Along the Rivers – The Gallery Forests

Along the Rivers – The Gallery Forests

In this research paper, I have explored the gallery forests by clarifying the concept behind the term “gallery forest”, and studying their biogeography by reviewing some important ecoregions of North America and South America. I have discussed some of the notable gallery forests found in the Americas with respect to their geography, flora, and fauna. It is hoped that this paper will serve the interests of biologists, ecologists, botanists, zoologists, arborists, forest ecologists, biogeologists, biogeographists, and all other people including professionals, students, and laymen eager to learn about the gallery forests.

A gallery forest is a narrow stretch or strip of forest along the banks of a water body, such as a river or stream, flowing through an otherwise open country. In the above context, an open country is defined as a region that is treeless or sparsely covered with trees. A gallery forest is also known as a fringing forest or riparian forest or riverine forest. Such forests are commonly found along the water bodies flowing through the savanna (or savannah) regions. The gallery forests are known to contain different types of woody vegetation. The width of a gallery forest may vary from several miles to complete absence along the same river.

Gallery Forests of the Americas

Some of the notable examples of gallery forests found in the continents of North America and South America are as follows -

Gallery Forests of Llanos Ecoregion

The Venezuelan Llanos and the Llanos Orientales collectively form a single ecoregion called the Los Llanos, or Llanos of the Orinoquia, or just Llanos. The term “Llanos” has been derived from the Spanish word “llano”, which means “plain, even, flat, smooth, or level”. Venezuelan Llanos region includes the tropical grasslands of the western Venezuela. Llanos Orientales region is comprised of the eastern tropical savanna plains of Colombia.

The llanos ecoregion has gallery forests of various types. These gallery forests follow the courses of the rivers and streams of the Llanos ecoregion. In those cases, where the rivers overflow their banks, the gallery forests get flooded to form seasonal swamp forests. In those cases, where the gallery forests occur on the higher banks, they do not get flooded and have semi-deciduous trees of medium height.

The River Meta (Rio Meta) is the principal river of the Llanos Orientales area. A number of tributaries carrying most of the water descending from the Eastern Andes drain into the Meta River. Meta River flows to the east and forms the border between Colombia and Venezuela. Finally, it joins the River Orinoco (Rio Orinoco), which flows towards the Atlantic Ocean. Gallery forests of the Llanos Orientales area border most rivers, streams, and the shallow, broad drainage ways (known as the Esteros). The gallery forests occurring along the drainage ways have a high percentage of the Moriche Palm (Mauritia minor / Mauritia flexuosa), forming the regions known as Morichales.

According to some experts, Llanos ecoregion is known to have over 100 species of mammals and more than 700 species of birds. The National Bird of Venezuela, Venezuelan Troupial (Icterus icterus), is also found in the gallery forests of the Llanos. Some of the endangered species found in the Llanos region include -

  • Orinoco Crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius)
  • Orinoco turtle / Giant South American turtle / Arrau River Turtle / South American River Turtle (Podocnemis expansa)
  • Giant Armadillo (Priodontes maximus)
  • Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis)
  • Black-and-chestnut Eagle / Isidor’s Eagle (Spizaetus isidori)

Other animals found in the Llanos include -

  • Birds like sandpipers and yellowlegs
  • Laulao Catfish / Piramutaba (Brachyplatystoma vaillantii)
  • Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), which is the largest rodent in the world
  • Anaconda / Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus) – the world’s largest snake with respect to its huge girth

along the rivers - the gallery forests adidarwinian
Gallery Forests of Southeastern Venezuela

In the Venezuelan Guiana region of South America, the types of gallery forests range from the evergreen seasonal gallery forests to the semi-evergreen and deciduous seasonal gallery forests to the areas of thorn woodlands. Along the Caura River that flows south of the Orinoco River in Venezuela, extensive swamp gallery forests occur. La Gran Sabana (Spanish) / The Great Savanna region of southeastern Venezuela has specialized and reduced sclerophyll type gallery forests.

Gallery Forests of Cerrado Region

Gallery forests are also present in the Cerrado Region of South America. The Cerrado Region comprises most of the central Brazil along with small extensions into north-eastern Paraguay and eastern Bolivia. The Cerrado Region is also known as the Brazilian Savanna. The Cerrado region is the largest savanna region in South America. Cerrado is the richest savanna, in terms of biodiversity, in the world.

