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Shelter helps people and animals survive in the rainforest printer.gif

Shelter is one of the key elements of survival, along with food and water. Plants, animals, and humans all need shelter to survive.

Plants in the rainforest are very particular. They live in very specific places and require specific amounts of water to grow. The rainforest has more plant species than anywhere else on earth. When an area has many different species living in the same habitat, it has a great deal of biodiversity. Since the rainforest is so biodiverse, plants need to compete with each other for sunlight, space, water, and nutrients.

The understory layer of the rainforest is very dark. 90% of all sunlight is filtered out.

The rainforest is divided into four primary layers. The highest layer of the rainforest is called the emergent layer. Only the rainforest's tallest trees are part of the emergent layer. The tops of the trees can reach up to 200 feet into the sky. Plants in the emergent layer must be very tough in order to absorb the most intense sunlight. Just about every other plant on earth would wilt and die if it were exposed to the unfiltered sunlight of the Amazon.

The layer underneath the emergent layer is the canopy. The canopy is home to many species of animals. The canopy is very dense and provides great habitats to a variety of birds, monkeys, and other arboreal (tree-dwelling) animals.

Under the canopy is the understory layer. The understory can be quite dark, because the large plants and trees of the emergent and canopy layers block most of the sunlight from reaching the understory. In fact only 5% of the sunlight reaches the understory. Shorter plants grow well in the understory, and all of the plants have adjusted their growing cycles to require less sunlight.

Macaws nest high in the canopy. They have adapted to live in the extreme heat and direct sunlight of the tropics.

The ground of the rainforest is called the forest floor. The forest floor is always teeming with activity. It's almost always wet and dark, because virtually no sunlight reaches the floor. Most of the rain water puddles or floods the forest floor. Most of the rainofrest decomposition takes place on the forest floor. The floor is also home to lots of invertebrate animals, particularly insects and spiders. Ground mammals, some species of birds, and humans all call the forest floor home too.

Plants shelter one another by blocking sunlight or allowing sunlight to reach the plant. They also have natural defenses that keep them from being eaten or taken over by other plants. Some plants have a bad taste, thorns, sticky leaves, and poisonous hairs. All of these features shelter the plant from predators.

The WCO Expedition Team uses tents for shelter. Each night we set up a tent or mosquitero (mosquito netting) to keep us protected from the weather elements and insects that could make us sick.

A mosquitero, or mosquito netting, keeps people safe from insects that can transmit diseases like malaria. Just about everyone in the Amazon sleeps under a mosquito net every night.

Animals also use the forest as shelter. Nearly 20% of all animals species live in tropical rainforests. There are two functions of shelter for an animal: protection and a place to hunt from. Man animals use shelters to keep them from becoming another animal's lunch, while other animals use shelter to wait for prey to walk, slither, or swim by.

How an animal's shelter looks depends on what layer the animal lives in. Most arboreal animals make nests or dens which are carved, dug, or built into the trees. These shelters offer good protection from the intense sunlight, while keeping them protected from predators.

The understory of the rainforest provides excellent shelter for terrestrial animals, or animals that live on the ground. Animals can use leaves or plant material to construct a burrow, den, or nest. These shelters offer camouflage to protect animals.

Links:

Layers of the Rainforest: http://www.srl.caltech.edu/personnel/krubal/rainforest/Edit560s6/www/whlayers.html

Blue Planet Biomes - Rainforest: http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/rainforest.htm

Rainforest Family Forever! Video: http://www.ran.org/new/kidscorner/about_rainforests/forest_family_forever_video/

What is your favorite part of the Trans-Amazon Expedition?

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