Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Palms reveal the significance of climate change for tropical biodiversity

Date:
April 23, 2012
Source:
Aarhus University
Summary:
Palm assemblages we find in the tropics today are to a large extent formed by climatic changes of the past, taking place over millions of years.

Palms in Africa.
Credit: Henrik Balslev

Palms can do much more than sway on beaches of pure white sand. According to new research from Aarhus University, they can predict the future by telling the story of how flora and fauna have been affected by climate change for millions of years.

The changes in tropical rainforest area over the last 55 million years differ between South America and Africa. (A) In South America, there was a suitable warm-wet climate and a constant presence of large rainforest areas. (B) In Africa, strong losses of tropical rainforests have occurred, especially over the last 10 million years due to climate change (massive drying).

Tropical areas provide similar conditions with high temperatures and humidity regardless of whether you are in Asia, Africa or South America. And you can find lush rainforests in all these places. However, tropical rainforests are not the same. There are fundamental differences in the species composition in the rainforests on the different continents.

Scientists at Aarhus University have spearheaded research results that shed new light on the processes forming the composition of species assemblages in the tropics. There are actually more than 2400 species of palms and, by studying them, the researchers have shown that the palm assemblages we find in the tropics today are to a large extent formed by climatic changes of the past, taking place over millions of years.

"It comes as a surprise to us that climate change over millions of years still leaves a signature in the composition of species assemblages we see today. If species are severely affected by current and future climate change, it'll mean that there are long-lasting consequences for biodiversity, maybe over many millions of years to come -- at least much longer than we've ever dreamt of before," says Daniel Kissling, who initiated the research results soon to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

South America has had a relatively stable humid and warm climate for the last 50 million years, and rainforests have been widespread throughout this entire period. This is where species diversity is highest. There have been good living conditions and plenty of space for many new species to arise. As species formation has been concentrated in particular groups, the species-rich South American palm communities are now dominated by closely related species.

Africa, on the other hand, has been hit by severe drying during the last 10 to 30 million years. The area of rainforest has thus diminished dramatically, until it reached a minimum during the cold, dry ice ages that have repeatedly affected the world over and over again during the last 3 million years. As a result of past climatic changes, many species have simply disappeared entirely from the continent. There are therefore far fewer palm species in Africa than in South America. The poor palm flora of Africa thus has a relict character, and consists of species that are often not closely related to each other.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Aarhus University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. W. D. Kissling, W. L. Eiserhardt, W. J. Baker, F. Borchsenius, T. L. P. Couvreur, H. Balslev, J.-C. Svenning. Cenozoic imprints on the phylogenetic structure of palm species assemblages worldwide. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1120467109

Cite This Page:

Aarhus University. "Palms reveal the significance of climate change for tropical biodiversity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120423162459.htm>.
Aarhus University. (2012, April 23). Palms reveal the significance of climate change for tropical biodiversity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120423162459.htm
Aarhus University. "Palms reveal the significance of climate change for tropical biodiversity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120423162459.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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