How do scientists measure biodiversity? Trek through a tropical rainforest and explore the incredible diversity of species that call it home.

A Video with a Problem-Solving Scenario
Rainforest Canopy Chart

In addition to showcasing live footage from a unique ecosystem, each of the three videos in the Exploring Ecosystems series features an opportunity for students to actively participate in a problem-solving scenario based on an ongoing research project of an Academy scientist.

As you watch the video, be prepared to pause at key points to participate fully!

The Tropical Rainforest Diversity video investigates the following questions:

  • How does the biodiversity within an ecosystem influence the stability of that ecosystem?
  • How can we make rainforests more resilient to change and human-induced disruptions like deforestation and climate change?
  • What are the four main layers of the rainforest, and how are the conditions within each allowing certain species to thrive?
Check for Understanding

Which of the three hypothetical rainforest communities was most diverse, and why is that important? Connect your answer to the ideas of species richness and species abundance, being sure to differentiate the two.

Key Scientific Terms
  • abiotic: non-living
  • biodiversity: the variety of life on Earth or some other specified geographic region of the planet; the diversity of life occurs at the genetic level, at the species level, at the ecosystem level, and in evolutionary lineages
  • ecosystem: the community of different species in a particular geographic area and all of their interactions with each other and the physical environment; ecosystems are also called ecological networks
  • photosynthesis: the process of capturing the energy in sunlight to create energy-rich organic molecules from inorganic molecules; organisms that photosynthesize are called photosynthesizers
  • species: a distinct type of organism
  • species richness: the number of different species in a given geographic area
Connections to High School Standards

AP Biology

(1) Justify the selection of mathematical routines to solve problems.
(2) Apply mathematical routines to quantities that describe natural phenomena.
Essential knowledge 4.C.4: The diversity of species within an ecosystem may influence the stability of the ecosystem.

Next Generation Science Standards

DCI: LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience
Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns; Stability and Change
Science and Engineering Practices: Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Related Reading

Weighing the Rainforest
Can you weigh a rainforest? Scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center tell us how they estimate the biomass of rainforests from space in an effort to preserve them.

Toucans in the Forest Ecosystem
From the smallest microbe to the fiercest predator to the tallest tree, each species contributes to making its community healthy. Learn how every organism plays a part in ecosystems.

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