Forest Facts



  • Forests provide fuel, timber, paper, resins, varnishes, dyes, rubber, kapok and much more besides.
  • Softwood is timber that comes from coniferous trees such as pine, larch, fir and spruce. 75-80% of the natural forests of northern Asia, Europe and the USA are softwood.
  • In vast plantations fast-growing conifers are set in straight rows so they are easy to cut down.
  • A tropical rainforest has more kinds of trees than any other area in the world.
  • The signs of pollarding are racy to see in these trees in winter when the leaves are gone.
  • Hardwood is timber from broad-leaved trees such as oak. Most hardwood forests are in the tropics.
  • Hardwood trees take over a century to reach maturity.
  • Tropical hardwoods such as mahogany are becoming rare as more hardwood is cut for timber.
  • Pollarding is cutting the topmost branches of a tree so new shoots grow from the trunk to the same length.
  • Coppicing is cutting tree stems at ground level to encourage several stems to grow from the same root.
  • Half the world’s remaining rainforests will be gone by 2020 if they are cut Mown at the current rate.
  • Every year the world uses 3 billion cubic metres of wood – a pile as big as a football stadium and as high as Mt Everest.
  • Tropical rainforests are the richest and most diverse of all animal habitats.
  • Most animals in tropical rainforests live in the canopy (treetops), and are either agile climbers or can fly.
  • Canopy animals include flying creatures such as bats, birds and insects, and climbers such as monkeys, sloths, lizards and snakes.
  • Many rainforest creatures can glide through the treetops — these include gliding geckos and other lizards, flying squirrels and even flying frogs.
  • Year-round rainfall and warm temperatures make rainforests incredibly lush, with a rich variety of plant life.
  • Like the other 41 species in the bird of paradise group, the king bird lives in rainforests. In courtship the male vibrates his wings for display.
  • Some tree frogs live in the cups of rainwater that are formed by some plants growing high up in the trees.
  • Antelopes, deer, hogs, tapir and many different kinds of rodent (see ratsand mice) roam the forest floor, hunting for seeds, roots, leaves and fruit.
  • Beside rivers in Southeast Asian rainforests, there may be rhinoceroses, crocodiles and even elephants.
  • Millions of insect species live in rainforests, including butterflies, moths, bees, termites and ants. There are also many spiders.
  • Rainforest butterflies and moths are often big or vividly coloured, including the shimmering blue morpho of Brazil and the birdwing butterflies.
  • Rainforest birds can be vividly coloured too, and include parrots, toucans acid birds of paradise
  • Forests of broad-leaved, deciduous trees grow in temperate regions where there are warm, wet summers and cold winters – in places like North America, western Europe and eastern Asia.
  • Broad-leaved deciduous woods grow where temperatures average above 10°C for over six months a year, and the average annual rainfall is over 400 mm.
  • If there are 100 to 200 days a year warm enough for growth, the main trees in broad-leaved deciduous forests are oaks, elms, birches, maples, beeches, aspens, chestnuts and lindens (basswood).
  • In the tropics where there is plenty of rainfall, broad-leaved evergreens form tropical rainforests.
  • In moist western Europe, beech trees dominate woods on well-drained, shallow soils, especially chalkland; oak trees prefer deep clay soils. Alders grow in waterlogged places.
  • In drier eastern Europe, beeches are replaced by durmast oak and hornbeam and in Russia by lindens.
  • In American woods, beech and linden are rarer than in Europe, but oaks, hickories and maples are more common.
  • In the Appalachians buckeye and tulip trees dominate.
  • There is a wide range of shrubs under the trees including dogwood, holly, magnolia, as well as woodland flowers.
  • Very few woods in Europe are entirely natural; most are `secondary’ woods, growing on land once cleared for farms.