Cerrado is rich in flora and fauna. Cerrado has about 10,000 species of plants, about 90,000 species of insects (Dias 1992), about 1200 species of fishes, about 150 species of amphibians, about 180 species of reptiles, about 935 species of birds, and about 300 species of mammals. About 45 % species of plants found in Cerrado are endemic to it. Cerrado’s fauna includes some interesting animal species like -

  • Birds such as –
    • Rhea (Rhea americana)
    • Red-Legged Seriema (Cariama cristata)
    • Cone-billed Tanager (Conothraupis mesoleuca)
    • White-striped Warbler (Basileuterus leucophrys)
    • Dwarf Tinamou (Taoniscus nanus)
    • Spix’s macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii)
  • Pampas Cat (Oncefelis colocolo)
  • Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)
  • Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus)
  • Marsh Deer (Blastocerus dichotomus)
  • Jaguar (Panthera onca)
  • Brazilian Three-banded Armadillo (Tolypeutes tricinctus)

Gallery Forests of Konza Prairie

The Konza Prairie, in North America, is a tallgrass prairie reserve. Konza Prairie is located in the Flint Hills in the northeastern part of the US state of Kansas. Konza Prairie is dominated by its native tallgrasses, which may attain height of over 8 feet.

According to the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (NPWRC) of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Konza Prairie has more than five hundred species of wildflowers (smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), etc), shrubs (buckbrush (Ceanothus cuneatus), etc), and trees. Konza Prairie has more than 290 species of vertebrates and a diverse range of the invertebrates.

The Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS) reports over 600 species of plants and over 200 species of resident and migratory birds in Konza Prairie.

The flora of Konza Prairie is dominated by the following species of perennial, warm-season grasses -

  • Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
  • Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) – Little Bluestem is the State Grass of Kansas.
  • Yellow Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans)
  • Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)

Gallery forests of Konza Prairie include tress such as –

  • Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
  • Chinquapin Oak or Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii)
  • Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
  • American elm (Ulmus americana)

    A Glance into the Human Brain

    A Glance into the Human Brain – Structure and Functions of the Human Brain (Human Brain’s Anatomy and Physiology) – A Voyage Into the Human Brain!

    This article describes the structure of human brain (anatomy of human brain) and functions of human brain (physiology of human brain), which is the most complex and mysterious organ of the human body. This article is expected to cater the needs of a variety of audiences including the students, teachers, healthcare professionals, and the laymen. The article has been written in an easy-to-understand language and richly annotated with definitions of difficult medical terms including etymologies.

    The human brain is the most sophisticated organ of the human body, and can aptly be called as a biological marvel. The brain and the spinal cord constitute the central nervous system (CNS). The brain plays the role of the control tower or control center of the human body, and relies on a vast network of nerves (bundles of fibers of nervous tissue carrying impulses) spread throughout the body. Nerves can be compared to the electrical wiring as they carry electrical impulses.

    Noteworthy Facts about the Human Brain!

    • The brain of human beings resembles a small cauliflower in its size and appearance.
    • Human brain is comprised of about 100 billion neurons or nerve cells.
    • The weight of an adult human brain is about 1300 g (about 3 pounds), whereas the weight of a newborn’s brain lies in the range of 350 – 400 g.
    • Although the brain of a human being accounts for only 2 % of the total body weight, it utilizes 20 % of the of the resting total body oxygen consumption.
    • Human brain contains 77 to 78 % water, 10 to 12 % lipids, 8 % proteins, 2 % soluble organic substances, 1 % carbohydrates, and 1 % inorganic salts.
    • The cerebral cortex forms 77% by volume of the human brain.
    • Cerebrum is the largest part of the human brain, whereas Cerebellum is the second largest.
    • Left side of the brain (left cerebral hemisphere) controls the right side of the body, whereas the right side of the brain (right cerebral hemisphere) controls the left side of the human body.

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      Seahorses in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

      Seahorses are magnificent fishes that exhibit the phenomenon of male pregnancy. Pregnancy in males is unique to seahorses in the entire animal kingdom, thus, making them a true biological marvel. This exclusive behavior was discussed in detail in my research article titled “Seahorse – Male Endurance – Roles Swapped!!” Here, in this new research paper / article, I shall explore the use of seahorses in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

      Seahorses are globally exploited for use as aquarium fishes, curios (articles or objects of curiosity), medicines, and even foods. Use of Seahorses in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) was first mentioned in the book named “Bencao Shiyi” (Supplement to Materia Medica), written by Chen Cangqi around 720 A.D.

      Seahorses are used in the treatment of a wide range of health problems under the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is a complementary and alternative system of medicine (CAM). You can refer to my article – “The Basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)” to learn the fundamentals of TCM. Seahorses are employed in the treatment of sexual weakness, reduced sexual desire or drive (reduced libido; libido means sexual desire or sex drive), and are considered as broad-spectrum or general tonics. The practitioners of TCM claim that seahorses strengthen “kidneys” and improve “nerves”, which in the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine points to general morale, well-being, and vigor. “kidneys” also imply sexual function in the context of TCM. Seahorses are categorized under sweet, salty, and warm medicines. They are usually not prescribed alone but in combo-preparations (formulations containing multiple ingredients) containing matter from other animals and plants.

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