PerspectiveEcology

Refuting Refugia?

Science  04 Apr 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5616, pp. 71-72
DOI: 10.1126/science.1083007

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Summary

Attempts to explain the overabundance of species in the Neotropical (Central and South American) forests have often been based on climate change arguments-the so-called "refugium hypothesis". In their Perspective, Knapp and Mallet highlight the report by Wilf et al., who provide evidence that considerable diversity already existed 52 million years ago, before the glaciations of the Pleistocene (1.64 million to 10,000 years ago). The results suggest that refugia are not the sole explanation for the Neotropical diversity. Rather, the vast, relatively unbroken continental region seems to have sufficient genetic variation, ecological diversity, and isolation by distance to drive the evolution of the diversity seen today.