Toggle Nav

Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests

Generally found in large, discontinuous patches centered on the equatorial belt and between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, Tropical and Subtropical Moist Forests (TSMF) are characterized by low variability in annual temperature and high levels of rainfall (>200 centimeter annually). Forest composition is dominated by semi-evergreen and evergreen deciduous tree species.


These trees number in the thousands and contribute to the highest levels of species diversity in any terrestrial major habitat type. In general, biodiversity is highest in the forest canopy which can be divided into five layers: overstory canopy with emergent crowns, a medium layer of canopy, lower canopy, shrub level, and finally understory.

These forests are home to more species than any other terrestrial ecosystem: Half of the world's species may live in these forests, where a square kilometer may be home to more than 1,000 tree species. These forests are found around the world, particularly in the Indo-Malayan Archipelagos, the Amazon Basin, and the African Congo. A perpetually warm, wet climate promotes more explosive plant growth than in any other environment on Earth.

A tree here may grow over 75 feet in height in just 5 years. From above, the forest appears as an unending sea of green, broken only by occassional, taller "emergent" trees. These towering emergents are the realm of hornbills, toucans, and the harpy eagle.

The canopy is home to many of the forest's animals, including apes and monkeys. Below the canopy, a lower understory hosts to snakes and big cats. The forest floor, relatively clear of undergrowth due to the thick canopy above, is prowled by other animals such as gorillas and deer.

All levels of these forests contain an unparalleled diversity of invertebrate species, including New Guinea’s unique stick insects and bird wing butterflies that can grow over one foot in length. These forests are under tremendous threat from man. Many forests are being cleared for farmland, while others are subject to large-scale commercial logging.

An area the size of Ireland is destroyed every few years, largely due to commercial logging and secondary impacts. Such activities threaten the future of these forests are the primary contributor to the extinction of 100-200 species a day on average over the next 40 years (exotics on islands and loss of island habitats are other major factors)

At the current rate of deforestation, more than 17,000 species will go extinct every year, which is more than 1,000 times the rate before man arrived on this planet.

Among the 13 terrestrial major habitat types, the largest number of ecoregions by far falls within the TSMF (50 ecoregions or 35% of all terrestrial ecoregions). The high number of ecoregions within this major habitat type reflects the biological richness and complexity of tropical moist forests.

Although there are more TSMF in the Indo-Malayan Biogeographic realm (17) than in the Neotropics (12), this is partly due to the archipelagic distributions of Asian tropical moist forests and their characteristic biotas. Four of the Asian TSMFs are small island systems, and the original extent of all of the Asian ecoregions fit easily within the area covered by western Amazonian moist forests.

The most diverse terrestrial ecoregions occur in the Western Arc forests of the Amazon Basin, with close rivals in the Atlantic Forest ecoregion of Brazil, the Chocó-Daríen ecoregion of northwestern South America, and Peninsular Malaysia and northern Borneo forest ecoregions. The montane forest biotas of the Northern Andes are remarkable for their globally high rates of beta-diversity and extraordinary local endemism.

The forests of the Guayanan region and Cuba are remarkable for their endemism and unusual biogeographic relationships. The Congolian coastal forests are likely the most diverse in the Afrotropics, although diversity information is scarce for several ecoregions in the central Congo Basin. The Guinean moist forests support many species not found in the Central African region.

The Albertine Rift montane forests are extremely rich for some taxa, such as birds, and have a high degree of endemism. The distinctiveness of the Eastern Arc Montane and East African Coastal Forests is attributable to their great age and isolation7). Madagascar forests and shrublands are also highly distinctive at global scales, even at higher taxonomic levels8). Tropical moist forests of New Guinea and New Caledonia are highly distinctive at global scales9), although Australian moist forests do share many affinities with New Guinea.

