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


Herbacepus Layer

The herbaceous layer is found in all the terrestrial habitats in the Tropical Forest at the Montréal Biodôme. You can get an especially good look at it near the entrance to the ecosystem and the water.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Sunbittern

Sunbitterns get their name from the sunburst of colours on the top of their wings. They are often seen on the ground, near water, eating invertebrates like insects, spiders, snails, crabs and earthworms. They also feed on minnows, tadpoles, frogs, toads and lizards. Sunbitterns often wash their prey, especially before feeding it to their young.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Green and Black Poison-arrow Frog

These frogs from Central America vary in colour depending on their region. The one you see here is black and bright green. They hide under dead leaves on the ground and hunt for small insects, especially spiders.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Golfodulcean poison-arrow frog

These very tiny frogs are easy to recognize, with the two bright orange stripes on their backs. They live on low-growing plants and the ground. Their bright colouring indicates that these frogs are poisonous and warns off predators. They eat small invertebrates, like insects.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Red-footed Tortoise

Red-footed tortoises are terrestrial. This means that they are found on the ground, in the understorey. They usually do not venture far from water. They eat leaves, fruit, fungus and live or decomposing animals.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Saffron Finch

Although these small yellow birds are often spotted in shrubs and bushes, they find their food—seeds and a few insects—mainly on the ground. They are quite common in several parts of South America, and make popular pets.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Tungara Frog

These small nocturnal frogs live amongst dead leaves on the ground. Their bumpy skin makes them look like small toads. Like most frogs, they eat insects and other invertebrates.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Black-striped Sparrow

Black-striped sparrows are small semi-terrestrial birds. They often leave the shrubbery to hop about on the ground in search of insects, berries, seeds and spiders.

Biodôme de Montréal

© Biodôme de Montréal, 2005. All rights reserved


Giant marine toad

Giant marine toads are rather hard to spot. They often hide by burrowing halfway into the soil and lie in wait for prey, including insects, worms and sometimes even mice.

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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