The Tropical Rainforest Food Web

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  • 0:01 Food Chains & Food Webs
  • 0:31 What Are the Trophic Levels?
  • 1:11 Food Webs in the…
  • 3:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Terry Dunn

Terry has a master's degree in environmental communications and has taught in a variety of settings.

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. 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.

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