The Tropics Rule!

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By Christina Smith and Leland Werden

Our May 14th session at the Midtown Farmers Market was focused on diversity in the tropics. It was a fairly cold day (44F and record low for that day in Minneapolis) so we spent time imagining the warm tropics!

Did you know that estimated 50-90% of all the Earth’s plant and animal species in the tropics? Many researchers at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere are working to understand why this is and how this will change with changing climate (https://tropicaldryforest.wordpress.com/). Everyone was excited to see the preserved insects, amphibians, reptiles, and plants from the collections borrowed from the Bell Museum of Natural History and the CBS Conservatory at the University of Minnesota.

 

Fun observations about tropical species:

  • The fastest lizard in the world is from Costa Rica and can run 21 mph
  • 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced by trees in the Amazon rainforest — how would this change with deforestation?
  • Many tropical trees don’t form rings because there are not distinct freeze and thaw cycles in many tropical ecosystems.  

Take a look at this picture, which do you think is not from the tropics?

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Surprise! They all are!
Some of these images look really similar to temperate forests in Minnesota, but the tropics are not only full of dark and dense rainforests, and white sand beaches, like those shown in the movies. The tropics are incredibly diverse, and you can find an incredible amount of species and landscapes there. We love working in the tropics so much because if you look hard enough you can find something new everyday. If you haven’t already make sure to visit, and if you have been, make sure to go again and see something new!

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