Based on studies in: South Africa (Estuarine) USA: New York, Long Island (Marine) USA: Texas (Lake or pond) USA: California (Marine) Malawi (River) Africa, Crocodile Creek, Lake Nyasa (Lake or pond) USA: California, Coachella Valley (Desert or dune) Puerto Rico, El Verde (Rainforest) New Zealand: Otago, Dempster's Stream, Taieri River, 3 O'Clock catchment (River) New Zealand: Otago, Healy Stream, Taieri River, Kye Burn catchment (River) New Zealand: Otago, Sutton Stream, Taieri River, Sutton catchment (River)
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
J. H. Day, The biology of Knysna estuary, South Africa. In: Estuaries, G. H. Lauff, Ed. (American Association for the Advancement of Science Publication 83, Washington, DC, 1967), pp. 397-407, from p. 406.
G. M. Woodwell, Toxic substances and ecological cycles, Sci. Am. 216(3):24-31, from pp. 26-27 (March 1967).
G. Fryer, The trophic interrelationships and ecology of some littoral communities of Lake Nyasa, Proc. London Zool. Soc. 132:153-229, from p. 219 (1959).
G. Fryer, 1957. The trophic interrelationships and ecology of some littoral communities of Lake Nyasa with special reference to the fishes, and a discussion of the evolution of a group of rock-frequenting Cichlidae. Proc. Zool. Soc. London 132:153-281, f
Townsend, CR, Thompson, RM, McIntosh, AR, Kilroy, C, Edwards, ED, Scarsbrook, MR. 1998. Disturbance, resource supply and food-web architecture in streams. Ecology Letters 1:200-209.
Thompson, RM and Townsend, CR. 1999. The effect of seasonal variation on the community structure and food-web attributes of two streams: implications for food-web science. Oikos 87: 75-88.
B. C. Patten and 40 co-authors, Total ecosystem model for a cove in Lake Texoma. In: Systems Analysis and Simulation in Ecology, B. C. Patten, Ed. (Academic Press, New York, 1975), 3:205-421, from pp. 236, 258, 268.
R. F. Johnston, Predation by short-eared owls on a Salicornia salt marsh, Wilson Bull. 68(2):91-102, from p. 99 (1956).
Polis GA (1991) Complex desert food webs: an empirical critique of food web theory. Am Nat 138:123155
Waide RB, Reagan WB (eds) (1996) The food web of a tropical rainforest. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
"Virtually all true mire vascular plants are perennial. This is a most effective way to ensure a large biomass, both below and above ground. In a nutrient-poor environment, a relatively large root biomass is required to obtain enough resources, and this cannot easily be built up within one season. Also, the large above-ground biomass which may be necessary for light capture in wooded mires can be built only by perennials." (Rydin and Jeglum 2006:50) Learn more about this functional adaptation.
Rydin, H.; Jeglum, J. K. 2006. The Biology of Peatlands. Oxford University Press. 343 p.
"There has been relatively little attempt to produce an artificial analogue to wood because wood is cheap, lightweight, tough, moldable, and easily shaped. However, when a hole is drilled in timber, it weakens the structure. The tree, however, drills no holes, even though it must disrupt the trunk's wood where a new branch pushes through. The fibers deform around a knothole, remaining continuous. George Jeronimidis of the Univ. of Reading Center for Biometrics is proposing to study how this can be used in fibrous composite materials." (Courtesy of the Biomimicry Guild) Learn more about this functional adaptation.
"Light harvesting in photosynthetic organisms is largely an efficient process. The first steps of the light phase of photosynthesis, capture of light quanta and primary charge separation processes are particularly well-tuned. In plants, these primary events that take place within the photosystems possess remarkable quantum efficiency, reaching 80% and 100% in photosystems II and I respectively. This paper presents a view on the organisation of a natural light harvesting machine—the antenna of the photosystem II of higher plants. It explains the key principles of biological antenna design and the strategies of adaptation to light environment which have evolved over millions of years. This article argues that the high efficiency of the light harvesting antenna and its control are intimately interconnected owing to the molecular design of the pigment–proteins it is built of, enabling high pigment density combined with the long excited-state lifetime. The protein plays the role of a programmed solvent, accommodating high quantities of pigments, while ensuring their orientations and interaction yields are optimised to efficiently transfer energy to the reaction centres, simultaneously avoiding energy losses due to concentration quenching. The minor group of pigments, the xanthophylls, play a central role in the regulation of light harvesting, defining the antenna efficiency and thus its abilities to simultaneously provide energy to photosystem II and protect itself from excess light damage. Xanthophyll hydrophobicity was found to be a key factor controlling chlorophyll efficiency by modulating pigment–pigment and pigment–protein interactions. Xanthophylls also endow the light harvesting antenna with the remarkable ability to memorise photosystem II light exposure—a light counter principle. Indeed, this type of light harvesting regulation displays hysteretic behaviour, typically observed during electromagnetic induction of ferromagnetic materials, the polarization of ferroelectric materials and the deformation of semi-elastic materials. The photosynthetic antenna is thus a magnificent example of how nature utilises the principles of physics to achieve its goal—extremely efficient, robust, autonomic and yet flexible light harvesting." (Ruban et al. 2011:1643)
"The outer rind that carries [pollen grains] is composed of a substance so stable and so resistant to rotting that it may survive for tens of thousands of years and still be recognisable." (Attenborough 1995:95) Learn more about this functional adaptation.
