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Tropical Rainforest The tropical rainforest is a hot, moist biome found near Earth's equator. Tropical rainforests receive from 60 to inches of precipitation that is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year.


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The combination of constant warmth and abundant moisture makes the tropical rainforest a suitable environment for many plants and animals. Tropical rainforests contain the greatest biodiversity in the world. Over 15 million species of plants and animals live within this biome. The hot and humid conditions make tropical rainforests an ideal environment for bacteria and other microorganisms. Because these organisms remain active throughout the year, they quickly decompose matter on the forest floor.


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  7. In other biomes, such as the deciduous forest, the decomposition of leaf litter adds nutrients to the soil. But in the tropical rainforest, plants grow so fast that they rapidly consume the nutrients from the decomposed leaf litter. As a result, most of the nutrients are contained in the trees and other plants rather than in the soil. However, in warm deserts, therophytes annual plants can make up most of the species diversity Figure 2. Desert annuals can survive unpredictable dry periods as seeds.

    The Tropical Rainforest Biome Facts

    Seeds may remain viable in the soil for several years, until the appropriate rainfall and temperature conditions occur, after which they will germinate. These annuals grow rapidly, completing their life cycle in a few weeks, then flowering and setting seed before soil water reserves are depleted. Winter desert annuals in North American deserts can generate over 1 kg m -2 of biomass in a wet year. With the exception of large blooms of annuals, net primary productivity in most deserts is low and extremely variable.

    There is a positive relationship between productivity and precipitation, and values can range from near 0 to g m -2 yr Just as with savannas, productivity will vary with soil depth and local drainage patterns e. Grassland biomes occur primarily in the interiors of continents Figure 4 and are characterized by large seasonal temperature variations, with hot summers and cold winters Figure 8.

    Precipitation varies, with a strong summer peak. The type of grassland community that develops, and the productivity of grasslands, depends strongly upon precipitation. Higher precipitation leads to tall grass prairie with a high biodiversity of grasses and forbs. Lower precipitation leads to short grass prairies and arid grasslands. Net primary productivity in dry grasslands may be g m -2 yr -1 , while higher precipitation may support up to 1 kg m -2 yr Grasslands grade into deciduous forest biomes on their wetter margins, and deserts on their drier margins.

    The borders between grasslands and other biomes are dynamic and shift according to precipitation, disturbance, fire and drought. Fire and drought will favor grassland over forest communities. Three major selective forces dominate the evolution of plant traits in grasslands, recurring fire, periodic drought, and grazing.

    These factors have led to the dominance of hemicryptophytes in grasslands with perennating organs located at or below the soil surface. Many grasses have below ground rhizomes connecting above ground shoots or tillers. Grass blades grow from the bottom up, with actively dividing meristems at the base of the leaf. Thus when grazers eat the grass blade, the meristem continues to divide and the blade can continue to grow. Grasses are often decay-resistant, and recurring cool, fast moving surface fires started by lightning at the end of summer aid in nutrient recycling.

    Fires stimulate productivity and the germination of fire resistant seeds. Animals such as gray kangaroos Macropus giganteus in Australia, Bison Bison bonasus and horses Equus spp. Remnant herds in North America suggest that disturbances due to grazers increased local biodiversity by creating openings that rare species could colonize.

    3 ways climate change affects tropical rainforests

    Large grazers also accelerated plant decomposition through their droppings, creating nutrient hotspots that altered species composition. Temperature deciduous forests occur in mid-latitudes Figure 4 where cool winters, warm summers, and high year round precipitation occurs Figure 9. Net primary productivity ranges from — g m -2 yr -1 with high litter production. Litter serves as a major pathway for nutrient recycling. This biome is named for the dominant trees that drop their leaves during the winter months.

    These forests may have an overstory of 20—30 m tall trees, an understory of 5—10 m trees and shrubs, a shrub layer around 1—2 m in height, and a ground layer of herbaceous plants. Biodiversity is relatively high in this biome due to the niche partitioning allowed by the multiple forest layers. More complex forests are associated with a greater number of animal species; for example, bird species diversity shows a positive correlation with forest height and number of layers. This small biome about 1. Unrelated evergreen, sclerophyllous shrubs and trees have evolved independently in each of these areas, representing a striking example of convergent evolution.

    Net primary productivity varies from — g m -2 yr -1 , dependent upon water availability, soil depth, and age of the stand. Stand productivity decreases after 10—20 years as litter and woody biomass accumulates. Recurring fires aid in nutrient cycling and many plants show fire-induced or fire-promoted flowering. Some species are able to resprout from buds protected by the soil, while others germinate from decay-resistant seeds that lie dormant in the soil until a fire promotes their germination.

    Therophytes make up a large component of the flora, and their appearance is associated with openings created by fires. At latitudes beyond the boreal forest tree line lies a marshy area Figure 4 where growing seasons are very short and temperatures are below zero degrees Celsius for much of the year Figure Because of these low temperatures and short growing seasons, net primary productivity is very low in the tundra, between — g m -2 yr Productivity varies with snowfall depth and local drainage.

    Rocky fields and dry meadows will have lower productivity than moist, low-lying areas and wet meadows.

    Tropical Rainforest Biome

    Biodiversity in the tundra is low and dominated by mosses, lichens, and low-growing perennial shrubs. Windy conditions and low temperatures select for low growing shrubs, often with tightly-packed, rounded canopies with closely spaced leaves and branches. Wind and ice damage help form this shape by pruning branches.

    Soils are low in nutrients due to slow decomposition rates and plants retain nutrients in long-lived evergreen tissues.

    1. Size and Location

    Nitrogen fixation by lichens with cyanobacterial components is a major source of soil nitrogen. Animals have extended hibernation periods or migrate seasonally. Prentice, L. A global biome model based on plant physiology and dominance, soil properties and climate. Journal of Biogeography 19 , Raunkiaer, C. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, Introduction to the Basic Drivers of Climate. Terrestrial Biomes.

    Tropical Rainforest

    Coral Reefs. Energy Economics in Ecosystems. Biodiversity and Ecosystem Stability. Biological Nitrogen Fixation. Ecosystems Ecology Introduction. Factors Affecting Global Climate. Rivers and Streams: Life in Flowing Water. The Conservation of Mass. The Ecology of Carrion Decomposition. Causes and Consequences of Biodiversity Declines. Earth's Ferrous Wheel. Alternative Stable States.

    Recharge Variability in Semi-Arid Climates. Secondary Production. Food Web: Concept and Applications.

    References and Recommended Reading

    Terrestrial Primary Production: Fuel for Life. The biome concept organizes large-scale ecological variation. Terrestrial biomes are distinguished primarily by their predominant vegetation, and are mainly determined by temperature and rainfall. Aa Aa Aa. Life forms can be classified by the location of perennating tissue and plant types. Tropical Forest Biomes. Raunkiar classified plant life forms on traits that varied with climate, such as the perennating organ, or tissues that give rise to new growth the following season.