Vegetation in the Tropical Equatorial Rainforest

Refers to AQA A2 Geography

Ecosystems: Change and Challenge Option

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  • Tropical Equatorial Rainforest ~ Vegetation
    • Why is the rainforest so diverse and productive?
      • Often untouched by humans - have been untouched by modern society over thousands of years so have developed into DYNAMIC EQUALIBRIUM
      • Vegetation is at harmony with its enviroment and is a CLIMATIC CLIMAX COMMUNITY.
    • What are the characteristic features?
      • 2,220 g m^-2 yr^-1 net primary productivity
        • The figure is so high as the growing season in year-round and also that leaf litter is quickly decomposed, replacing nutrients taken up by vegetation.
      • Evergreen appearence
        • Although most trees are deciduous, individual trees lose their leaves at different times of the year.
        • Always some trees in full leaf
      • Huge species diversity
        • Up to 300 tree species in a square km
          • Commonly include mahogony, teak, rosewood, rubber, bolsa and brazil nut
      • STRATIFICATION (distinct layered appearence)
        • tallest trees (emergent) stand up to 45m tall, well above the dense canopy where they will find maximum sunlight.
        • The canopy layer (30-35m high) absorbs most of the sunlight and rain.
      • The forest floor
        • Fungi growth on trees and other plants inhabits the forest floor.
          • Important role in decomposing litter.
        • Very few dead leaves on surface - seeds from trees germanate quickly.
        • When a tree dies, it brings down others as it falls, creating a clearing.
          • New trees quickly grow, taking advantage of light.
    • How has the vegetation developed/ adapted to meet the physical conditions of the rainforest?
      • Trees grow rapidly upwards towards the light and their trunks are slender with few branches.
        • Leaves are at the tops of trees were they absorb  light and photosynthesise.
      • Thin bark as trees do not need protection from harsh winter temperatures.
      • Tallest trees have flexible trunks that can allow movement, as winds above ground layer are very strong.
        • Allows trees to sway without breaking.
      • As minerals needed by trees are found only in the top layer of soil, tree roots do not grow deep but spread out on the forest floor.
        • BUTTRESS ROOTS, emerging up to 3m from the ground, help to stabalise the tallest trees
      • Trees adapted to regular heavy rainfall by drip-tips, allowing excess water to be easily shed.
        • Some leaves thick and leathery to withstand instense sunlight and reduce water loss.
      • Forest floor dark so epiphytes such as lianas grow on trees.


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