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FEATURE ARTICLE

Cliffs as Natural Refuges

Rocky precipices around the world provide a surprisingly sheltered environment for plants and animals

Douglas W. Larson, Uta Matthes, Peter Kelly

Three botanists from the University of Guelph describe how they accidentally discovered an old-growth forest clinging to the face of the Niagara Escarpment, a dolomite cliff that runs through southern Ontario. This vertical woodland, and many others like it around the world, harbor many rare plants and provide habitat for a greater variety of animals than can be found in adjacent level-ground forests—making such rocky bluffs perfect natural refuges.


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