More than 100 species of grasses have been found in the tropics, but scientists are now discovering that this is far from the case.
The researchers from the University of New South Wales found that more than 30% of the tropical grasses in the world have less than 100 individual species.
“The diversity in the tropical forests is very different to the terrestrial forests that we are used to seeing in the western tropical regions,” said Dr Joanna Pinto, the lead author of the study.
She said that this may be because the tropical trees themselves are less suited to the water-holding role of the soil, as the canopy becomes more water-resistant.
Another major contributor to the tropic diversity are the unique species that are only found in certain parts of the tropica.
Dr Pinto said that the finding that more tropical grasslands had less than 50 species was surprising, as they have been shown in the past that tropical grass-bearing trees are much more numerous than those found in temperate regions.
And while there are several new species found in Australia, Australia is still one of the most diverse tropical grassy environments in the whole world.
In fact, Australia ranks among the top five countries for the diversity of its tropical grass grasslands, with over 1,200 species of tropical grass.
There are over 2,000 native species of the native grasses and the research has also revealed that many of these native species are more widely distributed in the Australian continent than elsewhere in the globe.
This research was funded by the Australian Research Council, the National Natural Science Foundation of Singapore and the University and National Research Foundation of Australia.
Dr Pinton said that there is a lot of research underway into the diversity and biology of the world’s tropical grass forests.
“[It] has been shown that the tropical vegetation has a very wide range of different plant species that live in and on the same plant, and they can co-exist,” she said.
It’s important that researchers can learn more about how tropical grass species co-existed in the forest to determine how many species of these species are found there and what roles they play.
To learn more, visit the Australian Tropical Grasslands website at: http://www.nature.com.au/tropical-grasslands/research/tropics-conservation-research/research-funding/australia/the-tutoro-grassland.html#.UZs7V9NQrK