The different vegetation ecosystems that exist in the world have their characteristic species of plants and animals. Natural vegetations are delimited by climatic factors such as precipitation, insolation, pressure, etc. It is rare to find a species of plant or animal in a cross-climatic distribution, although there are a few exceptions.
Tropical ecosystems are the ecosystems found within the tropical zones, the area that lies within the tropic of Capricorn and tropic of cancer, about 231/2 degrees North and South of the equator respectively. These regions are characterized by an average annual temperature of 20 to 30 degrees Celsius with the minimum temperature being as low as 0 degrees without snow and the maximum as high as 40 degrees. Precipitation in the form of rainfall is usually abundant and shows seasonal rhythms depending on the type of tropical climate.
Tropical climates are of three types, including:
- Tropical rainforest/equatorial climate
- Tropical monsoon climate
- Tropical savanna climate
Within each climatic type, living organisms have to specifically adapt to the various climatic factors. Tropical rainforest climate is limited to within 10 to 15 degrees latitude of the equator characterized by an average of 60 mm precipitation each month of the year with a very short dry season. The tropical monsoon climate stands between rainforest and savanna climate, experiences lesser rainfall than rainforest but more than savanna, and lesser variation in average monthly temperature than savanna but more than rainforest.
Almond Tree as an indicator plant species in the Tropical Forest
The tropical forest is a house to a large percentage of the world's plant and animal biodiversity. In actual fact, about 80 percent of the world's biodiversity is housed within the tropical forest; a region that covers only about 6 percent of the plant's land surface. These organisms found within this forest have found a way to adapt to the climatic factors that are characteristic of it. One of the most popular tree species within the tropical forest is the almond tree, scientifically known as Terminalia catappa
T. catappa is one of the species of plant in the genus Terminalia in the Combretaceae flowering plant family. Other popular species found within the genus include T. superba, *T. microcarpa *, T. ivorensis, etc.
T catappa grows as a medium-size tree and is widely distributed within the tropical forest. The growth features of the plant typify the kind of adaptation that is characteristic of tropical forest trees.
T. catappa is a dicotyledonous plant with a taproot. Some of the taproots of the plant do not grow deep into the soil. Instead, they grow out wide and large in a shallow fashion and are able to absorb nutrients from the top and subsoil, especially in areas with soils that are poor in nutrients. This form of taproots that grow shallowly large and wide in different directions around a tree are known as buttress roots. Buttress roots not only help to absorb nutrients but provide supports to trees against winds.
The stem of the plant grows as an erect, cylindrical, and gnarled bole with some form of scales on its bark. The gnarled bole and scaly bark is a kind of adaptation against fires that ocassionally spring up in tropical forests. The stem can grow as high as 35 m depending on the environmental conditions of where it is growing.
The leaves of almond trees are broadly large, ovoidal with net veination. They are characteristically green in colour with the adaxial surface greener than the abaxial surface. The leaves are covered in a waxy-like cuticle to limit evapotranspiration rate and the adaxial surfaces are usually shiny in order to ensure that a large percentage of the incidental radiation from the sun is reflected to prevent overheating. They also possess drip tips, an adaptation that ensures that the leaves do not become water-logged after episodes of rain.
T. catappa is a decidous plant in that the leaves are shed during the dry season and bloom again when the rainy season is approaching. The green leaves usually turn redish or yellowish due to abscission before falling off. The falling off of the leaves is a form of adaptation to conserve resources that are often limited during the dry season.
The fruits of almond tree are in the form of a drupe. They are usually characterized by a fleshy mesocarp and stony endocarp that houses the seed. The mesocarp of mature fruits is usually greenish yellow or red and is edible with a characteristic sweet taste. The stony endocarp contains a single seed which gives a characteristic almond taste when consumed at maturity.
Almond trees are often planted for ornmental purposes and for their shades. This makes the tree to be common in public car parks in the various countries where they grow, although they often end up consittuting nuisance as a result of their butress roots at maturity.
The stems of almond trees provide for a good source of wood for construction and cooking purposes among the locals. The fleshy mesocarp serves as food for the locals and have been researched to be highly nutritious with the nutritional contents varying from variety to variety. The seeds are also removed by breaking the stony endocarp using suitable objects and are consumed for the tastes and nutritional benefits.
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