The forests of Sulawesi are noted for the regionally high degree of endemism in a range of taxa, a phenomenon also seen in the Philippines moist forests10) and in the Lesser Sundas Semi-evergreen Forests. The Western Ghats and southwestern Sri Lankan moist forests are distinctive due to their isolation and long history. Tropical moist forests on oceanic islands are often highly distinctive due to high rates of endemism, extraordinary radiations of taxa and adaptive radiation, and relictual or unique higher taxa.

Biodiversity Patterns
These habitats may display high beta diversity, particularly between isolated montane areas and along altitudinal gradients; local and regional endemism can be pronounced in some regions.

Minimum Requirements
Large natural landscapes required in some regions because larger vertebrates track widely distributed seasonal or patchy resources; water sources and riparian vegetation important for wildlife in drier regions.

Sensitivity to Disturbance
These fragile habitats are highly sensitive to plowing, overgrazing, and excessive burning due to their challenging climatic and soil conditions; larger vertebrates sensitive to even low levels of hunting.

Australasia

Islands off the northeast coast of mainland Papua
Southeastern Asia: Small islands scattered across
Southeastern Asia: Islands of Biak and Numfoor in
Southeastern Asia: Island of Buru in Indonesia
Southeastern Asia: Extends across central New Guin
Southeastern Asia: Islands of Halmahera, Moratai,
Southeastern Asia: Eastern Papua New Guinea
Southeastern Asia: Island of Yapen in Indonesia
Series of small islands off the eastern tip of Pap
Papua New Guinea, in the western Pacific Ocean
Papua New Guinea, in the western Pacific Ocean
Island of New Caledonia, northeast of Australia
Island off the east coast of Australia
Southeastern Asia: Extends across northern
Northern portion of the island of New Guinea
Northeastern Australia
Southeastern Asia: Island of Seram in Indonesia
Solomon Islands, east of New Guinea
Southeastern peninsula of Papua New Guinea
Southeastern Asia: Southern New Guinea
Southern New Guinea lowland rain forests
Indonesia: Island of Sulawesi
Trobriand Island, southeast of New Guinea
Island group northeast of Australia
Northwestern portion of the island of New Guinea
Western portion of the island of New Guinea

Afrotropical

Western Africa: Coastal areas of Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone
Central Africa: Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo
Southeastern Africa: Mozambique, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe
Islands of São Tomé and Príncipe of the coast of Equatorial Guinea
Africa: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, and Republic of the Congo
Eastern Africa: Coastal areas of Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania
Western: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, and Republic of the Congo
Western Africa: Southern Nigeria, extending into Benin
Western Africa: Southern Nigeria
Western Africa: Coastal Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea
Islands of Réunion and Mauritius, east of Madagascar
Southeastern Africa: Mozambique, Swaziland, and So
Southern Africa: Central Madagascar
Eastern Madagascar
Southern Africa: Eastern shore of South Africa
Southern Africa: Southern South Africa
West Africa: Scattered across Guinea, Ivory Coast,
Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar
Eastern Africa: Ethiopia, extending into Eritrea,
Central Africa: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Eastern Africa: Central Tanzania, extending into K
Eastern Africa: southern Sudan, central Kenya, int
Western Africa: Coastal parts of Cameroon, Equator
Western Africa: Southern Nigeria
Southern Africa: Island group between Madagascar
Central Africa: Northern central part of the Democ
Western Africa: Western Cameroon extending into Ni
West Africa: Primarily in Gabon
Central Africa: Eastern Democratic Republic of the

