Southern Wonder: Alabama's Surprising Biodiversity

Southern Wonder: Alabama's Surprising Biodiversity


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Southern Wonder explores Alabama’s amazing biological diversity, the reasons for the large number of species in the state, and the importance of their preservation.

Alabama ranks fifth in the nation in number of species of plants and animals found in the state, surpassed only by the much larger western states of California,Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. When all the species of birds, trees, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, wildflowers, dragonflies, tiger beetles, and ants are tallied, Alabama harbors more species than 90 percent of the other states in the United States. Alabamais particularly rich in aquatic biodiversity, leading the nation in species of freshwater fishes, turtles, mussels, crayfish, snails, damselflies, and carnivorous plants. The state also hosts an exceptional number of endemic species—those not found beyond its borders—ranking seventh in the nation with 144 species. The state’s 4,533 species, with more being inventoried and discovered each year, are supported by no less than 64 distinct ecological systems—each a unique blend of soil, water, sunlight, heat, and natural disturbance regimes. Habitats include dry forests, moist forests, swamp forests, sunny prairies, grassy barrens, scorching glades, rolling dunes, and bogs filled with pitcher plants and sundews. The state also includes a region of subterranean ecosystems that are more elaborate and species rich than any other place on the continent.

Although Alabama is teeming with life, the state’s prominence as a refuge for plants and animals is poorly appreciated. Even among Alabama’s citizens, few outside a small circle of biologists, advocates, and other naturalists understand the special quality of the state’s natural heritage. R. Scot Duncan rectifies this situation in Southern Wonder by providing a well-written, comprehensive overview that the general public, policy makers, and teachers can understand and use. Readers are taken on an exploratory journey of the state’s varied landscapes—from the Tennessee River Valley to the coastal dunes—and are introduced to remarkable species, such as the cave salamander and the beach mouse. By interweaving the disciplines of ecology, evolution, meteorology, and geology into an accessible whole, Duncan explains clearly why Alabama is so biotically rich and champions efforts for its careful preservation.

Published in Cooperation with The Nature Conservancy

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780817357504
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Publication date: 11/19/2013
Edition description: 1
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 1,197,091
Product dimensions: 7.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author

R. Scot Duncan is associate professor of biology and urban environmental studies at Birmingham-Southern College.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One.

Sample: "Despite our wondrous technological advances and wealth of knowledge, we are creatures dependent upon our ecosystems for survival. This can be hard to fathom, especially for those of us who spend most of our lives within cities, buildings, and cars. However, trace the production path of the book in your hand, the food on your plate, or the water in your cup, and soon you will find a forest, field, or river where native species and natural ecological processes are essential for its production. The conversion of natural resources to food, fiber, and fuel tightly binds our fate to the land and ocean and is one of the most fundamental relationships on which our civilizations, and our individual lives, are built."

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Number One in the East
2. A Tale of Two Mice
3. Anomalous Alabama
4. Alabama Rocks
5. Biodiversity through Deep Time
6. Speciation Southern-Style
7. The Aquatic State
8. Southern Coastal Plain
9. Southeastern Plains
10. Ridge and Valley
11. Southwestern Appalachians
12. Piedmont
13. Interior Plateau
14. Gulf of Mexico
15. The Future of Alabama's Biodiversity
List of Abbreviations


General public, policy-makers, environmental organizations, teachers; natural history museums; state libraries.

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