Species diversity in tropical rainforests maximizes limited resources by collecting nutrients and water immediately upon availability via superficial root systems

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“What explains the deceptive lushness of tropical rain forests? The answer, it turns out, relates more to the species-rich aboveground community than to any attributes of the soil itself. These species-rich forests literally nourish their own diversity, creating a far richer aboveground community than the tropical soil alone could support. Nutrient levels in many tropical soils are so low that lush plant communities couldn’t survive if they allowed minerals to be leached by the three or more meters of rain that drench the region each year. So the enormous diversity creates an almost closed system when it comes to cycling nutrients. Trees in most tropical forests, for instance, put out a dense mat of fine roots on or just below the surface to retrieve nutrients as soon as they are released from the litter and to capture rainwater quickly, before it can filter down to groundwater.” (Baskin 1997:121)

Work of Nature: How the Diversity of Life Sustains UsJanuary 1, 1997
Yvonne Baskin

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