Indo-Malayan

Southeastern Asia: Taiwan
Southern Asia, on Taiwan
Eastern Asia: Nansei (Ryukyu) Islands south of Japanese mainland
Southeastern Asia: Hainan Island, China, in the South China Sea
Indonesia: Island of Java
Southeastern Asia: Island of Java in Indonesia
Southern Asia: Northern India
Southeastern Asia: Southern Vietnam and Cambodia
Southeastern Asia: Vietnam and Cambodia
Indochina: Myanmar, Thailand, and Malaysia
Southern Asia: Western Bangladesh into India
Sundaland heath forests
Southeastern Asia: The island of Sumatra in Indonesia
Southeastern Asia: Western part of the island of Sumatra in Indonesia
Southeastern Asia: Island of Sumatra in Indonesia
Sumatran freshwater swamp forests
Sulu Archipelago rain forests
Southern Asia: Central part of the Island of Sri Lanka
Southern Asia: Southwestern part of the Island of Sri Lanka
Island of Borneo, Indonesia
Southeastern Asia: Vietnam into Laos and Cambodia
Southern Asia: Southern India
Southern Asia: Southern India
Southeastern Asia: Southeastern China and northwest Vietnam
South China Sea, between the Philippines, Borneo, Vietnam, and China
Southeastern Asia: Vietnam
Southeastern Asia: Malaysia and the Kepulauan Anambas Islands in Indonesia
Southeastern Asia: Malaysia and southern Thailand
Peninsular Malaysian montane rain forests
Philippines: Islands of Palawan, Balabac, Ursula, and the Calamain Group
Southern Asia: Northeastern India
Southeastern Asia: Northern Vietnam
Southeastern Asia: Northern Myanmar
Southeastern Asia: Laos and northern border of Thailand
Southeastern Asia: Northeastern Thailand, extending into Laos
Southeastern Asia: China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam
Southeastern Asia: Central Laos into Vietnam
Southern Asia: Southwestern India
Southern Asia: Western India
Off the coast of India in the Bay of Bengal
Southern Asia: Western Myanmar into Bangladesh
Southern Asia: Myanmar and India, into Bangladesh
Philippines: Island of Mindoro
Southeastern Asia: Philippines
Mindanao montane rain forests
Southeastern Asia: Mentawai Islands and Enggano Island in Indonesia
Southern Asia: Eastern India
Maldives-Lakshadweep-Chagos Archipelago tropical moist forests
Southern Asia: Western India
Southeastern Asia: Luzon Island in the Philippines
Philippines
Southeastern Asia: Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam
Southern Asia: Bangladesh into India
Kayah-Karen montane rain forests
Eastern Asia: Eastern China
Southeastern Asia: Central Myanmar
Southeastern Asia: Southern Myanmar
Southern Asia: Northern India into Bhutan and Nepal
Southeastern Asia: Philippines
Southeastern Asia: Islands of Java and Bali in Indonesia
Southeastern Asia: The islands of Java and Bali in Indonesia
Southern Asia: Eastern India
Indian Ocean Islands southwest of the island of Java in Indonesia
Southern Asia: Western Myanmar extending into eastern India
Southerneastern Asia: Southern Thailand
Southeastern Asia: Thailand
Southeastern Asia: Southern Cambodia stretching into Thailand and Vietnam
Southern Asia: Eastern India
Southeastern Asia: Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei
Southeastern Asia: the Island of Borneo
Southeastern Asia: Indonesia and Malaysia
Southern Asia: Between the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea

Neotropical

Southern North America: Yucatán Peninsula in southern Mexico extending into northern Guatemala, and northern Belize
Eastern Amazonian - Brazil
Southern Caribbean: Islands of Martinique, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Northern South America: Northwestern Ecuador and southwestern Colombia
Southern North America: Eastern Mexico
Veracruz moist forests
Northern South America: Northwestern Venezuela into Colombia
Eastern South America: Central Peru
Northern South America: Northeastern Brazil, into southern Guyana and Suriname
Islands off the coast of eastern Brazil
Islands of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean
South America: Eastern extreme of the Amazon basin in Brazil
Tepus
Amazon Basin - Brazil
Central America: Costa Rica and western Panama
Upper Amazon basin of Peru, Brazil and Bolivia
Central South America: Bolivia and Argentina
South Florida rocklands
Northern South America: northwestern Brazil, southern Colombia, and northern Peru
Central America: Southern Mexico, Guatemala, into El Salvador
Sierra de los Tuxtlas
South America: Along the Atlantic coast of southeastern and southern Brazil
Northern South America: Northern Colombia
Northern South America: Northwestern Brazil
Northern South America: Northwestern Brazil and eastern Colombia
Northern South America: Northern central Brazil
Island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean
Petén-Veracruz moist forests
Eastern South America: Eastern slopes of the central Andes in Peru
Northern South America: Northeastern coastal and interior Brazil
Northern South America: Atlantic coast of northeastern Brazil
Southern Brazil, eastern Paraguay, and easternmost Argentina
Northern South America: Northern Suriname, into eastern Guyana and French Guiana
Pantanos de Centla
Northern South America: Northeastern Venezuela and northwestern Guyana
Oaxacan montane forests
Western South America: Northwest Colombia to southern Ecuador
Eastern South America: Eastern coast of Brazil
Northern South America: Eastern Colombia into Venezuela and Brazil
Eastern South America: Southern Colombia, eastern Venezuela, and northern Peru
Northern South America: Northern central Brazil
South America: Brazil
Eastern and Southern flank of the Amazon basin in Brazil
Northern Brazil at the mouth of the Amazon River
Northern South America: Northern Colombia
Northern South America: Western Colombia
Central Amazonia in Brazil and parts of Bolivia
Islands of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean
South America: Amazon Basin, northwestern Brazil
Northern South America: Northwestern Brazil, into eastern Colombia and southwestern Venezuela
Island of Jamaica in the Caribbean
Central America: Southern Costa Rica to the southwest coast of Panama
Central America: Southern Nicaragua into Costa Rica and Panama
Seasonally flooded river basins of Brazil, Peru and Bolivia
Caribbean: Haiti and Dominican Republic
Northern South America: Northeastern Brazil
Northern South America: Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, northern Brazil, and eastern Venezuela
South America: Southern Venezuela, northern Brazil, western Guyana, and eastern Colombia
Island atoll off the Atlantic coast of Brazil
Central America: Panama and Colombia
Eastern South America: Ecuador into Colombia and Peru
Cuba
Central America: Western Costa Rica
Northern South America: Central Colombia and northeastern Venezuela
Northern South America: Northern Venezuela
Central America: Off the coast of Costa Rica in the Pacific Ocean
Northern South America: Western Colombia into southeastern Panama
Mexico: Oaxaca and Chiapas
Southern North America: Southern Mexico
Central America: southern Mexico, through Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras into northern Nicaragua
Central America: Panama, Costa Rica, and southern Nicaragua
Central America: Islands off of the coast of Nicaragua in the Caribbean Ocean
Northern South America: Central Colombia
Northern South America: Northern Venezuela
Northern South America: Southeastern Colombia into Brazil
Caatinga Enclaves moist forests
Bolivian Yungas
Bahia interior forests
Bahia Costal Forests
Eastern South America: Eastern Brazil
Araucaria moist forests
Swain Reef, Howland and Baker Islands (USA), Phoenix Islands (Kiribati), Tokelau (New Zealand), and Ellice Islands (Tuvalu)
Islands of the South Pacific east of Australia
Japan
Central Polynesian tropical moist forests

Oceania

French Polynesia (France), Pitcairn Island (Great Britain)
Kingdom of Tonga and Niue, north of New Zealand
French Polynesia, close to the center of the South Pacific Ocean
Islands of Western Samoa and American Samoa in the Southern Pacific
Rapa Nui subtropical broadleaf forests
Island group of Palau in the western Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean: French Polynesia (France)
Kermadec Islands off the northeastern coast of New Zealand
Hawaii tropical moist forests
Fiji, Wallis, and Futuna Islands, in the Pacific Ocean, east of Australia
Eastern Micronesia tropical moist forests
Pacific Ocean: Cook Islands
Islands of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae, in the Federated States of Micronesia, in the western Pacific Ocean

xShare Your Thoughts!

Just 10 minutes of your time can help improve our site! Answer a few quick questions and you can help us make worldwildlife.org better.

Start SurveyClose this box