A forest ecosystem is the community formed by plants and animals of that particular area that interact with the chemical and physical features of the environment in which they live. The Amazon rain forest ecosystem is an example of a forest ecosystem. This ecosystem is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, which include producers, consumers and decomposers. These organisms are interdependent on each other for survival.
Green plants are the producers of this ecosystem. There are four layers of plants in this ecosystem. The emergent layer includes huge trees towering 165 feet or more that are spaced far apart. Canopy trees are closely spaced and are about 65 to 165 feet high. They provide fruits, nectar and seeds to many creatures. The understory has very few plants as it receives very little sunlight. Almost nothing grows on the forest floor as it is devoid of sunlight.
These are the herbivores that depend on green plants for food. Some of these creatures eat grasses and leaves. The capybara, a semi-aquatic rodent, lives on the forest floor and thrives on grasses and water plants. Other primary consumers that live in the canopy, such as the red howler monkey, feed on fruits, nuts, leaves and flowers.
Secondary consumers are the creatures that feed on the herbivores. These include some monkeys such as golden lion tamarins, which eat fruits as well as insects and frogs. Giant anteaters living on the forest floor and tamanduas (small anteaters that exist in trees) feed on ants and termites.
Predators thrive in all the layers of the Amazon rainforest. Ocelots and jaguars hunt for mammals, reptiles and birds on the forest floor and understory. Harpy eagles and the green snakes called emerald tree boas prey on birds, lizards and mammals for food.
The decomposers break down dead plants and animals, returning the nutrients to the soil to be made usable by the producers. Apart from bacteria, ants and termites are important decomposers of this ecosystem. Millipedes and earthworms also help to break down dead matter. The warm and moist climate of this region is conducive for the decomposers to work at a rapid pace. Dead matter is broken down within six weeks.
The organisms of this ecosystem are interdependent on each other for survival. An example in this regard is the relationship between Azteca ants and cecropia trees. The ants, which thrive in the hollow stems of the trees, depend on the special juice produced by the trees for food. In exchange, the ants chase away the insects that may harm the ceropias and kill the climbing vines that might choke these trees.
An example of a symbiotic relationship is the one between ants and caterpillars. The ants feed on sweet juices produced by spots on the caterpillars’ back. In return, they protect the caterpillars from attack.
- “Life in a Rain Forest Ecosystem”; Janey Levy; 2009
- “Earth’s Biomes: Forest”; Tom Warhol; 2007
- University of California Museum of Paleontology: The World's Biomes