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Plant Ecology - Chapter 17. Climate & Physiognomy. The Abiotic Components of Ecosystems. 1) Outside energy source 2) Physical factors that determine weather, climate 3) Chemicals essential for life. Outside Energy Source. Powers photosynthesis. Warms earth. Powers water cycle.

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Plant Ecology - Chapter 17

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Plant ecology chapter 17

Plant Ecology - Chapter 17

Climate & Physiognomy

The abiotic components of ecosystems

The Abiotic Components of Ecosystems

1) Outside energy source

2) Physical factors that determine

weather, climate

3) Chemicals essential for life

Outside energy source

Outside Energy Source



Warms earth

Powers water


Physical factors that determine weather climate

Physical factors that determineweather, climate





Plant ecology chapter 17


  • Location

  • Reflection

  • Retention

Plant ecology chapter 17


Plant ecology chapter 17


Plant ecology chapter 17


Plant ecology chapter 17


Plant ecology chapter 17


  • Daily temperatures can also vary dramatically in some habitats

  • Deserts - dry air, loses heat rapidly

  • High altitudes - thinner “blanket” of atmosphere

Plant ecology chapter 17


  • Long-term changes in earth’s orbit, position

  • Collectively produce Croll-Milankovic effects on climate

  • Orbit shape change

  • Affects range of seasonal variation

Plant ecology chapter 17


  • Degree of tilt

  • Affects range of seasonal variation

Plant ecology chapter 17


  • Direction of the tilt - the “wobble”

  • Changes which hemisphere is pointed toward sun when orbit is closest to sun

  • Affects severity of seasonal shift

Wind and precipitation

Wind and Precipitation

  • Uneven heating

  • Ascending, descending air masses - Hadley cell



  • Rotation of the globe - Coriolis effect

  • Hadley, Ferrel cells, jet streams



  • Ocean currents, gyres induced by surface air mass movements



  • Topography - mountains

  • Rain shadows



  • Topography - lakes

  • Lake effect precipitation



Annual precipitation



Seasonal patterns

Seasonal Patterns

Multi year patterns

Multi-year Patterns

3-7-year El Nino

Southern Oscillation

Multi year patterns1

Multi-year Patterns

  • Combined ocean currents and jet stream

Multi year patterns2

Multi-year Patterns

El Nino

  • Milder winters along US-Canada border

  • Increased winter storms in California

  • Floods in SE, snow in SW mountains

  • Decreased hurricane activity in Atlantic

Multi year patterns3

Multi-year Patterns

La Nina

  • More, stronger tornadoes in Midwest

  • More, stronger hurricanes

  • Drought, forest fires in SW

Plant physiognomy

Plant Physiognomy

  • North-south gradient in vegetation form due to temperature

  • West-east changes in response to precipitation

Plant physiognomy1

Plant Physiognomy

  • Evergreen broadleaf

  • Deciduous broadleaf

  • Evergreen coniferous

  • Tree line

Plant physiognomy2

Plant Physiognomy

  • Tree line climate can produce strange tree forms - krummholz

  • Atypical growth pattern resulting from borderline growth conditions - mean annual soil temps. <5-8°C, air temps. ~10°C

Plant physiognomy3

Plant Physiognomy

  • Gradual transition from west to east, grassland to woodland to forest

  • Changes in amount, seasonality of rainfall

Plant physiognomy4

Plant Physiognomy

  • East of Rockies, start with short-grass prairie

  • Low-growing clumps of grass with bare patches between clumps

Plant physiognomy5

Plant Physiognomy

  • Gradual shift from midgrass prairie to tallgrass prairie in Nebraska/Iowa

  • Taller grasses, forbs, more diversity and biomass

  • Follows pattern of increasing rainfall

Plant physiognomy6

Plant Physiognomy

  • Further east - trees appear in places other than along streams

  • Woodlands - dominated by trees, but without a closed canopy (oak savanna)

Plant physiognomy7

Plant Physiognomy

  • Forests appear near Illinois-Indiana border

  • Continue to the east coast

Plant physiognomy8

Plant Physiognomy

  • Seasonality of precipitation (spring and fall) and warmer temperatures increase chance of drought in grasslands

Plant physiognomy9

Plant Physiognomy

  • Mid-, tall-grass prairies experience fire every 3-5 years (too little combustible material in short-grass prairie)

  • Trees can’t survive frequent fires (apical meristems)

Plant physiognomy10

Plant Physiognomy

  • Woodlands appear where fire frequency is low enough to allow trees to grow tall enough to avoid fire

  • Still are more fire-tolerant species

Plant physiognomy11

Plant Physiognomy

  • Precipitation in forests is high enough to keep fire frequency low

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