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The food webs in any type of forest include some diverse characters, but as you might guess, tropical rain forests are particularly complex. Here, you will learn about the trophic levels and food webs in tropical rain forests.

Food Chains and Food Webs

Oh, the tangled webs they weave.

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The relationships between animals and plants in the tropical rain forest are a bit like a soap opera. The interactions are varied and complex, and if you tune in mid-way, the story is sometimes hard to follow.Food webs describe the interactions and flow of energy between different organisms in a particular ecosystem. They’re made up of food chains, which are more direct lines of energy flow. In food webs, the food chains are intermingling.

What Are the Trophic Levels?

Trophic levels are groupings of organisms that share the same function in an ecosystem.

Trophic levels arrange organisms into a who-eats-who hierarchy. Generally, the first trophic level has the primary producers. These are the organisms that make their own food. In other words, they are plants.Next up are the primary consumers, the things that eat plants. After that are the secondary consumers, which are animals that eat other animals.

Sometimes there are also tertiary consumers, the animals that eat the secondary consumers. Finally, no one should forget the important role of the cleaning crews. .

. the decomposers, which help take care of the producers and consumers when they die.

Food Webs in the Tropical Rainforest

In tropical forests, species are abundant, making the food webs quite complex. For instance, in a desert or even a temperate forest, there are fewer species, but there are often many individuals of each species.

In a tropical rain forest, there are many, many species but often fewer individuals of those species. That means there are more characters in the food web.Let’s look at some examples from a typical Central or South American rainforest.

You might find primary producers, like trees, grass, flowers, seeds, orchids, and bromeliads. These are eaten by primary consumers, like tapirs, agoutis, some bats, monkeys, toucans, parrots, capybaras, and some insects. You would also find secondary consumers, such as frogs, iguanas, some bats, hawks, owls, and snakes.

And, these are eaten by the tertiary consumers, like jaguars, pumas, ocelots, and snakes. All of these plants and animals are then broken down by decomposers, including microorganisms, fungi, and even some insects.As you can imagine, the food web in a tropical rainforest is super complex. For example, an insect, as a primary consumer, may eat a number of different kinds of primary producers.

In turn, that insect might be eaten by a frog, iguana, or owl. Those secondary consumers could also be eaten by a jaguar or snake. The jaguar or snake might also eat a primary consumer, like an agouti or parrot, making the interactions more like a web than a chain. Adding to the complexity, the whole system is supported by a very high number of plants as compared to other ecosystems.

Productivity refers to the quantity of primary producers in an ecosystem.Sometimes the interactions in a food web are surprising. For example, there is an entire group of birds in the American tropics, called antbirds, that follow the parades of army ants.

Rather than eating the ants, the birds are following them so they can eat the other insects that are flushed out of the way when the army ants approach.Another interesting ant story involves Aztec ants and cecropia trees. The Aztec ants often hang out in cecropia trees to feed on the sweet substance secreted by the tree. In exchange for that privilege, the Aztec ants protect the tree from vines that might grow on it and from other types of ants.

Lesson Summary

In all ecosystems, there are trophic levels that include the primary producers (organisms that create their own food), primary consumers (organisms that eat plants), secondary consumers (organisms that eat the primary consumers), tertiary consumers (you guessed it, consumers that eat secondary consumers), and decomposers that break down the producers and consumers once they die. The productivity of tropical rain forests is quite high because of the abundance of plant life.

This supports a huge variety of organisms and creates intricate food webs.

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