Consistent Seasonal Temperatures, Not Just Hot Weather, Cause of High Tropical Biodiversity


photo: Felix Francis

An interesting new piece in the journal Paleobiology on what gives the tropics their amazing biodiversity provides insight both into the past and poses questions as to what the future may hold as the world continues to warm. As it turns out, its the consistent year-round temperatures and not hot weather or more sunlight that's the key to it all. The research, done by scientists from Harvard, Simon Fraser, and Brandon universities, discovered that the world had far higher levels of biodiversity tens of millions of years ago, when the entire planet had more consistent year-round temperatures, much like the modern tropics.

"The latitudinal diversity gradient has been recognized for 150 years as one of the most general observations in nature, and has produced more explanatory hypotheses than nearly any other observation," says co-author Brian D. Farrell, professor of biology at Harvard. "We show that when most of today's organisms were diversifying, up through the Eocene, the world lacked pronounced seasonality, more like today's tropics, even in areas where the temperature was low."

Professor Farrell went on to say that rather than the tropical heat increasing biodiversity, the greater seasonal variation in the world's temperate zones depress biodiversity.

More at: Science Daily

The question that immediately pops to my mind is how will increasing global temperatures, expansion of regions with tropic and sub-tropical temperatures and seasonal characteristics, and more extreme weather variations in the temperate zones, all intersect with human activity decreasing biodiversity through habitat loss.

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Tags: Biodiversity | Global Climate Change

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