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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

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


  • Location
  • Reflection
  • Retention
  • Daily temperatures can also vary dramatically in some habitats
  • Deserts - dry air, loses heat rapidly
  • High altitudes - thinner “blanket” of atmosphere
  • Long-term changes in earth’s orbit, position
  • Collectively produce Croll-Milankovic effects on climate
  • Orbit shape change
  • Affects range of seasonal variation
  • Degree of tilt
  • Affects range of seasonal variation
  • 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

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