5 Largest Rainforests in the World: Discovering the Wonders of Nature

​​Rainforests are some of the most fascinating ecosystems on Earth, with their lush vegetation, exotic fauna, and unique climate. The world’s largest rainforests cover vast areas across continents, and they are home to millions of plant and animal species, some of which are still undiscovered by scientists. In this article, we will explore the five largest rainforests in the world and learn about their biodiversity, conservation efforts, and cultural significance.

Introduction: Why Rainforests Matter

Rainforests are vital to the health of our planet, as they provide oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide, regulate the climate, and host a wide range of species. They are also a source of food, medicine, and resources for many indigenous communities, who have lived in harmony with the rainforest for generations. However, rainforests are under threat from deforestation, climate change, and other human activities, which can have devastating consequences for biodiversity and local communities.

Here are five of the largest rainforests in the world.

1. Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon rainforest has more than three times as much primary forest as the next largest rainforest in the Congo. About a third of the tree cover in the tropics is found in the Amazon rainforest. Outside its dense forest, the Amazon is vast. The Amazon Basin is home to the world’s largest river. There is no doubt that the Amazon River is the largest river in the world, carrying more than five times the volume of the Congo and twelve times the volume of the Mississippi. However, there is some debate over which river is the longest.

Size and Location

The Amazon Rainforest is the largest in the world, covering an area of approximately 2.1 million square miles (5.5 million square kilometers). Located in South America, spanning across Brazil, which contains roughly 60% of the Amazon, the rest is shared among the following countries: Peru (13%), Colombia (8%), Venezuela (6%), Bolivia (6%), Guyana (3%), Ecuador (2%), Suriname (2%), and French Guiana (1%).


The Amazon Rainforest is one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, hosting an estimated 390 billion trees, 16,000 species of plants, 2.5 million species of insects, and thousands of other animal species, including birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Some of the most popular and endangered species found in the Amazon are the Jaguar, tapir, capybara, pink river dolphins, and more.

Carbon Storage

The Amazon Rainforest is often referred to as the “lungs of the planet” due to its significant role in absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. It is estimated to store approximately 90–140 billion tons of carbon, playing a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s climate.

Indigenous Groups

The Amazon Rainforest is home to around 350 indigenous groups, including some of the last remaining uncontacted tribes in the world. These groups have lived in harmony with the rainforest for centuries, preserving their traditional way of life and knowledge. The Amazon also has the greatest number of groups that live in voluntary seclusion, often referred to as uncontacted tribes.

2. Congo Basin Rainforest

The principal forest in the area is located in the DRC, or around 60% of it. As of 2020, there was 1.68 million sq km of primary forest within the basin’s total area of 2.87 million sq km. By extension, India’s land mass is almost the size of the Congo rainforest. A wide variety of species, including gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants, and okapis, call it home. The Congo also provides essential ecosystem services, such as water regulation and soil conservation. However, the Congo is facing multiple threats, including poaching, mining, and the impact of armed conflicts.

Size and Location

The Congo Basin Rainforest is the second-largest rainforest in the world, located in central Africa covering an area of approximately 1.5 million square miles (3.9 million square kilometers). 60% of the Congo primary forest is located in The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Gabon (13%), Republic of the Congo (12%), Cameroon (10%), Central African Republic (3%), and Equatorial Guinea (1%)


The Congo Basin Rainforest is home to an estimated 10,000 species of plants, 1,000 species of birds, and numerous species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, including the endangered western lowland gorilla, Forest elephants, okapi, and chimpanzees

Carbon Storage

The Congo Basin Rainforest stores an estimated 25–30 billion tons of carbon, playing a significant role in mitigating climate change.

Indigenous Groups

The rainforest is home to around 30 million people, including numerous indigenous groups such as the Mbuti, Baka, and Batwa, who have lived in the region for thousands of years.

3. Southeast Asian rainforests: Sundaland and the Indo-Burma rainforest.

The Sumatra, Borneo, and Papuan islands make up Sundaland, the third-largest rainforest in the world, spanning 1.8 million kilometres, which is geographically shared among Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. Orangutans, leopards, and crocodiles are just a few of the numerous endangered animals that call it home. Indigenous people also have a rich cultural history there. Yet, logging, palm oil plantations, and forest fires pose threats to the Indonesian rainforest. Between 2002 and 2019, Sundaland lost the most proportion of primary forest cover worldwide. Sumatra lost 25% of these forests, while Borneo lost 15%.

Size and Location

The Southeast Asian Rainforests cover an area of approximately 1.4 million square miles (3.6 million square kilometers), making them one of the largest rainforest regions in the world. The Southeast Asian Rainforests are located in several countries in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Sundaland is shared among Indonesia (73% of the region’s primary forest cover) and Malaysia (26%). Brunei and Singapore have less than 1% of the region’s forests, while the Indo-Burma rainforests are divided into Myanmar (34% of the region’s primary forest cover), Laos (19%), Vietnam (15%), Thailand (14%), Cambodia (8%), far eastern India (6%), and parts of southern China (4%).


