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Learning area: Science
Year level: Year 7
Country: Malaysia
General capability: ICT

This learning sequence examines the complex food webs found in the rainforests of Borneo and those of Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia. Students explore the impact human activity has on these systems and use digital resources to communicate their understanding of the effects a rainforest species has on the food web.

Key inquiry questions

  • How do species found in a habitat exist within an interdependent food web?
  • What are some of the unique food webs found in Borneo rainforests?
  • How does human activity impact on food webs found in Borneo rainforests?

Back to natureOrangutan

Activity 1: Food webs

In this activity you will explore a range of food webs and writing a collaborative definition. You will use Google Maps to explore the island of Borneo.

Key inquiry question: How do species found in a habitat exist within an interdependent food web?

Food webs

  1. Read this information about food chains and webs and make your own virtual food web using the link in the text. Then, write a paragraph definition for the term 'food web'. Make sure you include the various elements found in the food web and describe how they interconnect. The following diagrams may also assist you: a) is a pyramid diagram and b) is a web diagram (you can download a higher resolution version of this graphic if you like).


    Food webs parameter from top to bottom - Secondary predator, Primary predator, Herbivores, Plants, soil and Decay detrivores

  2. Discuss as a class what you have written and use this information to write a collaborative definition.

Exploring Borneo

In this activity you will look at some of the ecosystems found in Borneo, an island situated in South-East Asia. It is governed by a number of countries, including Malaysia. Find out more about the island.

  1. Go to Google Maps and enter the word 'Borneo.' This will zoom you into the island.
  2. Use the maps tools to zoom out to see where Borneo is in relation to Australia. What other countries are near it? What countries govern over Borneo? Which part of Borneo is part of Malaysia?
  3. Add the 'terrain' view to the map to see what the surface of Borneo is like. Then switch to satellite mode and zoom out and in to see how Borneo is similar or different from other parts of the world.
  4. Make a list of the things you have learned about the geography of Borneo by exploring these maps.
  5. Discuss as a class the range of ecosystems you would expect to find on the island. Predict examples of flora and fauna you would expect to find in each of these environments.


You should now have a very clear idea of what food webs are and the kinds of life forms that feed on – or are food – for each other. You should know more about the island of Borneo and its geography.

In the next activity you will explore the diversity of the Borneo environments and its flora and fauna.


Images: TrophicWeb.jpg by Thompsma(CC BY 3.0); Google Maps ©2013 Google

Activity 2: Borneo's natural environment

In this activity you will explore a range of environments found on the island of Borneo, including the rainforests of Sabah and its life forms. You will use this information to create a simple food chain diagram to explain how species exist interdependently in a Borneo lowland rainforest.

Key inquiry question: What are some of the unique food webs found in Borneo's rainforests?

Learning activities

  1. In Activity 1 you explored a range of food webs and the kinds of life forms that feed on – or are food – for each other. Can you suggest a simple food chain using the images above and the information given on flora and fauna in Borneo lowland rain forest and in Kinabalu Park
  2. Discuss and share your findings as a class and create a combined simple food chain.
  3. You will now look at another of Borneo's unique ecosystems. Go to Mangrove Swamps from the Borneo: Island in the Clouds website. Read through the page and its description of the four species that live in this habitat, their unusual features and their diet. Create a simple food chain using this information.
  4. Discuss as a class why this food chain is different to the food chain found in the lowland rainforest.
  5. You are now going to draw a Borneo lowland rainforest food web. Using a word processing document and the web, copy and paste as many of the pictures of the species you have discovered into a rough food web or pyramid. You will not be publishing or printing this page, only copying the images temporarily so you can practise assigning species to trophic levels. Shrink or crop the images so that you can fit them onto one A4 page. Draw any connections you can to show which species might eat others. Note: You would not be encouraged to use copyrighted images like this for any final products.
  6. Share your diagram with classmates to make sure you haven't missed any of the main species of any whole trophic level

The impact of human activity

  1. Discuss as a class what impact deforestation could have on the food webs of Borneo's rainforests. Make sure to include the effects at each trophic level.
  2. Complete the activity by searching ARKIVE to see whether any of the species you indentified in your Borneo food chain are on the endangered list.


You now have a working copy of a food web that includes some of the most unique animals on the planet. Think about how the forests of Borneo are changing. Why do humans deforest an island such as Borneo? List as many reasons as you can. Share your findings with the rest of the class and create a collaborative list using online software like Padlet or PrimaryPad. Rank the reasons why humans are most likely to deforest the island from most important to least important. This information will feed into Activity 3.


Images: Radday, M, WWF Germany. 2007. 'Borneo Maps'. January 24, 2007, personal e-mail (January 24, 2007) – Extent of deforestation in Borneo 1950-2005, and projection towards 2020.;  Back to nature.jpg by Frank Wouters (CC BY 2.0)Glanycus coendersi Kalis by Alexey (CC BY 2.0); Indigo Flycatcher by Thomas Brown (CC BY 2.0) Borneo rainforest by T. R. Shankar Raman (CC BY 3.0) Pitcher Plant by Richard W Sinyem (CC BY 2.0)

Activity 3: Borneo life web

In this activity you will look at the impact of human activity on the rainforests of Sabah and other parts of Borneo. You will use the information you have gathered on the amazing species found only on this island to analyse the effects of rainforest depletion and conduct research to identify the ways that the Malaysian government is working towards sustainable forestry.

