Ecological Community: A group of organisms living together
Ecosystem: Exchange of energy and nutrients between members of the ecological community
Biome: A categorical description of ecosystem type largely determined by climate
Ecologists developed biomes to show how an ecosystem is based upon the way its inhabitants interact with the given climate. Originally, Frederic Edward Clements used the concept of biomes to project vegetation development according to the community’s surroundings (Chapin et al. 2011). The concept of biomes can draw similarity between two ecosystems in different locations with similar conditions regarding community interaction and climate. On the other hand, the concept of biomes can distinguish micro-climates close in physical location. In general, the development of biomes acknowledges that certain living organisms adapt, thrive and continue to exist in respective environments and climates throughout the world.
Climate change can modify the delineation of currently recognized biomes. It makes sense considering hot temperatures leads to water level rising in the arctic. Moreover, in the Tibetan Plateau, researchers determined a specific aspect of climate change altering a wide range of biomes at the location. They set out with a modeling approach to determine how changes in precipitation and air temperature may impact the four major biomes- forest, shrub, grass, desert. However, the scientists found increased inter-annual variability of precipitation has a larger impact on Tibetan Plateau biomes than amount of rainfall and air temperature alone (Ye et al. 2014). Additionally, I can imagine migration patterns are altered due to climate change which in turn impacts the entire ecosystem at a given location. Further, plants and trees requiring certain conditions struggle to survive in the face of climate change. That said, the concept of biomes is used to show the inevitable connection between climate change and ecosystem health.
Chapin III, F. Stuart, Pamela A. Matson, and Peter M. Vitousek. 2011. Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology. 2nd ed. New York: Springer.
Ye Jian-sheng, James F. Reynolds and Feng-min Li. 2014. “A mechanistic- bioclimatic modeling analysis of the potential impact of climate change on biomes of the Tibetan Plateau”. Journal of Ecology. 95 (8). 2109-2120.
Mary, biomes around the world tend to have similar communities of species of critters and plants that share a range of adaptations. The species may be different, but they have similar “lifeways”. Can you think of some examples of such species from the same biome, but on different continents?
Hi Professor Kay,
Thanks for the investigation prompt!
I am not surprised, even though the species who share biomes across locations may be different, they share adaptations because the change arises out of challenges generated by the climate. All the species in a given biome need to adjust their lifeways to match the biome they all inhabit. I found a study highlighting evidence for adaptation to fire regimes in the tropical Savannas of the Brazilian Cerrado (Simon and Pennington 2012). The scientists looked at the endemic woody flora. It is characterized by fire-resistant traits such as thick, corky bark and root sprouting which evolved as adaptations to drought or nutrient-deficient soils (Simon and Pennington 2012). However, since these features emerged at the same time as the increasing dominance of flammable C4 grasses and expansion of the Savanna biome worldwide, it is clear such traits are adaptations to fire regimes (Simon and Pennington 2012). Further, Cerrado lineages carrying the outlined features postdate the earlier origins of seasonal climates and the nutrient-poor acid Cerrado soils also confirms the conclusion (Simon and Pennington 2012). Previously, the debate focused on vegetation in Mediterranean climate regions concentrating on the same traits such as resprouting in different species impacted by heat and smoke (Simon and Pennington 2012). It is interesting to see the scientists did a comprehensive study just to prove two similar biomes, across the world from each other, impacted different species by catalyzing the same adaptation.
I also found an example of a variety in evolution amongst members of the same species at different biomes within a single continent. A study from the Journal of Orthoptera Research examined variation in the shape and size of pronotum, hind femur, and head in the males of Orphulella punctata. A total of 150 specimens were analyzed from three different Brazilian biomes: the Cerrado, the Atlantic Forest, and the Pantanal. The correlation analysis revealed the shape of pronotum, hind femur, and head varied with geographical longitude (Santos da Silva et al. 2018). Further, the size of pronotum and head also respectively varied in each biome (Santos da Silva et al. 2018). Overall, the results indicated the shape and size of the Orphulella were influenced by the geographical variables (Santos da Silva et al. 2018). From the study, the scientists were also able to determine the shape of hind femur and head is significantly negatively correlated with size (Santos da Silva et al. 2018). It shows studying species adaptation to different biomes can also confirm general traits about how different parts of a body’s evolution are interconnected.
