- Scientific name: Alzatea verticillata
- Habitat: The forests of Central and South America
- Conservation status: Extant
- Threat to existence: Warming tropical temperatures
- Fun fact: It is the only species of the genus Alzatea!
Additional source: Wikipedia
Image source: Mauricio Bonifacino
After our stint in the oceans, we return to the forests, this time of the Peruvian Andes. There research is being conducted on a number of land plots, each with a different elevation and subsequent annual average temperature. This research is very valuable to our understanding of the effects of global warming. More often than not, we think of the melting polar ice and homeless starving polar bears when we think about global warming. But what people don’t understand is that the far more diverse and species-rich tropics are in many ways more threatened.
The tropics are so species-dense that each species has to be the best at what it does, the expert of its niche. That means that in each of the plots, you find radically different inhabitants because of the different temperatures. That means as the global average temperatures rise, each species will have to migrate to higher altitudes. There is a couple of issues with this solution though. One, some species are better at migrating than others, even among plants species. Some species cannot migrate fast enough to keep up with the rising temperatures. Secondly, eventually there is nowhere else to migrate, the mountains only go so high, and eventually you hit the treeline where the atmosphere can no longer support tree growth. Just like with the coral reefs, as one species disappears, so do all the species that depend on it.