Sloths – Teens
Sloths are the slowest moving mammals in the world. They move so slowly that fungi and algae grow on their fur. In fact, they host an entire ecosystem on their bodies of moths, beetles, cockroaches and even worms.
Activity 1 - Interaction of Living Things in an Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a community of living and non-living things in an area that interact as a system.
Here are examples of interactions/connections between living things in the Amazon Rainforest:
- A sloth is connected to the green algae that grows on its back. The algae helps camouflage the sloth from predators like harpy eagles.
- Moths are connected to the sloth since they live in the sloth’s fur.
- Sloths are connected to the tree where it lives for shelter and food.
- The tree is connected to the sloth since the sloth climbs down the tree to defecate at its base, thus fertilizing the tree.
Now come up with your own examples of interactions of living things in the following ecosystems:
- Tropical rainforest ecosystem
- Desert ecosystem
- Ocean ecosystem
- Tundra ecosystem
Activity 2 - Create Your Own Self-Sustaining Ecosystem
Every ecosystem is made up of three components: producers, consumers and decomposers.
Producers are organisms that create food. Examples of producers are trees, plants, lichen and algae.
Consumers consume the food generated by producers or consume other organisms that have in turn consumed producers. Examples of consumers are animals, snails and spiders.
Decomposers are organisms that breakdown waste products and dead tissue of plants and animals and return nutrients to the soil. Examples of decomposers are organisms like bacteria, mushrooms, fungi, worms and ants.
You will need:
- A sealable glass bowl or wide-mouthed jar (e.g., mason jar)
- Netting (e.g., like the bags used for onions)
- Small green plants (your producers)
- Snails, spiders (your consumers)
- Mushrooms, ants, worms (your decomposers)
- Twigs, moss, stones
STEP 1: Fill the bottom of the bowl or jar with gravel.
STEP 2: Cover the gravel with small pieces of netting.
STEP 3: Put in a layer of dirt. Make sure there is enough dirt for the plant to take root.
STEP 4: Put in some small wild plants (roots attached) that you found growing locally.
STEP 5: Add twigs, some moss (if you found any) and stones.
STEP 6: Add a snail or spider.
STEP 7: Add an ant, a worm and a mushroom.
STEP 8: Add some water (just enough to dampen the soil). Close the lid tightly.
You’ve created your own little world in a jar!
After a few days, release your living species back to where you found them.
Activity 3 - Food Web
The way that producers, consumers, and decomposers provide nutrients for one another is called a food web. Most food webs start with the sun and then move to a plant that makes food energy from the sun and then to an animal that eats that plant and then on to another animal that eats that animal and so on. Decomposers feed on dead organisms and return nutrients back into the soil which are used by the plants. Here is an example of a food web in the Amazon rainforest.
Are you up to the challenge of designing a food web that will demonstrate the complex relationships in an ecosystem?
Choose a region and show a food web for that region.
Activity 4 - Design Your Own Forest
Imagine you are given one square kilometer of land that has been totally cleared. You have an opportunity to create your own dream forest complete with trees, plants, animals, rivers, streams etc. Be creative!
Make sure there are enough plant eaters for the predators and enough predators to keep the plant eaters from eating all the plants. Don’t forget your decomposers! Also, make sure you label all your species both the flora and fauna types.
You can create your dream forest by a drawing, a painting, a 3D model or whatever medium you choose!
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO BECOME AN EARTH PROTECTOR!
We are constantly seeing, hearing or reading that our precious natural resources are being destroyed or depleted. Species of plants and animals are going extinct. Industrial toxins are poisoning our air, water and food. Climate instability is the new norm. It can be overwhelming. The good news is there are small lifestyle changes that even if a small portion of us adapted would make a huge difference.
Consume and Dispose of Less
- Fashion, food, furniture, electronics
- Buy from companies whose operations, supply chains and products are not contributing to rainforest clearing and environmental harm.
- Be mindful of buying products that accelerate rainforest clearing (e.g. soy and palm).
- Buy recycled paper (computer paper, toilet paper, look for products with the FSC logo).
- Reduce your plastic use (shop with reusable bags, use reusable water bottles, glass containers for leftovers). Don’t use coffee pods.
- Reduce your consumption of beef, as that is a key factor in deforestation of the Amazon.