Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

What makes rainforests unique? History, not ecology

Date:
September 23, 2011
Source:
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Summary:
History and geology, not current ecology, are likely what has made tropical forests so variable from site to site, according to a new study.

This is a split image showing highly diverse tropical forest in Borneo (Lambir) on the bottom and a lower diversity temperate beech forest in Jasmund National Park (Germany) on the top.
Credit: Christian Ziegler

History and geology, not current ecology, are likely what has made tropical forests so variable from site to site, according to a new study published in the journal Science, co-authored by Liza Comita, research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

Related Articles


"The same ecological processes seem to be working worldwide. The difference is that tropical organisms have been accumulating for vast periods of time," said Nathan J.B. Kraft, post-doctoral fellow at the University of British Colombia, who led the research team.

"This study shows how collecting data using the same methods at sites around the world, similar to what we do at the Center for Tropical Forest Science-Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatories Network, offers new insights into the processes that shape ecological communities," said Comita, formerly a post-doctoral fellow at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, now an assistant professor at The Ohio State University. "We found that measurements of variation in biodiversity from place to place, called beta diversity, are actually very similar as you move from the tropics to the poles when you account for the number of species present in the first place."

Forests in Canada and Europe may have much more in common with tropical rainforests than previously believed. "We see that biodiversity patterns can be explained not by current ecological processes, unfolding over one or two generations, but by much longer-term historical and geological events," said Kraft, who will join the faculty at the University of Maryland next year.

"Fossils tell a similar story," said STRI scientist, Aaron O'Dea, co-author, with Willem Renema and others, of a 2008 article in Science showing that marine biodiversity hotspots could be traced back to ancient areas of tectonic activity. "Geological history reveals that glaciations and mass extinctions have lasting effects on the structure of biological communities. It bears witness to the devastation that occurs when accumulated biodiversity is lost: a threat we are facing today."

The team, which also included researchers from institutions in the U.S., Canada and New Zealand, was supported by the U.S. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and the U.S. National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. N. J. B. Kraft, L. S. Comita, J. M. Chase, N. J. Sanders, N. G. Swenson, T. O. Crist, J. C. Stegen, M. Vellend, B. Boyle, M. J. Anderson, H. V. Cornell, K. F. Davies, A. L. Freestone, B. D. Inouye, S. P. Harrison, J. A. Myers. Disentangling the Drivers of   Diversity Along Latitudinal and Elevational Gradients. Science, 2011; 333 (6050): 1755 DOI: 10.1126/science.1208584

Cite This Page:

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "What makes rainforests unique? History, not ecology." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110923102536.htm>.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. (2011, September 23). What makes rainforests unique? History, not ecology. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110923102536.htm
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "What makes rainforests unique? History, not ecology." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110923102536.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers at Northwestern University are repurposing Blu-ray movies for better solar panel technology thanks to the discs' internal structures. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins