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Geologically vibrant continents produce higher biodiversity


Using a new mechanistic model of evolution on Earth, researchers at ETH Zurich can now better explain why the rainforests of Africa are home to fewer species than the tropical forests of South America and Southeast Asia. The key to high species diversity lies in how dynamically the continents have evolved over time.

Tropical rainforests are the most biodiverse habitats on Earth. They are home to a huge number of different plants, animals, fungi and other organisms. These forests are primarily spread over three continents, concentrated in the Amazon Basin in South America, the Congo Basin in Central Africa, and the vast archipelago of Southeast Asia.

One might assume that all tropical rainforests are about equally diverse due to their stable warm and humid climate and their geographical location around the equator – but this is not the case. Compared to South America and Southeast Asia, the number of species in Africa’s humid tropical forests is significantly lower for many groups of organisms. MORE

Header image: The tropical forests of South America are much more species-​rich compared to those of Africa. The Andean Cock-​of-the Rock (Rupicola peruvianus) is a particularly striking representative of South America’s diversity. Credit: AdobeStock / ondrejprosicky.