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Recently, in many countries, particularly in the industrialized parts of the world, there has been an upsurge in public opinion concerned about the alarming rate of destruction of tropical ecosystems by man, and parti cularly the continuing elimination of tropical rainforest. The response to the public concern has led to a bourgeoning of popular literature. More dispas sionate scientific books are often devoted to special topics of tropical ecol ogy, e.g. biotopes such as rainforests or savannas, ecologically defined groups of plants such as mangroves, epiphytes or succulent plants, and spe cial taxa such as palms. The ecological approach of this scientific literature is predominantly floristic (and faunal) description and analysis of the diversity in associations, biotopes and ecosystems. However, the development of modern experimental technology, which is increasingly well adapted to the use in field work in the tropics, is also allowing more and more detailed ecophysiological studies. Observations in the field lead to delineation of precise problems for studies in laboratories, growth chambers and phytotrons. The results of such work are built into hypotheses, whose ecological significance in turn is tested again in the field. This fruitful ecophysiological interplay between work in the field and in the laboratory leads to an increasing understanding of physiological, biochem ical and molecular bases of ecological adaptations. Phenotypic physiologi cal plasticity is important in mechanisms of ecological adaptations and may also be involved in mechanisms of generation and maintenance of floristic and faunal diversity in ecosystems.