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CHAPTER 23: Terrestrial Ecosystems

o Classified according to predominant plant type
o May be:
Tropical forest Tropical Savanna
Temperature forest Temperate Grasslands
Conifer Forest Chaparral (shrublands)
(Taiga/Boreal Forest) Tundra
Robert Whittaker
o Plotted biome types on gradients of annual temperature and precipitation
o Pattern:
Mean annual precipitation declines with decreasing temperature

23. 1 Terrestrial Ecosystems Reflect Adaptation of the Dominant Plant Life Form

Leaves classified based on Longevity

o Deciduous lives for a year
Based on Dormancy
o Temperate areas
Drought deciduous
o Tropical areas
o Evergreen lives beyond a year
Broadleaf Evergreen Leaf
No distinct growing season where photosynthesis and growth continue year
Needle Leaf Evergreen
Growing season is very short
Nutrient availability constrains photosynthesis
Adapted for survival

**Deciduous plants do not incur additional cost of maintenance and respiration when conditions
restrict photosynthesis

23.2 Tropical Forests Characterize the Equatorial Zone

Tropical Rainforest
o Latitudes 10o N and 10o S
o Warm temperatures
o Amazon Rainforest
Largest and most continuous region
o Mean Temperature: 18oC
o Minimum Precipitation: 60mm
5 Vertical Layers in Tropical Rainforests:
o Emergent Trees o Shrub Understory
o Upper Canopy o Ground Layer of Herbs and Ferns
o Lower Canopy
o Large trees with plank-like outgrowths
o Prop roots to support trees rooted in shallow soil that offer poor anchorage
Soil Classification
o Oxisols
Deeply weathered and no distinct horizon
o Ultisols
More seasonal precipitation
o Andosols
Ash deposits quickly weather
o Warm, moist conditions
o Rapid leaching
o Strong chemical weathering
o Decomposers consume dead organic matter rapidly
Dry Tropical Forests
o Undergo dry season based on latitude
o Influenced by Intertropical Convergence Zone

23.3 Tropical Savannas Are Characteristic of Semiarid Regions with Seasonal Rainfall

o Treeless areas of South America
o Array of vegetation and open grassland, shrubs and trees
o Moisture controls density of woody vegetation
Function of rainfall
o Seasonality in precipitation
o Max temperatures occur at end of wet season
Soils in Savannas
o Nutrient Poor Oxisols
Deficient in Phosphorus
o Alfisols
o Entisols
Driest savannas
Fire adapted, grass cover with or without woody vegetation always present
Savannas 2-Layer Vertical Structure
o Ground cover of grasses
o Presence of shrubs or trees
Tropical Savannas
o Controlled by precipitation, changes soil moisture
o Largely herbivores
o Many insects

23.4 Grassland Ecosystems of the Temperate Zone Vary With Climate and Geography

Natural grasslands
o Midlatitude in midcontinental regions where annual precipitation declines
o Intervention of fire and human activity
Shrunk to less than 12% of their original size
Temperate grassland
o Recurring drought
Native Grasslands distinguished by height:
o Tallgrass Prairie
Dominated by big bluestem
o Mixed-grass prairie
Great Plains
Composed of needle-grama grass
Grading into desert
o Shortgrass Prairie
Buffalo grass and forming blue grama
Desert Grassland
o With three-awn grass replaces buffalo grass
o Annual Grassland
Central valley of California
Rainy winters and hot, dry summers
o Treeless, except for ribbons and patches of forest
o Divided into 4 belts of latitude
o Grasslands in Eurasia
o Major Grasslands in South Hemisphere
o Africa and S. America
o Forage grasses and alfalfa
o Southern Africa
o Eastern Part of a High Plateau
Australia has 4 types of grasslands:
o Arid Tussock Grassland (north; more than 20cm of rainfall)
o Arid Hummock Grasslands (less 20cm rainfall)
o Coastal Grasslands (tropical summer)
o Subhumid Grasslands (coastal areas)
Animals in Grasslands:
o Ungulates
Eg. Bisons and antelopes
o Burrowing animals
Eurasian Steppes and Argentine Pampas
o Lacks large ungulates
o Has camels
Grasslands evolve over selective pressures of grazing
o Grazing stimulates primary production
Major Consumption in grasslands are from:
o Nematodes (belowground)
3 Strata in Grassland:
o Crowns, Nodes and Rosettes of Plants hugging soil
o Ground Layer
o Belowground Root Layer
Half the total plant biomass
Grasslands accumulate a layer of mulch that retains moisture and turnovers fine roots
o Depending on history and degree of grazing and fire
Soils in Grassland:
o Mollisols
Thick dark-brown to black surface
Rich in organic matter
Productivity of Temperate Grasslands
o Related to annual precipitation
23.5 Deserts Represent a Diverse Group of Ecosystems

Arid Regions/Deserts
o 15o and 30o latitude
Tropical Deserts
o ITCZ subsides to form high-pressure cells dominating climate
Temperate Deserts
o Lie in rain shadow of mountain
o Lack of precipitation
o High temp summer, below freezing in winter
Sahara Desert
o Worlds largest desert in North Africa
Arid Coastal Regions
o Cold ocean currents affect its development
Deserts of South Africa has 3 Regions:
o Karoo
o Namib Desert
o Kalahari Desert
There are both hot and cold deserts
Cold Deserts
o Great Basin of North America
o Gobi
o Takla Makan
o Turkestan deserts of Asia
2 Main Vegetations in the Desert: (IDK SABI SA BOOK 2 MAIN VEGETATION PERO 3 YUNG
o Sagebrush
Forms pure stands
o Shadscale
C4 species
o Chenopods
Halophytes tolerant of saline soils
Hot Deserts Range from Lacking Vegetation to Combination of Chenopods
Drought evading plants
o Produce seeds when moisture and temperature are favorable
Drought evading animals
o Develop annual cycle of estivation or dormant state
Desert Plants
o Usually deep-rooted woody shrubs
Desert Ecosystems
o Support rich animal life
o Herbivores are generally opportunists
o Animals practice omnivory
Primary Productivity is low
o Infrequent rainfall
o High rates of evaporation limit water availability
Islands of Fertility
o Underneath plants in desert
o Higher litter input and enrichment by wastes from animals

