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 April 16, 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 April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) The ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is now linked to 121 deaths. Health officials fear the virus will continue to spread in urban areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

AFP (Apr. 14, 2014) To curb the growing numbers of feral cats in the US capital, the Washington Humane Society is encouraging residents to set traps and bring the animals to a sterilization clinic, after which they are released.. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
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