September 19, 2012

Tropical ecosystems more tolerant

cock_of_the_rock_cometur_lr_2.jpgPollination and other ecosystem functions more tolerant in the tropics

Overturning the accepted wisdom since Darwin, a recent study demonstrates that pollination and other ecosystem functions are more tolerant in tropical zones, such as rainforests, than they are in temperate areas of the world.  The report was released this month in the journal Current Biology by lead authors –  Matthias Schleuning and Jochen Fründ  – work for the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) and the University of Göttingen.


One of the tropical birds studied – the stunning red cock-of-the -rock – is Peru’s national emblematic bird and found in significant numbers in the Amazon forest area protected by Cool Earth in collaboration with Asháninka communities.  The report explains that this bird eats the fruit of over a hundred plant species and in so doing it also disperses these plants’ seeds.

Until now, scientists had generally believed that tropical birds and pollinating insects were more specialized than in temperate regions.  This belief has been used to help explain the higher plant diversity found in the tropics compared to temperate zones.  However, with the outcome of this international study by experts indicating that the opposite is true (i.e. the specialization of pollinating insects and seed dispensing birds actually decreases towards the equatorial regions), a new theory will be required to cover the causal factors for greater plant diversity in the tropics.

Lower specialization means that tropical plants have the advantage of less risk to their survival when a bird or insect species disappears.  Something similar might also be argued for the likely increased survival of birds and insects who don’t specialize on a single or just a few speci9fic plant species for their living.

Source: Science Daily (photos by Comeltur)


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