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Microclimate   [ Ecology ]
Adjective: Microclimatic, Microclimatologic or Microclimatological
Noun: Microclimatology

Dictionary of botanic terminology
index of names

  1. The climate of a specific local zone as contrasted with the climate of the entire area around it.      (Compare with: macroclimate)
  2. The environmental conditions in the immediate vicinity of a plant or plant part.
  3. The climate of a microhabitat.

A microclimate is the climate within a small, defined area, usually in the layer near the ground which is possibly different from the area directly surrounding that can dramatically affect the character of the environmental condition (temperature, exposure, humidity, drainage, air movement etc)

A microclimate can be quite small (a protected recess next to the north-facing side of a stone, for example is cooler and wet than the south-facing side nearby) or may be extensive (a band extending several miles inland from a large body of water that moderates temperatures or a woodland habitat that is cooler, darker, and less windy than an area of open land). Microclimates can be caused by slope of the land, soil type and colour, fog, exposure, wind, vegetation, hollows, structures, proximity to bodies of water and possibly many other factors.

The warmth and humidity of the air in close proximity to a plant may differ significantly from the general climate of the area around it. For example many cactus and succulents are frequently found in close association with larger plants ("nurse plants") this is a natural phenomenon resulting from the shelter they offer. Since the partial shading from surrounding bush may be important in providing a favourable microclimate for growth. Successful seedlings tend to be found in close proximity to shrubs, trees, other cacti, or rocks. However, plants do occur out in more open areas.

Internal microclimate may also been evident within a single individual plant, for example the dense cover of spines of certain cactus provide to maintain an internal microclimate for thermoregulatory benefits by shading the rounded or ribbed stem from the blazing sun of the desert where they dwell.

Microclimates play a significant role in horticulture, as different plant require different growing conditions. Microclimates can be used to the advantage of gardeners who carefully choose and position their plants. For example raised beds and terraces - like hillside slopes - can warm and drain better than a flat ground, especially if they are oriented toward the south.





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