The difference between jungle and forest can be a bit confusing. It doesn’t help that the terms are often used interchangeably to describe expanses of vegetated landscapes.
Most often, a forest is referred to an environment replete with trees and other types of plant and animal life. The jungle is quite similar, except that it includes a great amount of undergrowth that makes exploration and navigation difficult. The difference between jungle and forest undergrowth is the primary distinction between jungles and forests.
The term jungle connotes a confusing and potentially dangerous environment, while the forest is understood a more calming place. The “urban jungle,” for example, describes the culmination of unpleasant aspects associated with living and operating in a big city. However, the “urban forest” is a solution that creates more comfortable city scenes.
What is a Forest?
Forests come in a wide variety and include all types of trees and animal life. Forests have always been the hubs of complex ecosystems which are uniquely suited to their section of the globe. While a jungle could be considered a forest, not all forests are jungles.
Following is a look at the various major forests types that stretch between the inhospitable tundra of the Arctic to the sunny equator where the sun shines all year round.
Forests near the Arctic Zones
In boreal forests In the far north, commonly called taigas, permafrost keeps the tundra as it has been since the last ice age. Colorful lichens, mosses, and grasses of the tundra mark the borders between tundras and taigas. Boreal forests grow in soil that is highly acidic and would kill most other plant types. The kind of trees and plants suited to life here are tough and resourceful and suited to poor quality soils. This includes aspen, birch and black spruce trees.1
Forests of the Temperate Regions
The trees of coniferous forests are known for producing bountiful quantities of decorative and aromatic pine cones for the holidays. Coniferous trees don’t lose their leaves and many have adapted well to climates with little water and long winters. Pines, firs, and redwoods are some of the most notable personalities in a coniferous forest.
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Deciduous forests can be found anywhere across the temperate regions and are the pride and joy of forest bathers in the fall. Even though all forests are great for bathing and exploration, deciduous trees shed their leaves before the winter. This autumn display of color and splendor allow these tough trees to go through winter and get to thrive in the spring. Their beautiful scenery is something to behold and walk through.
The Different Forests in the Tropics
Although the tropical jungle and rainforest may seem similar, and quite often interchangeable, there are several fundamental differences between the rainforest and the jungle.
A rainforest may be fringed by a jungle and even contain portions of the thick jungle like undergrowth and thickets in spots. But rainforests are known for their high overhead canopy that is typically filled with a wide assortment of birds, insects and other wildlife. Light does not reach the forest floor and the only plants that live on the floor are those that don’t require much sunlight. Therefore, no undergrowth can sprout up, and so the rainforest is not a jungle.
The origins of these words and cultural differences
Another big difference has to do with the origin of the word “jungle.” Jangala is a Sanskrit word that means “uncultivated land.” The English word jungle was popularized by Rudyard Kipling’s famous novel “The Jungle Book.”
This could be why some people may associate jungles with the forests in the fertile Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Rainforests have become the term associated with the forests of the Amazon River, Congo Basin, Papua New Guinea, and Tasmania. But, there will be penetrable and impenetrable sections of vegetated areas in all these locations. Therefore, jungles and the rainforests they surround exist in various countries and continents located near the tropics.2
Differences in Ecological Benefits
Jungles and Rainforests are also separated by their contributions to the general health of the earth. Rainforests play a critical role in carbon sequestration and other important ecological processes. Jungles, on the other hand, are important mainly because they support the health and well-being of the rainforests they encircle.3,4
No Forest Bathing in the Jungle
A crucial difference between the forest and the jungle has to do with the terrain. This is an important consideration when looking for some natural surroundings for improving your health.
In the forest setting, trees living in close proximity create a lush canopy of foliage high overhead. Here, trees of all types are busy producing healthy terpenes and other secondary metabolites that keep the forest cool, control pests, communicate with other plants and host of other tasks. These organic compounds have been found essential to balancing human health and well-being since before the agricultural revolution.
This canopy also reduces the amount of sunlight that reaches the forest floor and ensures that only sparse vegetation, mosses, and mushrooms exist on the forest floor. But, in the tropics, this is not the case.
Only the smothering thickness of a rainforest canopy will keep the sunlight from sprouting shrubbery, ivies, grasses and bushes on the ground below. Once sunlight reaches the forest floor, the sudden explosion of undergrowth creates a jungle.
Moving through a jungle may provide good exercise and at least some healthy secondary metabolites, but the unhealthy aspects outweigh these advantages. Jungles are teaming with insects and plants that are better not touch. Furthermore, the thick undergrowth can often hide pits or boulders that can injure the explorer. Rather than relaxing and empowering, as forest therapy ought to be, “Jungle Bathing” could rightly be considered a form of torture.5
Final Thoughts on Jungles and Forests
When selecting a forest for forest bathing making sure you will be comfortable and relaxed is crucial. If the vines and shrubbery look too thick, the insects numerous and the terrain questionable consider looking for a safer, more forest-like forest.
It is also possible to find all the healthy secondary metabolites of the deep woods, including the essential compounds from Black Spruce, Douglas Fir, Cedar, Sandalwood, Juniper and more, in the MONQ Forest Blend Personal Diffuser. Treat yourself to the renewing forest air wherever you go.
Photo Credits: Siarhei/shutterstock.com, Dzmitryienka/shutterstock.com, soft_light/shutterstock.com, Atstockproductions/shutterstock.com, oneinchpunch/shutterstock.com