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Adventure

While walking in the Amazon Rainforest, a biodiverse landscape with intact forests, clean water, and air, whose ebbing qualities of a healthy world are vital for our economies. I was intrigued that plants and animals barter in symbiotic relationships. Symbiotic relationships are helpful measures of an ecosystem's health. For example, large tracts of coral reefs are severely damaged or dead because of recent increases in ocean temperature due to climate change. The temperature increase induces coral to expel the algae that live within them. Without their algae, the coral turns white and dies.

An excellent example of a symbiotic relationship is that of leaf cutter ants. They cut small pieces of leaves in the jungle and take them underground into their tunnels. They store the leaf cuttings in small chambers. Fungus grows on the leaves; the ants then use bits of the fungus to feed their young. Through the symbiotic relationship, both the fungus and the young ants get fed.

A chocolate tree has a more complicated series of symbiotic relationships; this provides a complex example of mutualism in the tropical rainforest. The chocolate tree produces tiny buds that die and rot, which are ideal homes for the midges that it needs to pollinate its flowers. Once the flowers are pollinated, they grow into large, brightly-colored seed pods. The seed pods have delicious, fleshy pulp and bitter seeds. Monkeys and squirrels are attracted to the chocolate; they eat the pods but spit out the bitter seeds in another symbiotic relationship. The chocolate tree relies on this relationship to scatter its seeds so more chocolate trees can grow.

A more complex three-way arrangement is the infestation of chocolate trees with mealy bugs. The bugs don't harm the chocolate tree, but the tree doesn't receive any direct benefit either. The mealy bugs are raised and taken care of by black ants that eat the waste honeydew the mealy bugs produce. In their symbiotic relationship, the black ants keep other insects away from the mealy bugs and, as a side benefit, keep away other insects that could harm the chocolate tree.

The chocolate tree has one more symbiotic relationship down by its roots. A fungus grows on the roots and receives its nourishment from the tree. The chocolate tree then absorbs nutrients from the soil more effectively due to the presence of the fungus. Symbiotic relationships are not limited to rainforests; even humans have symbiotic relationships with domesticated animals and plants. In the rainforest, there are more such interactions and very complex ones because there are so many different species in a small space.

Upon leaving the Amazon rainforest, we find the Atlantic Ocean, where we observe the commensalistic relationship between barnacles and humpback whales. Commensalism happens when one species lives with, on, or in another, known as the host. The host species neither benefits nor is harmed from the relationship. In our imagined example, various species of barnacles attach themselves to the skin of whales. Scientists have not discovered the exact mechanism by which barnacles can do this, but it does not appear to bother the whales. How do the barnacles benefit from this unlikely relationship? The vast whales transport the tiny barnacles to plankton-rich waters, where both species feast upon the abundant microorganisms. Symbiosis is the relationship or interaction between two dissimilar organisms. The specific kind of symbiosis depends on whether either or both organisms benefit from the relationship. Symbiosis is what contributes to the health benefits of the forest.

The oceans are known for their species diversity. In the warm waters of the Pacific or Indian Oceans, we'd likely spot an excellent example of mutualism: the relationship between clownfish and sea anemones. In a mutualistic relationship, both species benefit. Sea anemones live attached to the surface of coral reefs, and they trap their prey with stinging cells called nematocysts on their tentacles. Nematocysts release toxins when a small animal contacts an anemone's tentacle. The small animal is paralyzed, allowing the anemone to bring the animal into its mouth for ingestion quickly.

In parasitism, one species lives with, on, or in a host species, at the expense of the host species. Unlike in predation, the host is not immediately killed by the parasite. Barnacles exist with whales; they are parasites for swimming crabs, and a barnacle may root itself within a crab's reproductive system. While the crab does not die from this interaction, its reproductive capabilities are greatly diminished. Corelationships exist between barnacles and humpback whales.

Commensalism happens when one species lives with, on, or in another, known as the host. The host species neither benefits nor is harmed from the relationship. In our imagined example, various species of barnacles attach themselves to the skin of whales. Scientists have not discovered the exact mechanism by which barnacles can do this, but it does not appear to bother the whales. How do the barnacles benefit from this unlikely relationship? The vast whales transport the tiny barnacles to plankton-rich waters, where both species feast upon the abundant microorganisms.

Symbiotic relationships can cause harm. In parasitism, The parasite lives with, on, or in a host species, at the expense of the host species. Unlike in predation, the host is not immediately killed by the parasite, though it may sicken and die over time. Typical parasites in the ocean include nematodes, leeches, and barnacles. That's right—though barnacles exist commensally with whales, they are parasites for swimming crabs. A barnacle may root itself within a crab's reproductive system. While the crab does not die from this interaction, its reproductive capabilities are greatly diminished.

Being in a forest boosts the immune system. The air contains phytoncides. These chemicals have antibacterial and antifungal qualities, which help plants fight disease. Breathing in these chemicals increases the number and activity of white blood cells called natural killer cells. These cells kill tumor-infected cells in our bodies. If you do a 3-day, 2-night forest bathing trip, the effects last over 30 days.

As I walk through the Superior National Forest, I think about everything you can do here. If I don't have the time to enjoy the Superior National Forest, I spend time in my garden, the local park, and tree-lined streets, called urban and community forests. These essential pockets of greenspace are my access to trees.

The part of the brain affected by attention fatigue is also involved in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Children who spend time in natural outdoor environments have less attention fatigue, and children with ADHD show fewer related symptoms—using natural outdoor environments to supplement current approaches to managing ADHD. Such an approach has the advantages of being widely accessible, inexpensive, and free of side effects.

Health Benefits From Forests

·   Boosts the immune system

·   Lowers blood pressure

·   Reduces stress

·   Improve mood

·   Increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD

·   Accelerates recovery from surgery or illness

·   Increases energy level

·   Improves sleep

When I thought of the word barter, I first thought of people. When I read about barter in nature, it sounded strange, and as I read more about it, things started to make sense. As a result, I feel that everyone spends more time outside around trees and plants.

August 19, 2022 11:24

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3 comments

08:18 Aug 30, 2022

This is such great content. Im very much into science and biology. To dramatize this you could turn it into a conversation between two characters, a journey by the mc, or a conflict against a force opposed to what you believe in. Myself i have adhd and finally feel settled after hiking 30mins through the forest after work here.

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Judy Robinson
18:50 Aug 31, 2022

Scott, I am working on another story and using the same things to help reduce stress. I have Parkinson's but have not been into walking that much, and I need to get going. I might add Parkinson's at the end.

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Daniel Allen
10:45 Aug 25, 2022

This was a detailed and informative piece with lots of vivid imagery! A suggestion to improve would be to consider working in more of a plot to help tie all of the elements together, as at the moment it reads a little more like an essay than a story.

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