In an ecosystem, such as a tropical rainforest, plants and animals coexist and interact with each other and with abiotic and biotic factors. Abiotic factors are not alive and include chemical and physical elements like temperature, soil composition and sunlight. Biotic factor refers to anything living in the ecosystem, both plant and animal. These are divided into producers, consumers and decomposers.
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Producers make their own food. Therefore, the main producers are plants who feed themselves by using photosynthesis. Producers form the base of the food chain; tropical rainforests are abundant in producer vegetation. Some examples are vines, ferns, avocado and banana trees. These producers provide food for insects and animals, who are consumers. Some producers rely on consumers for pollination. For example, bats eat from fruit trees in the rainforest canopy and spread the seeds through their droppings.
A consumer eats other organisms in order to stay alive. There are two classes of consumers: primary and secondary. Primary consumers are smaller rainforest animals such as bats, bees, monkey species, lemurs and sloths. These primary consumers tend to be herbivores, although they may eat insects. The lemur, for example, lives on a diet of tropical fruit and plant foliage. Primary consumers are more numerous than the secondary consumers, who are really predators. Because there are so many primary consumers in the rainforest, they provide an abundant food supply for their predators.
The rainforest predators are skilled hunters, whatever their size. They use strength, agility, traps and poison to catch their prey. Spiders, scorpions and snakes, vampire bats, anteaters, jaguars and tigers are tropical rainforest predators. Most of them have developed special features to help them survive rainforest life. These are called "adaptations." For example, parrots and toucans have developed beaks strong enough to crack Brazil nuts. Camouflage is another example of adaptation. The green algae growing on a sloth's coat provides this extremely slow-moving animal with added protection.
The decomposers perform an important function -- they are the refuse collectors of the rainforest. Without them, the forest floor would be littered with rotting fruit, branches and other leftovers. Typically, decomposers provide the soil with nutrients and so are a vital part of maintaining the ecosystem's balance. Decomposers include ants, termites and worms. Non animal decomposers include fungi and bacteria. Some kinds of bacteria break down meat waste left by carnivores, while others attack vegetable waste.
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