Attenborough, D. 1995. The Private Life of Plants: A Natural History of Plant Behavior. London: BBC Books. 320 p.
"The chemical activation of CO2, that is, the splitting of its structure in a chemical reaction, is a major challenge in synthetic chemistry because of the very high thermodynamic stability of CO2, which requires an efficient energy source for its activation. However, the fact that biogenic carbon (i.e., biomass) originates from the fixation of CO2 implies that CO2 activation must be one of the oldest reactions in biological systems and have already occurred in prebiotic times.,  Interestingly, in current photosynthetic systems, this process relies on the formation of a carbamate as the first step of the cycle, which may also have been the case in prebiotic systems, as a number of cyanide-based, nitrogen-rich, conjugated organic molecules, such as nucleic acids, porphyrins, and phthalocyanines, existed before life began." (Goettmann et al. 2007:2717) Learn more about this functional adaptation.
Goettmann, Frédéric; Thomas, Arne; Antonietti, Markus. 2007. Metal-Free Activation of CO2 by Mesoporous Graphitic Carbon Nitride. Angewandte Chemie International Edition. 46(15): 2717-2720.
"Plant cuticular materials are important precursors for soil organic matter (SOM). The plant cuticle is a thin, predominantly lipid layer that covers all primary aerial surfaces of vascular plants. Plant cuticle has been found in considerable amounts in both natural and agricultural soils. In most plant species, the major structural component of the plant cuticle is the cutin biopolymer (30–70% by weight). This is a high-molecular-weight, insoluble, polyester-like biopolymer, which is most often associated with waxes and cuticular polysaccharides. Cutin provides the structural framework for the cuticle and acts as a physical barrier, protecting the plant against microbial attack and water loss. In some plant species, the cutin biopolymer is associated with a base and acid hydrolysis resistant, polymethylene-like biopolymer, known as cutan. The function of the cutan is similar to that of the cutin, but in addition, it enhances the hydrophobic nature of the cuticle...Recently, it has been documented that plant cuticular matter exhibits high sorption capabilities for polar and nonpolar organic compounds...the objective of this study was to evaluate the role of important precursors for SOM, cutin and cutan biopolymers, as natural sorbents for organic compounds in soils." (Shechter et al. 2011:1139-1140)
"This study demonstrates the important role of the aliphatic biopolymers cutin and cutan as natural sorbents in soil. Although they were subjected to decomposition, they still exhibited a high sorption capacity. With humification and degradation, however, cutan is most likely to act as a highly efficient aliphatic-rich sorbent in soil. The cutan biopolymer is more likely to accumulate in soils via selective preservation, whereas the decomposed products of the cutin are probably transformed into humic-like substances during humification processes." (Shechter et al. 2011:1145)
"The gymnosperms, and the flowering plants which evolved more recently, among other, much smaller groups, have developed pollen which carries the male gamete in a form protected from dehydration to special receptive structures in the female part of the flower (pollination)." (Cutler 2005:96) Learn more about this functional adaptation.
Cutler, DF. 2005. Design in plants. In: Collins, MW; Atherton, MA; Bryant, JA, editors. Nature and Design. Southampton, Boston: WIT Press. p 95-124
Leaves resist gravitational loading: broad-leaved trees
The broad leaf of a tree resists gravitational loading through its internal anisotropic structure: liquid-filled cells along the bottom resist compression, and, along the top, long cells with lengthwise fibers resist tension.
"Consider a broad leaf on a tree. The greatest forces on its petiole ('stem') and midrib probably occur as it's pulled by the drag of the blade in a wind storm, but these forces are tensile and thus easy to resist. Without wind, it's a beam faced with the task of keeping its blade in a position to intercept sunlight, which, on the average, comes from above. So its design, as in figure 18.8, ought to reflect gravitational loading. Which it does, but more by using internal material anisotropy than externally obvious cross-sectional specialization. It uses thick-walled, liquid-filled cells along its bottom, which resist compression well, and long cells with lengthwise fibers along the top, which act as ropy tension resistors. The petiole and midrib are as truly cantilevers as any protruding I-beam, but internal structure--anisotropy at various levels--matters at least as much as overall cross section in efficiently dealing with gravity. And the rest of the leaf blade, an extension of the cantilever, faces much the same mechanical situation. Veins protrude downward to get some height to the beam and to continue the compression-resisting material of petiole and midrib. The blade is always at the top--a flat sheet can take tension, but it's almost as bad in compression as a rope." (Vogel 2003:375-376) Learn more about this functional adaptation.
Steven Vogel. 2003. Comparative Biomechanics: Life's Physical World. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 580 p.