungle. The World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development estimates that roughly 350 million indigenous people are living inside or closer to the dense jungle. The Korowai Tribe in New Guinea is a hunter and gatherer group of people who live in tree houses high above the trees.

Their homes can reach up to 45 meters above the ground! Whatever the difference between the jungle vs rainforest is, only one thing is clear: we need to protect and save the forest and the lives – flora, fauna, and humans – that exist there.

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