These rainforests are among the most biodiverse regions on Earth, hosting an estimated 25,000 species of plants, 3,000 species of mammals, and numerous species of birds, reptiles, and amphibians, including the endangered Sumatran tiger, orangutan, and Javan rhinoceros.

Carbon Storage

The Southeast Asian rainforests are estimated to store around 35 billion tons of carbon, playing a significant role in mitigating climate change.

Indigenous Groups

The rainforests are home to numerous indigenous groups, including the Dayak, Penan, and Orang Asli, who have lived in harmony with the forests for centuries and possess deep knowledge of their ecosystems.

4. Australasian Rainforests

Size and Location

While not as vast as some other rainforest regions, the Australasian rainforests cover an area of approximately 640000 square kilometers (248,000 square miles). The Australasian rainforests are found in various regions of Australia (under 1%), Papua New Guinea (51% of the region’s primary forest), and the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua (49%), particularly in the eastern coastal areas and tropical islands.


The Australasian rainforests are home to a unique and diverse array of plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. These rainforests host an estimated 19,000 species of plants, including ancient species like the Wollemi Pine, as well as a multitude of bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species, such as the cassowary, tree kangaroos, and the endangered Sahul cockatoo.

Carbon Storage

While precise estimates are not widely available, the Australasian rainforests play a significant role in carbon sequestration due to their dense vegetation and high levels of biodiversity. It is estimated that the Wet Tropics rainforests of Queensland alone store around 3.8 billion tons of carbon.

Indigenous Groups

The Australasian rainforests have been home to numerous indigenous groups for thousands of years, including the Aboriginal Australians and various indigenous communities in Papua New Guinea. These groups have developed a deep connection with the rainforests, relying on them for food, medicine, and cultural practices.

5. Meso-American Rainforest.

Size and Location

The Mesoamerican rainforests cover an area of approximately 564,000 square kilometers (217,700 square miles), making them one of the largest remaining rainforest regions in the Americas. The rainforests are found in the tropical regions of Mexico (39% of Meso-America’s primary forest cover), Guatemala (13%), Honduras (11%), Panama (11%), Nicaragua (10%), and Costa Rica (9%). They are part of the larger Meso-American Biological Corridor, which stretches from Mexico to Colombia.


The Mesoamerican rainforests are renowned for their exceptional biodiversity, hosting an estimated 17,000 species of plants, 1,200 species of butterflies, 1,000 species of birds, and numerous species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. These rainforests are home to iconic species such as the jaguar, quetzal, and Baird’s tapir.

Carbon Storage

While exact figures may vary, it is estimated that the Mesoamerican rainforests store around 12 billion tons of carbon, playing a crucial role in mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration.

Indigenous Groups

The Mesoamerican rainforests are home to numerous indigenous groups, including the Maya, Garifuna, Xinca, and Miskito, among others. These communities have lived in harmony with the rainforests for centuries, relying on them for their livelihoods and practicing sustainable resource management.

Notable mention: Atlantic Rainforest

The Atlantic Rainforest covers approximately 450,000 square kilometers along the eastern coast of Brazil. It is one of the most biodiverse and endangered ecosystems on the planet, with over 20,000 plant species and many rare and endangered animals, such as the Golden Lion, Tamarin, and Jaguar. The Atlantic Rainforest is also of significant cultural importance, as it is home to many traditional communities and historic landmarks. However, the Atlantic Rainforest is facing severe threats from deforestation, urbanisation, and pollution, which have led to the loss of over 90% of its original forest cover.

Conservation Efforts to protect these rainforests. 

Deforestation is a huge challenge to global rainforests. Only 18% of the world’s forests are on land protected from deforestation. Between 2015 and 2020, 10 million hectares of forest were destroyed every year, giving a 35.48% decline for 2015–2020 compared to 1990–2010 and a 16.67% decline compared to 2010–2015.

Efforts to protect rainforests have been ongoing for decades, with various international organisations, governments, and NGOs working to preserve their biodiversity and promote sustainable development. These efforts include the establishment of protected areas, such as national parks and reserves, the adoption of sustainable forestry practices, and the support of local communities in managing their natural resources.

By the time you finish reading this sentence, another three hectares of forest will have been cut down. Learn more about how you can help protect endangered rainforests with Fund The Planet.

In recent years, there has also been a growing recognition of the importance of indigenous knowledge and traditional practices in conserving rainforests. Many indigenous communities have developed sustainable livelihoods based on their intimate knowledge of the forest, and their participation in conservation efforts can help to preserve both their cultural heritage and the environment. 

Appreciating the Wonders of Nature

Rainforests are not just a source of scientific curiosity or economic value; they are also an essential part of our cultural heritage and natural heritage. By learning about the five largest rainforests in the world and the challenges they face, we can gain a deeper appreciation of the wonders of nature and the need to protect them for future generations.

Image Source: https://news.mongabay.com/2020/06/the-worlds-great-rainforests/
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