1. Journey to the Jungle

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Description

Rainforests are known for their stormy weather, humid environments, beautiful tall trees, and for being a biodiversity “hot spot”. Join our team as we explore the Amazonian rainforests, from tree tops to forest floor, to identify some of the unique animal and plant species, the diverse habitats in this ecosystem, and some of the threats that rainforests are facing today. 

Photo Credit: Amazon

What's the difference between a rainforest and a regular forest?

Wonderful question! A rainforest needs to have a combination of 3 things:

#1. It needs to be a dense forest.

#2. It needs to be rich with biodiversity.

#3. It needs to receive large volumes of rain. The average amount of rainfall will depend on the type of rainforest.


What are the types of rainforests?

There are temperate rainforests, boreal rainforests, montane rainforests and tropical rainforests just to name a few.

Photo Credit: Timothy Epp/Shutterstock 

*Temperate rainforest: If you live on the Pacific coast of North America you'll be very familiar with this type rainforest. A temperate rainforest receives about 55 inches of rainfall per year. This can vary on region to some receiveing 33 to 320 inches per year.

Photo Credit: TNC Canada

*Boreal rainforest: It is a biome with less rich diversity than a temperate forest and has a lower temperature than temperate rainforests as they have long periods of warmth in the summer. However, boreal rainforests receive roughly the same amount as rain as temperate rainforests.

Photo Credit

*Montane rainforest: You'll find these regions on tropical mountainsides. They have a windy and cool environment at a higher-elevation. These areas receive approximately 79 inches of rain annually.

*Monsoon Rainforest: These rainforests you'll find along the equator and receives a whopping 100-200 inches of rain annually. They receive a dry spell for a portion of year but then make up for it with a wet season of at times torrential downpour.

Photo Credit: Salome Chelangat

*Tropical Rainforest: This rainforest is also found near the equator, however it receives about 80 inches of rainfall annually. Tropical rainforests have the most species diversity of plants and animals in the world!



Where is the Amazon Rainforest?

As tropical rainforests take 1st place in hosting the most animals its worth taking a closer look at the a tropical rainforest that's quite well known: the Amazon.

Gif Credit: Climate Central 

The Amazon takes residence in 9 countries, with the majority (roughly 60%) of it resting in Brazil. The remainder portions are found in Colombia, Peru, Euador, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, Bolivia and French Guiana.


Where in the Amazon rainforest do animals live?

It depends on what layer of the forest they inhabit. There are 4 layers of the rainforests that vary in environmental conditions that affect which animals are comfortable living there.

Source: Scishow Kids on Youtube

Emergent Layer : This is the first layer of the tropical rainforest are made up of super tall averaging at a height of 70-100m from the ground level. As they are at the top towering over all they tend to experience the extremes of weather, thus protecting those under its cover somewhat. They receive direct sunlight; they get hit hard with rain. Animals you could find are harpy eagles, scarlet macaws, bats, rainforest monkeys and some insects.

Canopy: This next layer underneath the emergent layer is the canopy. This layer supports the majority of the living species in the entire rainforest (roughly 60-90%). During the day, this is the hottest part of the rainforest. It has been noted that the leaves within the canopy are like mini solar panels to fuel the entire rainforest. The animals you could find here are monkeys, sloths, birds and insects.

Understory: The understory is much more humid and damp then the above two layers. The humidity is a major factor in this layer as its inhabitants rely on it greatly. It’s made up of a combination of shrubs, herbs, ferns, climbing plants and young plants; all of which are adapted to the low light environment. You may find beetles, bees, bats, monkeys, lizards, snakes and jaguars here.

Forest Floor: . It’s the absolute darkest and muggiest part of the tropical rainforest due to the 2% of sunlight it receives. It’s a landscape covered with leaves, fruit, deeds and whatever else that has fallen from the layers above. This mixture of humidity and the leftovers of the other sections of the rainforest make it a hub for decomposition. With it decomposing, bacteria and fungi of the rainforest is literally recycling itself by creating nutrients to nourishes the rainforest to continue to grow and thrive. Of course, the animals you’ll find on the forest floor are the land dwellers that are not able to fly or glide. You’d see animals like tigers, jaguars, elephants and tapirs.


What animals live in the Amazon river?

The Amazon river definitely hosts a vast amount of animals. The Amazon river stretches from the Ucayali-Apurmic river to southern Peru is about 4,000 miles. This around the same distance of New York to Rome. You can see that there's space for animals to call the Amazon river home.

Lets go through some particularly fascinating characters of the Amazon River!

Arapaima:

Photo Credit

These beasts can live 24hrs out of water. This air breathing fish can grow to be several feet long. One giant grew to be 9 feet long and weigh up to 440 pounds. They can stay underwater for 10 to 20 min they stay near the water’s surface. They have a distinct coughing sound when they occasionally take a breath. The arapaima’s reproductive cycle has been synced to the amazon’s seasonal floods in which during low water months (Feb-April) they build nests and the females lay eggs. As the water levels rise the young begin to hatch. Adults incubate tens of thousands of eggs in their mouths, guarding them aggressively.

