Southern Wonder: Alabama's Surprising Biodiversity by R. Scot DuncanSouthern Wonder: Alabama's Surprising Biodiversity by R. Scot Duncan

Southern Wonder: Alabama's Surprising Biodiversity

byR. Scot DuncanForeword byEdward O. Wilson

Paperback | November 19, 2013

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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
R. Scot Duncan is associate professor of biology and urban environmental studies at Birmingham-Southern College.
Title:Southern Wonder: Alabama's Surprising BiodiversityFormat:PaperbackDimensions:464 pages, 9 × 7 × 1.5 inPublished:November 19, 2013Publisher:University of Alabama PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0817357505

ISBN - 13:9780817357504


From the Author

After winning the 2014 Reed Award for Environmental Writing given by the Southern Environmental Law Center: “Alabama is a superstar of biological diversity, and Southern Wonder is my attempt to spread the word. I am humbled to be in the company of some of the South’s best environmental writers, and grateful for this opportunity to share the story of Alabama’s biodiversity with a broader audience.” "With time, I realized no single feature was responsible for Alabama’s biodiversity. Instead, three overarching natural factors have shaped the state’s biodiversity. First, Alabama’s warm, wet climate has nurtured productive ecosystems throughout the state. Second, and more influentially, geological processes guided the state to its current latitude, created a topographically diverse terrain, and exposed a great range of rock and soil types at the surface. Alabama’s combination of a mild climate and diverse terrain supports 64 distinct terrestrial and wetland ecological systems. The more ecological diversity there is in a geographic area, the higher the species count. This is a portable truth about biodiversity you can apply anywhere at any scale. A third factor, biological evolution, is a product of the other two. Radical changes in Alabama’s climate and landscape have continuously forced its flora and fauna to adjust through evolutionary adaptations. Evolution is a complex process explored later in this book, but suffice it to say that these adjustments over millions of years led many populations to become distinct species living nowhere else but in Alabama. There is a fourth reason that Alabama has so many species, but it fits awkwardly with the others. For reasons beyond the scope of this book, Alabama’s boundaries were drawn such that within the state are several distinct geographic regions, each with a unique suite of ecosystems. These include a corner of an ancient mountain range, an extensive swath of coastal plain, 50 miles of coastline, a piece of the largest temperate watershed in the world, and one of the most biodiverse watersheds in the temperate world." --Chapter One, Number One in the East

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

Editorial Reviews

"Southern Wonder is an amazing and eye-opening book, comprehensive enough to be a field guide as well as a doorway to the natural world."
-Rick Montague, in awarding the 2014 Philip D. Reed Environmental Writing Award from the Southern Environmental Law Center