BIODIVERSITY IS REMARKABLE
is the Fort Knox of the nations biodiversity. Because of its many
stream and river systems, Alabama has the countrys richest array
of aquatic wildlife. Species diversity in the Mobile Basin alone rivals
that of many higher profile ecosystems, such as tropical rain forests.
A combination of climate, geology and a vast range of aquatic habitats,
from mountain streams to the Gulf of Mexico, account for the high diversity.
With more miles of navigable stream systems than any other state, Alabama
is a natural showcase for aquatic animals.
for terrestrial biodiversity. Such an array of ecoregions and habitats
in a comparable area is unrivalled throughout most of the nation. The
Ridge and Valley province above the fall line is well named, with its
deep valleys and mountain ravines bordered by high rocky ridges that
adjoin the Appalachian Plateau on one side and the Piedmont on the other.
Farther south the Coastal Plain passes through pine and hardwood forests
to barrier islands and finally Mobile Bay. Alabama even has the equivalent
of a prairie ecosystem referred to as the Southeastern Plains.
any region of the world rich in biodiversity, Alabamas environmental
wealth cannot be overstated. No matter how many books are written, no
matter how many photographs are taken, there will always be room for
one more. The latest book on the states remarkable array of wildlife
and habitats has done a superb job both with writing and photography.
Southern Wonder: Alabamas Surprising Biodiversity
by R. Scot Duncan (2013, University of Alabama Press) will be a lasting
legacy that reveals the states biological heritage. Writing in
terms of geology, climate, and evolution of the past, the author explains
what is present today. The books 15 chapters address the breadth
of the states biodiversity with a fine combination of specific
examples and general explanations.
than 150 excellent color photographs alone pay tribute to some of the
fascinating habitats that support Alabamas fauna and flora. Pitcher
plant bogs, sinkholes and caves, river sandbars, dunes and swales are
but a few of the natural wonders pictured and discussed in the book.
Colored maps of physiographic regions, soils, rivers and watersheds
reveal the complex mix of natural forces that have led to the amazing
biodiversity within groups of animals ranging from mollusks to fish
to turtles and many more.
makes a key point about Alabamas plant and animal life when he
says that to understand Alabamas biodiversity, it helps
to know a little geology. In a chapter called Alabama Rocks,
he discusses the geological processes that over eons have shaped the
topography, soil types, and ultimately the ecosystems that persist.
The presentation is engaging and informative at many levels.
Wonder joins a suite of other major publications that herald the
great environmental diversity of the state and region. Fishes
of Alabama (2004) by Herb Boschung and Rick Mayden provides an
outstanding comprehensive account of the geographic region with the
highest fish biodiversity in North America. Rivers of North America
(2005) edited by Art Benke and Bert Cushing includes maps and color
photographs of Alabamas rivers, with information on geomorphology,
hydrology, and water chemistry as well as ecology. As long ago as 1995,
Chuck Lydeard and Rick Mayden published a scientific paper that proclaimed
Alabamas remarkable species diversity and noted that the natural
waters had more species of some animal groups than any other state.
book Southern Wonder joins these other scholarly yet accessible
works that lead readers to appreciate and support a region with such
an impressive assemblage of natural communities and biodiversity. We
are fortunate that every state in the nation has plants, animals, and
habitats unique to it. And they deserve our notice and protection. Much
is yet to be discovered ecologically in every region of the Southeast
and many other parts of the country. Bringing such fabulous natural
wonders to light raises awareness about them, which in turn helps ensure
that they will remain with us wherever they are.
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