Why do the tropics have the highest biodiversity?

Posted on November 25th, 2013 by

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High-latitude biomes, like tundra (above), have low species diversity while low-latitude biomes closer to the equator, like tropical rain forests, are rich in species. (Photo by Billy Lindblom. Creative Commons License.)

A long-standing problem in biogeography is to explain the gradient of biodiversity that decreases as latitude increases. Why do the tropics have the world’s greatest biodiversity while polar, Arctic, and Antarctic biomes have lower species diversity? A recent study of mammalian and avian biodiversity compared with weather and climate data, summarized here, suggests that “the latitudinal diversity gradient may be due higher species turnover — a higher potential for speciation counterbalanced by a higher potential for extinction — towards the poles than near the equator.”

 

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