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Forest Life

An Amazon river dolphin pops out of the water. KEVIN SCHAFER—GETTY IMAGES

Daniel Nepstad is an ecologist ecologist PW ecologist MANOJ SHAH—GETTY IMAGES a scientist who studies how living things relate to one another and to their environment (noun) My love of chimpanzees inspired me to become an ecologist. . He studies the Amazon rainforest. It’s in South America. The Amazon is home to millions of species of plants and animals. But deforestation deforestation JASON ONDREICKA—GETTY IMAGES the process of clearing an area of forest (noun) The animal's numbers had shrunk due to habitat caused by deforestation. is a threat to the area. Last year, wildfires burned there.

Ecologist Daniel Nepstad


Here are some species that Nepstad and other ecologists are working to protect.


This is a cacao (ka-kow) plant. It’s native native PW NATIVE ADAM JONES—GETTY IMAGES coming from a particular place (adjective) Bald eagles are native to North America. to the Amazon. This plant is where chocolate comes from. The seeds have long been used as medicine. Some farmers are planting cacao in the Amazon. They want to bring back native plants to deforested areas.


A Brazil-nut tree has seedpods. They are as big as baseballs. When ripe, they drop to the ground. A small animal called an agouti cracks them open with its teeth. Inside, there’s a nut. The animals bury the nuts for later. New trees grow. “These trees are illegal to cut,” Nepstad says.


The pirarucu (pee-ra-roo-koo) is a big, ancient fish. It can weigh 300 pounds. “It needs to breathe air,” Nepstad says. People catch the pirarucu when it comes up for air. The fish can tip a canoe over as it lashes around.


The sloth lives high up in the trees. Its fur is the same color as the forest. That protects the sloth from predators predator ALLAN DAVEY—GETTY IMAGES an animal that kills and eats other animals to survive (noun) The great white shark is a fierce predator. . “They’re concerned about being found,” Nepstad says. Sloths come down to the forest floor about once a week.


Leaf-cutter ants look for leaves. They bury them in big underground chambers. This is good for the soil. “It’s a tiny animal that has a big influence influence Pw influence PEOPLEIMAGES—GETTY IMAGES the power to change something (noun) The weather has a big influence on my mood. on how the forest grows,” Nepstad says.


The Amazon river dolphin lives in the waters that flow through the forest. The dolphin has a pink color. That might come from scars it gets after playing rough with other dolphins. The color helps the dolphin blend in with the muddy water. This could help protect it from predators.