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Niche and Habitat

In this activity, students classify common temperate rainforest animals and then research one specific animal to learn more about its niche and general habitat.

All the animals in the world can be organized into groups. The groups are organized based on the animals’ common characteristics.

GROUPCHARACTERISTICSEXAMPLES
Birdsfeathers, flightcrow, heron, eagle
Mammalsfurbear, deer
Amphibianscan live in water and on landfrog, newt, toad
Reptilesdry, scaly skinsnake, lizard
Insectshard outer skeleton (exoskeleton)fly, mosquito

Each animal has individual basic needs to survive and thrive.

For example, all amphibians need water to survive and thrive, but each individual amphibian species may have more specific needs.

Our coastal temperate rainforest is home to many different plants and animals, each of which has needs that are met by the forest. The concept of niche explains what an animal needs to survive and who its main competitors are for these needs.

The temperate rainforest can be divided into several sections, each of which provides different living conditions or habitats. The canopy consists of the tops of the tallest trees. The understory is made up of small bushes and tall ferns. The forest floor is often covered in moss, and is made up of decaying plant and animal matter. 

Objectives

  • Describe the characteristics of a coastal temperate rainforest.

  • Describe the basic needs of plants and animals in a coastal temperate rainforest.

Materials

  • Per Group:
    large piece of paper
    crayons or markers
    stuffed animals or pictures of animals from the temperate rainforest

Key Questions

  • Does your animal have wings/ feathers?
  • Is your animal good at climbing?
  • Does your animal need water to reproduce?
  • What does your animal avoid (predators, extreme weather, etc.)?

What To Do

  1. Hand out animal cards or stuffed animals, paper and writing impliments to groups of students.
  2. As a group, students should determine what group the animal belongs in (bird, mammal, amphibian, reptile or insect), what the name of the animal is and any special characteristics or behaviours it may have.
  3. Ask students to write or draw a home (habitat) for their animal. What part of the forest (canopy, understory or forest floor) do the animals live in? How does this home meet the animal’s needs (niche requirements)?
  4. Have students present and explain their pictures to the class.

Extensions

  • What animals have similar needs?
  • How do the animals make sure there is enough food, water and shelter to go around (i.e. how do they compete with each other)?
  • This activity can be repeated with groups of plants (deciduous trees, coniferous trees, ferns, mosses, etc.).
  • Ask students to pretend they are a squirrel who lives in the forest, depending on trees for shelter and food. If the forest was suddenly cut down, what would they have to do to survive? Draw a comic strip to show what would happen.

Other Resources

Nature Companion | Western Canadian Provinces Organism IDs