23.6 Mediterranean Climates Support Temperate Shrublands

o Shrub growth either dominant or codominant
o Fire is a frequent hazard
o Plant with multiple woody
o Persistent stems
o No central trunk
5 Regions of Mediterranean Ecosystems
o North America
o Central Chile
o Cape area of South Africa
o Southwestern Australia
Mediterranean Climate
o Hot, dry summers
o At least 1 month of drought and cool moist winters
Plants generally are:
o dwarf trees known as sclerophyllous
small leaves, thickened cuticles, hairs and sunken stomata
all characteristics for reduced water loss from the hot dry weather
o broadleaf evergreen shrubs
Largest area of Mediterranean Ecosystem forms a discontinuous belt around the Mediterranean Sea
o The vegetation is Mediterranean zone in southern Africa
o Mediterranean shrub community in Australia
o Dominated by Eucalyptus
o California, North America
o Sclerophyllous
o Dominated by scrub oak
Mediterranean shrublands
o Lack understory and ground litter
o Highly flammable
o Without fire it grows taller and denser
Fuel loads of leaves and twigs
o Dry season; explodes when ignited
Animals (from parallel and convergent evolution)
o Bird species
o Lizard Species
Topography and Geology
o Diversity of soil conditions
o Alfisols
Deficient in nutrients
o Litter decomposition is limited by low temperatures

23.7 Forest Ecosystems Dominate the Wetter Regions of the Temperate Zone

Forest Ecosystems
o Dominated by broadleaf deciduous trees
o Southern Hemisphere
temperate evergreen forests become predominant
Asiatic Broadleaf Forest
o Presence reflects transition into the Mediterranean region
Broadleaf Deciduous Forests
o Temperate regions
o Autumn colors of foliage
Deciduous Forests
o 4 vertical layers or strata
Upper canopy
With dominant tree species
Lower tree canopy/understory
Shrub Layer
Ground layer of herbs, ferns and mosses
o Greatest concentration and variety of life is below the ground layer
Soil Type:
o Alfisols
With glacial materials
o Inceptisols
o Ultisols

23.8 Conifer Forests Dominate the Cool Temperate and Boreal Zones

Conifer Forests
o Dominated by Needle leaf evergreen trees
o Largest tree of all
o Grows in scattered groves on California Sierra
Boreal Forest or Taiga
o Largest Expanse of Conifer Forest
o Largest vegetation formation on Earth
3 Major Vegetation Zones of Taiga
o Forest Tundra Ecotone
Open stands of spruce, lichens and moss
o Open Lichen Woodland
Lichens and black spruce
o Main Boreal Forest
Boreal Forest/Taiga
o Region of cold lakes, bogs, rivers and alder thickets
o Under the controlling influence of permafrost
Impedes infiltration and maintains high soil moisture
o Fire recurs in Taiga
provides a seedbed for regeneration of trees
Light fires favors hardwood species
Severe fires eliminate hardwood competition and favor spruce and jack pine
o Frozen subsurface that may be hundreds of meters deep
o Forces all water to remain and move above it
Interior Alaska and Central Siberia
o Driest winters and greatest seasonal fluctuations
o Max 100o C fluctuations
Boreal Forests
o Unique animal community
o Caribou
o Elk
Largest of all deer
o Nesting ground for migratory neotropical birds
o Low net primary productivity
Limited by low nutrients
Cool temperatures
Short growing season
Rates of decomposition are slow under cold, wet conditions

23.9 Low Precipitation and Cold Temperatures Define the Arctic Tundra

o Top of Northern Hemisphere
o Frozen plain in sedges, heaths and willows with lakes and crossed by streams
o Finnish for tunturi which means a tree-less plain
Arctic Tundra
o Falls into 2 broad types:
Tundra with 100% plant cover and wet to moist soil
Polar Desert with less than 5% cover with dry soil
Conditions unique to arctic tundra are the product of 3 interacting sources:
o Permanently frozen deep layer of permafrost
o Overlying active layer of organic matter and mineral soil
Soil thaws each summer and freezes in winter
o Vegetation reduces warming and retards thawing in summer
Solifluction Terraces/ Flowing Soil
o Downward flow of supersaturated soil over permafrost
This rounds ridges and irregularities in topography
o Molding of landscape by frost action
o (the rounding of ridges and irregularities of topography)
o Species tend to be low and growth is slow
o Invertebrates concentrated near surface
o Mostly have herbivores
Extensive grazers
o Spread out in tundra
Musk ox
Intensive grazers
o Restricted to more localized areas
o Major arctic carnivore:
o Low ground is covered with grasses, sedges, sphagnum etc
o Photosynthetically active, 3 months out of the year
o Maximizes photosynthesis during the 24-hour day period
o Most tundra vegetation is underground
Alpine tundra
o Found at lower latitudes, occurs in higher mountains
o Little permafrost
o High elevation
o Soils are drier
o Precipitation, snowfall and humidity is higher than Arctic Tundra
o Steep topography induces a rapid runoff of water