Key inquiry question: How does human activity impact on food webs found in Borneo rainforests?

Setting the scene

  1. To begin to understand what's going on in Borneo, you need some background information. As you explore these resources, use collaborative software like Padlet or PrimaryPad to pool your findings. Copy/paste or jot notes as you go through these background resources. Firstly, because it is the place people usually go to learn the basics on a subject – and its goal is to provide a neutral point of view, look at what Wikipedia says about Deforestation in Borneo. From this information you can see that logging for timber and plywood were responsible for decades of deforestation.
  2. Watch the Heart of Borneo video about the latest threat to the forests and creatures of Borneo. Add information and notes from the video to your collaborative writing space.

  3. Review your own and the group's collaborative notes to make either a list, a mindmap, an outline or a paragraph that captures three things:
    • the various reasons for human activity in the rainforests of Borneo (include indigenous groups in your answer)
    • how humans have altered the natural habitat of Borneo
    • the impact this would have on the web of species. Much attention is focused on the orangutan, but consider all trophic levels from the decomposers to predators.

Sustainable 'human activity'

  1. Working in teams of seven, allocate one resource to each member of the team. They will use this resource to look into a specific aspect of the situation in Borneo. Use a general framework of the 5 Ws and H questions to focus your research:
    • Who is involved and who or what does it impact upon?
    • What is being done or is happening?
    • Where is it taking place?
    • Has this habitat/environment changed?
    • When did it take place or is it still occurring?
    • Has it been going on for a long time?
    • Why did it occur?
    • What are the motivations?
    • How can it be rectified?
  2. Each individual should record their answers to the questions electronically to share with peers.
  3. Once you have collected your information gather together as a group and conduct a roundtable discussion.
  4. Begin by going around in a circle with each person giving their answers to the 5 Ws and H questions. Those listening should make notes of things that connect to their topic or spark questions they want to ask.
  5. After each person shares their answers, go around the circle and open up 'question time' about each of the issues. The point is not to probe for right answers, but to 'flesh out' everyone's understanding of all issues.
  6. Now take time to question how the issues interact with each other. Clearly, 'Palm Oil' and 'Forestry' affects both 'Ecotourism' and 'People.' How? What is the Malaysian government doing to conserve forests and to produce 'green' palm oil? Your job now, as a group, is to show the relationships between all these issues. You can use software like Mindmeister, Twiddla, Exploratree or other graphical thinking tools. Hint: you might notice that what you are doing is creating a 'relationship web' that is similar to the food web. The difference is that the things you show in the diagram don't consume each other, but they do have very real impacts. Be as specific as you can. 

Borneo life web

You are now going to revisit the question 'How does human activity impact on the species and food webs of Borneo?' You have explored the species of Borneo and seen how species interact in what can be complex food webs. You have also learnt about the deforestation of Borneo and specific aspects of this issue. Most recently, you have graphically mapped out the relationships between some of the main factors. Now we come to the point of combining all these pieces into a clear scientific explanation.

  1. Your main task is to create a life web of Borneo. This will combine a representative food web of a selected species. This should be represented in the centre of your web.
  2. Include the significant human activity that impacts on the species as well as the sub-topics such as employment, poverty and economic growth.
  3. To help you create your life web with images that you are allowed to use, look for representative photographs from sources such as these below:
  4. As you might be publishing your work on a blog or elsewhere, it's best not to simply take images from anywhere on the web, because many of these will be protected under international copyright.
  5. If you do use images from the two collections above (or others), don't forget to copy down their requested referencing which usually includes naming the source and providing a link back to the original. If you are only creating a draft document, you may not need to take these final steps – check with your teacher on this.
  6. To get additional ideas or information, you might use the World Wildlife Fund page Threats to Borneo forests.
  7. Once your team has completed the graphic, it's time to present it. Discuss the format you will use for your presentation, such as making a video, podcast, PowerPoint or blog post. Make sure that your presentation highlights your scientific understanding of the how humans have impacted on the food web and life forms of Borneo. One way to do this is to focus on the scientific inquiry skills you've been practising.
  8. Complete the activity by presenting your work to the rest of the class. Discuss how each presentation provided evidence of scientific understanding of the impact of human activity on food webs.

Activity 4: Reflection

In this learning sequence you began by exploring examples of food webs and creating a definition. You then learned about the rainforests of Borneo including those found in Sabah and Sarawak and the range of amazing flora and fauna.

By focusing on the connectivity within these intricate rainforest food webs, you have explored the impact of deforestation and other human activity. You have analysed current strategies to guide sustainable activity in the rainforests and discussed varying perspectives on deforestation.

Take time now to reflect on how you felt about this process.

  • How could it have been improved?
  • What could you have done differently?
  • What part of the process might you remember and use when you study a new topic?

Put all these and other ideas you have about this task and what you learned into a few paragraphs of reflection. Keep this reflection where you store your other learning goals and reflections, whether that's in a paper notebook, your personal blog, ePortfolio or other format.

It is recommended that teachers preview websites to ensure they are suitable for their students prior to use in class. Content accessed via these links is not owned or controlled by the Asia Education Foundation and is subject to the terms of use of the associated website.

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