Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Edge of All Life

There is a small cluster of gnarly Megallanic beeches on the island of Isla Hornos in the Cape Horn. These trees are the most southerly trees in the whole world.The cold air and extreme winds of Antarctica mean that no trees grow any further south than the beeches of Isla Horna. 

You can learn more about the southernmost and northernmost edges of other plant species on The Edges of (all) Life interactive map. This Esri Story Map, by Brian Bouma, uses data from iNaturalist to map the most northerly and southerly habitats of thousands of different plant species. Observing and mapping the edges of species ranges is important as it enables botanists to monitor how plant life is adapting to and responding to climate change around the world. 

As you scroll through The Edges of (all) Life you can view maps which show the geographical habitat range of the Lodgepole Pine and the Mountain Maple. You can also view interactive maps which show the northernmost and southernmost locations of over 19,000 other different plant species.

The Edges of (all) Life can also show you which plant species growing in your town or city are at the most northern or southern extents of their natural habitats. If you zoom in on a location on the map the red and blue dots show which local species are on the very edge of their geographical range. The blue dots are all the plant species which are living at their southernmost edge at your location. The red dots represent species which are living at their northernmost edge.

Garden Bougainvillea growing in San Francisco at the northernmost extent of its natural habitat

For example if you zoom in on San Francisco on the map you can see that the Western Bunchberry and the Canary Herb-Robert are among the local species living at the southernmost extent of their natural geographical range. Garden Bougainvillea and Volcanic Sorrel are some of the local plants which are living at the most northern extent of their range in San Francisco.

1 comment:

BigInch said...

In addition to northerly and southerly limits in latitude, life edges are also changing in elevation. For example, melting glaciers are changing the flora and fauna in their vicinity. Many plants and insects, once confined to the higher temperatures of the low lying elevations, are extending their range up into the formerly cooler regions of higher elevations. This problem has three dimensions.