Ecology of the Podocarpaceae in Tropical Forests

Turner, Benjamin L., and Cernusak, Lucas A. (2011) Ecology of the Podocarpaceae in Tropical Forests. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany, 95 . Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA, viii-207.

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Abstract

The emergence of angiosperms in tropical forests at the expense of the gymnosperms, their ancestral relatives, was one of the most important events in the evolutionary history of terrestrial plants. Gymnosperms were nearly eliminated from the tropics after the evolution of angiosperms in the early Cretaceous, yet conifers of the Podocarpaceae are among the few gymnosperm families that persist in tropical forests worldwide. Podocarps are often considered to be restricted to montane sites in the tropics, a feature of their biogeography that is used by paleoecologists to reconstruct past forest communities. However, podocarps also occur in the lowland tropics, where they can be the dominant component of forest canopies. Podocarps have proved to be remarkably adaptable in many cases: members of the family have a semi-aquatic lifestyle, exhibit drought tolerance and resprouting, and include the only known parasitic gymnosperm. Other intriguing aspects of podocarp physiology include the mechanism of water transport in the leaves and the conspicuous root nodules, which are not involved in nitrogen fixation but instead house arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Perhaps most surprising, paleobotanical evidence indicates that far from being 'relict' members of tropical forest communities, podocarps have been dispersing into the tropics since the late Eocene epoch more than 30 million years ago. These and other aspects of the Podocarpaceae explored in this volume have far-reaching implications for understanding the ecology and evolution of tropical rain forests.

Item ID: 40811
Item Type: Book (Edited)
ISSN: 1938-2812
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2015 01:45
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060208 Terrestrial Ecology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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