Red-bellied piranha:

Photo Credit: Practical Fishkeeping
They calmly swims about the river with a tooth-y reputation. A reputation well earned due to their rows of razor sharp triangular teeth. They like to eat shrimp, worms and mollusks. They swim and hunt is schools/shoals that can grow up to a hundred. Researchers believe that these fish swim in groups for protection not for major meal take downs. When these fish are do get aggravated they’ve been documented making barking-like sounds.

Black Ghost Knife Fish:

Photo Credit: LiveAquaria

They have the ability to produce and sense electric signals in the water. They conduct electrical pulses of a few hundred millivolts from a structure in their tail called an electric organ. This organ can sense forms of objects in the fish’s electric field. Like bats and dolphins that use echolocation to, electric fish use this system of electrolocation to navigate. Natives in South America believe that their departed loved ones take up residences in ghost knife fish.

Caiman:

Photo Credit: Lapatilla

These strong jawed creatures live along the edges of the river and other bodies of water. They reproduce by means of hard-shelled eggs laid in nests built and guarded by the female. Once the little ones mature they become strong swimmers to be able to feed on fish, birds, insects and other animals.


What is being done to help conserve the Amazon?

There was a major story that broke out in Colombia when a group of 25 youth sued the government for not properly protecting the Amazon. Their case was successful as Colombia's Supreme Court agreed that the government needed to strengthen the Amazon's legal rights to help conserve in the face of rising deforestation.

It is because of like minded people as this youth group that keeps the Amazon on a global radar for conservation and environmental awareness.

Photo Credit: Dejusticia by Pacific Standard

Photo of the 25 Colombian youth who won rights for the Amazon rainforest.

Read more about their story here.


What can I do to help conserve the Amazon?

The Amazon rainforest provides valuable resources for not only those in South America, but for people worldwide. For instance did you know that about 70% of medicines that have been proven to contain anti-caner properties are found in the Amazon? How about the daily treats and rituals could be connected to the Amazon. Items such as:

-Shampoo

-Coffee

-Chocolate

-Spices (Cinnamon & Pepper) 

-Moisturizer

Photo Credit: Mocomi.com

The Amazon is a power house that supports and nourishes the species that call it home; just as it provides nourishing resources for those that live outside of its branches.

With these products rooted in the Amazon it means we have the power to buy responsibly and check that your products have been created sustainably.

To make helping the Amazon even simpler we can limit our use of fossil fuels to lessen the impact of climate change on the Amazon. Riding a bike, busing or carpooling are great methods to minimize our carbon footprint.

Even easier than that is to voice your concern and awareness for the well-being of the Amazon. As the Amazon is far away for most, it's important to keep in mind how our actions influence the well being of the Amazon.

The Amazon is a power house that supports and nourishes the species that call it home; just as it provides nourishing resources for those that live outside of its branches.


Questions for your Junior Biologists:

  1. Why do so many animals like to live in the Amazon? As animals don’t have to worry about changing seasons they are able to evolve and grow to a great number of species as they don’t need to hibernate or fear cold winter or droughts in hot summers.  As there is a great constant conditions combined with a healthy ecosystem that means there is a bountiful food chain to feed from. 
  2. Why do different animals like to live in different parts of the Amazon rainforest?Differing layers of the rainforest provide different environmental conditions. Such as the emergent layer faces direct impacts from the weather like rainfall and sunshine, so the animals would need to be able to fly about the tree tops to withstand the weathering. The emergent layer versus the bottom layer of the forest floor is vastly different as it receives approx.2% sunlight. The animals there would need to be able to navigate their way through the dense and dark vegetation.
  3.  Why is it important that we conserve the Amazon?
  4. The Amazon has been nicknamed as the “lungs” of planet Earth. As the Amazon provides about 20% of the world’s oxygen. Just with that number alone it is easy to see the significant impact the Amazon has on the Earth. Then you can pull into account that the Amazon houses roughly 50% of the Earth’s species paired with the resources that are consumed worldwide it because quickly clear that the Amazon is an irreplaceable place of value.
    Do you have any questions for Club Volunteers or our Coordinator, Jordan ? Ask away on our Discussion Board!


      Task

      -Explore the Amazon Basin via  Google Maps. 

      -Follow the little green frog of the Rainforest Alliance to ensure your products from the Amazon are certified sustainable.



      Learning Objectives

      -Understand the different types of rainforests.

      -Learn the 4 layers of a rainforests and the differing features between them.

      -Acknowledge the profound impact the Amazon has upon not just animals but us as individuals and on planet Earth as a whole.

      - Observe the impact we as humans have an impact on the Amazon as well. In addition, to knowing how to keep that impact as positive as possible. 


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