Like all forests, the Tropical Forest can be divided vertically into a number of layers, storeys or strata. The amount of sunlight, temperature and humidity vary from ground level to the tree tops, making each layer especially well suited to certain types of plants. For instance, orchids, which are epiphytic (meaning that they grow on trees) herbaceous plants, grow in the upper layers.

To find food or shelter, animals also choose the layer that best meets their needs. That doesn’t prevent them from visiting the other layers from time to time, though.

There are various ways of identifying these layers. Here is a simple three-level method useful for the Tropical Forest at the Montréal Biodôme.
Like all forests, the Tropical Forest can be divided vertically into a number of layers, storeys or strata. The amount of sunlight, temperature and humidity vary from ground level to the tree tops, making each layer especially well suited to certain types of plants. For instance, orchids, which are epiphytic (meaning that they grow on trees) herbaceous plants, grow in the upper layers.

To find food or shelter, animals also choose the layer that best meets their needs. That doesn’t prevent them from visiting the other layers from time to time, though.

There are various ways of identifying these layers. Here is a simple three-level method useful for the Tropical Forest at the Montréal Biodôme.

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved

Biodôme’s Tropical Forest

Tree layer : medium-sized and tall trees.

Shrub layer : shrubs and bushes.

Herbaceous layer : herbaceous plants on the ground.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Shrub Layer

The shrub layer at the Biodôme isn’t continuous, but is instead made up of several small groups of shrubs growing in those spots where there is the most light.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Green Basilisk

These lizards spend most of their time perched on branches hanging over the water, basking in the sunshine. They eat insects and other small animals. When they feel threatened, they let themselves drop into the water and then raise themselves on their hind legs to run away across the surface.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Emerald Tree Boa

From its perch in a small tree, an emerald tree boa is able to detect warm-blooded prey, even at night, using the heat-sensitive pits around its lips.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Pallas’ long-tongued bat

Different species of bats live in the shrub layer, where they can find food and hide under the leaves or inside tree trunks. Pallas’ long-tongued bats hunt for flowers that open at night so they can extract the nectar and small amounts of pollen.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Red-eyed Tree Frog

These tiny frogs with bulging bright red eyes hide under tree leaves during the day. At night, they move around slowly on the leaves and branches in search of insects and other small animals.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Blue-crowned Motmot

Adult motmots’ tails end in two remarkably long feathers with spatula-like tips. They don’t actually trim them on purpose! The barbs near the tips of their long feathers are loosely attached and come out when the birds groom themselves.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Golden Lion Tamarin

Tamarins are small monkeys that live mainly in small trees and shrubs, where they find berries, insects and lizards.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Brazilian Tanager

With their bright colours, Brazilian tanagers are easy to spot. They eat fruit and sometimes insects.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Fulvous-crested Tanager

Males and females in this species are very different looking. They hunt for fruit, insects and seeds, mainly in shrubs and bushes. They build their nests in a shrub or small palm tree in the understorey, near water.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Learn more about the ecosystems in the Americas;
  • Observe the diversity that each ecosystem offers regarding the flora, fauna as well as climate;
  • Identify the elements that shape different ecosystems, such as vegetation, wildlife, soil, etc.;
  • Develop different causes and consequences of human actions on ecosystems (from grade 4);
  • Formulate and justify possible solutions on issues, such as global warming, in order to preserve our ecosystems and biodiversity on Earth (from grade 6).

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