By Richard Garratt; Michael Allaby; Trevor Day; Peter D Moore
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Extra resources for Biomes of the Earth
The nutrients that sustain plants originate in the mineral particles from which all soils are made, but as soils grow older, little by little they lose their nutrients. Tropical soils are often deep, so that the underlying rock lies much farther below the surface than it would in a temperate soil. Their depth makes the soils easy to till, but it is a sign of their age and does not mean they are fertile. Many tropical soils are very acidic, contain few mineral nutrients, and lose organic matter very readily.
There are likewise fossilized seashells high up in the Himalayan rocks, and some of the rocks of the Andes once lay on the ocean floor or near the coast. Once rocks have been raised up to form mountain ranges, they are exposed to the wind and rain, to freezing temperatures in winter, and to the blazing sunshine of summer. Water seeps into cracks, then freezes, expanding as it does so and widening the crack until fragments of rock break free. Rain carries some of these fragments away, rolling them down the mountainside, where they knock particles from other rocks and lose particles themselves.
In fact, it is the combination of high temperatures and an abundance of water that produces the high equatorial rainfall. As the Earth moves in its orbit around the Sun, the tilt of its axis means that first one hemisphere and then the other faces the Sun. In the hemisphere that is tilted toward the Sun and enjoying summer, the Sun rises higher in the sky than it does during winter. The Sun is never directly overhead in San Francisco, however. On Midsummer Day in the Northern Hemisphere, when the noonday Sun reaches its highest point in the sky, the Sun is directly overhead at the tropic of Cancer—and it is Midwinter Day in the Southern Hemisphere.