Santos da Silva, Ana Catia, Lorena Andrade Nunes, Wanessa de Lima Batista and Marcos Gonçalves Lhano. 2018. “Morphometric variation among males of Orphulella punctata (De Beer, 1773) (Acrididae: Gomphocerinae) from different biomes in Brazil”. Journal of Orthoptera Research 27 (2): 163-171.
Simon, Marcelo and Toby Pennington. 2012. “Evidence for Adaptation to Fire Regimes in the Tropical Savannas of the Brazilian Cerrado”. International Journal of Plant Sciences 173 (6): 711-723.
Orginal Post by Casey Kahler:
Ecological Community—A group of biotic organisms living in a specific area.
Ecosystem—An area in which both biotic and abiotic organisms live and are interconnected.
Biome—A grouping of organism that exhibit similar characteristics for areas in which they live. These areas have been created as a result of a shared physical climate and terrain.
I believe that ecosystem ecologists developed the idea of biomes as a way to study and analyze the ways in which climate and landscapes may impact the organisms that live there. Furthermore, by having these areas it allows for ecologists to determine ways in which organisms have adapted or share unique traits that allow for them to live successfully in those areas. Furthermore, our reading this week discussed how in 1980 Jenny mentioned how human activity has become so prevalent that it should represent another major factor (Chapin et al. 2011). This idea could also relate to the importance of biomes as a ways of identifying human impact on specific climates.
I definitely believe that climate change can modify the delineation of currently organized biomes (if it’s not doing so already). An article by NASA published back in 2011 discussed how by 2100, global climate change will have modified plant communities and will convert nearly 40% of land-based ecosystems from one major ecological community type to another (NASA 2011). It’s not hard to believe when we’ve already witnessed increased temperatures impacting ice and water levels in the arctic. Furthermore, this could in turn causes a shift of animals and organisms residing in areas in which normally they couldn’t have due to climate. This idea is also relevant in terms of bird migration. Science Daily in February 2020 posted an article that bird migration is appearing to occur earlier than it had prior. Not only could this be a result of a longer season but could impact breeding patterns too (Science Daily 2020). As we have already seen possible examples of the delineation of biomes I have a feeling we will begin to see more as climate changes continues to progress.
Chapin III, F. Stuart, Pamela A. Matson, and Pater M. Vitousek. 2011. Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology. 2nd Ed. New York: Springer.
NASA. 2011. “Climate Change May Bring Big Ecosystem Changes.” Accessed September 15, 2020. https://climate.nasa.gov/news/645/climate-change-may-bring-big-ecosystem-changes/ (Links to an external site.)
Science Daily. 2020. “Fifty Years of Data Show New Changes in Bird Migration.” Accessed September 15, 2020. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200220141757.html
I agree climate change drives species to have a far range in migration patterns because of the need to adapt. It is not only the case with birds. In Britain, most butterfly species reach the limit of their range due to climate (Vickery 2008). I found it interesting that while many types of butterflies reach their northern margin, some species such as Scotch Argus reach their southern margin. Along with the increase in temperature, butterfly movement is also impacted by changing rainfall patterns (Vickery 2008). Further, since butterflies are cold-blooded, the altering biome due to climate change affects their rate of development, physiology, behavior, and reproductive success (Vickery 2008). There is one species called the Silver-Spotted Skipper that, during the late twentieth century, would only breed in short turf on south facing slopes in the southern half of England. Recently, the population of the species has increased and has been found breeding on north facing slopes in longer grass. Also, great comment emphasizing the influence ecological community has on migration in terms of birds having to adapt due to a multitude of shifting conditions such as plant life. I imagine the same understanding can be applied to a variety of animal species needing to migrate due to the inability for their prey to persevere in the face of climate change.
Vickery, Margaret. 2008. “Butterflies as indicators of climate change”. Journal of Science Progress. 91 (2): 193-201.
Thank you so much for the additional information and relating this concept to butterflies too. I have a feeling as you mentioned this is definitely an idea we’ll start seeing in other species as the climate continues to warm as well.