Tropical Forest Ecosystem

Hi everyone, in my ecology class we have to study an ecosystem, I chose the South American Tropical Forest, now I realize that it is very complicated and I don’t know where to start, what do you consider is the most important thing to keep in mind when studying an ecosystem, I think I have to study the relationships between plants, animals and fungi. Do you think that microorganisms such as bacteria and algae have a great role in sustaining the tropical forest? I’m not asking you to do my homework, I’m just asking you for some guidance. I would also like to know if you have some links with useful information that can help me.
Thanks in advance.


I remember reading this book by Steve Hilty years ago. As I remember it, it had a lot about the tropical forest ecosystem itself, in addition to information about the creatures that live in it. (I just confirmed that by reading the reviews here): It was an enjoyable book to read, and might give you a nice overview to start with.


I would think that bacterias and fungi play a huge role in sustaining a tropical rainforest. Nitrogen cycle springs to mind.


I couldn’t give you any specific examples for a tropical forest system, but algae and bacteria are fairly important drivers in almost any ecosystem. For a general example, mycorrhizal fungi often host bacteria that aid in nitrogen fixation. These bacteria-hosting fungi have a symbiotic relationship with plants: the fungi supply plants with nitrogen, water, carbon or other needed nutrients, and the plants supply sugar produced via photosynthesis to the fungi. Similarly, lichens involve a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an algae, with the algae being the photosynthetic partner. It might be interesting to look into how that kind of symbiosis plays out in a tropical forest, especially considering rainforests tend to have nutrient-poor soil and varying availability of sunlight for photosynthesis depending on whether you’re near the canopy or the forest floor.


I highly recommend the book Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rain Forests of Central and South America by Adrian Forsyth and Ken Miyata. It’s a well-written overview of specific aspects of neotropical (tropics of the Americas rather than Africa or Asia) ecology by two experts in the field. It’s written in easy to adsorb language as well, as the target audience is laypeople.

For a more technical/academic book that is still easily approachable you can’t do much better than A Neotropical Companion by John Kricher and Mark Plotkin.

Regarding your question concerning the importance of microorganisms in sustaining tropical forests, the answer is the same as it is for every ecosystem: they’re absolutely vital. Without those microorganisms the ecosystem as a whole would collapse.

The difficulty you’re going to have is searching out comprehensive works that focus on microorganisms in neotropical forests. There are enormous gaps in current knowledge, so what you find will be somewhat hit-or-miss.

Two good places to start would be the following research papers and the references they contain:


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