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Department ofBotany

No. 370
October 2015

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In This Issue

Many Tropical Tree Species Have Yet to Be Discovered

-Adapted from

A global analysis raises the minimum estimated number of tropical tree species to at least 40,000–53,000 worldwide in a paper appearing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, whose coauthors include researchers from the Center for Tropical Forest Science–Forest Global Earth Observatory (CTFS–ForestGEO) and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). Many of these species risk extinction because of their rarity and restriction to small geographic areas, reaffirming the need for comprehensive, pan-tropical conservation efforts.

The plant Inga spiralis in the bean family (Fabaceae) is only found in Panama. Many areas in the tropics have still never been thoroughly explored by botanists. (Photo by Carmen Galdamez)

The plant Inga spiralis in the bean family (Fabaceae) is only found in Panama. Many areas in the tropics have still never been thoroughly explored by botanists. (Photo by Carmen Galdamez)

Although scientists could confidently say "the tropics are diverse," the answer to "how diverse" still remains open to speculation. Tropical tree identification is notoriously difficult—hampered by hard-to-access terrain and the sheer number of rare species. Much of the data came from CTFS–ForestGEO study sites, where standardized pan-tropical survey methods create opportunities to much more accurately gauge tropical diversity.

By raising the estimated minimum number of tree species in the world, estimates for the number of insect and microbe species associated with tropical trees also increases, placing an even higher premium on protection of these forest ecosystems.

Coauthor William Laurance, senior research associate at STRI and Distinguished Research Professor at James Cook University, explains that the "stunningly high tree diversity" of the tropics is represented by thousands of rare species, whose sparse populations may not be sustained in the long term by isolated protected areas.

"This study once again validates a strategy of making forest reserves as big as possible, and also trying to prevent their isolation from adjoining areas of forest," Laurance said.

The study's lead author Ferry Slik, professor at Universiti Brunei Darussalam, collaborated with more than 170 scientists from 126 institutions to study a dataset composed of 207 forested locations across tropical America, Africa and the Indo-Pacific. Each forest plot contains at least 250 individual trees identified to species, ensuring comprehensive coverage of the total species diversity in each geographical area.

The palm genus Calyptrogyne is native to Central America. Eleven of the 17 known species, like <i>Calyptrogyne costatifrons</i> (shown here), are endemic to Panama. Because many tropical plant species are only found in small, hard-to-reach areas, the total number of plant species in the tropics is still unknown. (Photo by Rolando Perez)

The palm genus Calyptrogyne is native to Central America. Eleven of the 17 known species, like Calyptrogyne costatifrons (shown here), are endemic to Panama. Because many tropical plant species are only found in small, hard-to-reach areas, the total number of plant species in the tropics is still unknown. (Photo by Rolando Perez)

Among their findings, the researchers note that, contrary to previous assumptions, the Indo-Pacific tropics contain as much species diversity as tropical America—at least 19,000 species. Both tropical America and the Indo-Pacific are about five times as species-rich as Africa, whose forests are hypothesized to have experienced extensive extinction events during the Pleistocene era of glaciation and climate change. All three regions contain distinct tree lineages reflecting unique evolutionary histories.

Researchers note that their calculations excluded some 10 percent of unidentifiable trees in a dataset comprising 657,630 individuals. Since these trees could reasonably represent rare or previously unknown species, there's a high likelihood that the world's estimates of total tree species diversity will keep increasing as more of the tropics are surveyed and studied. Laurance notes that the CTFS–ForestGEO network continues to grow, adding new forest plots not just for basic research but also "as barometers of the long-term effects of global change on forest communities."

Meanwhile, as deforestation and development increase the extinction risk for many unique species, lessons may be learned from Africa's reduced tropical diversity. When forest areas shrink, rare species are usually the first to disappear. Consequently, even if the extinction pressure is eventually lifted, a much more limited palette of species remains to repopulate the region. While the tropics are vast and diverse, their individual components are irreplaceable.

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Carvalho, A.F., and Del Lama, M.A. 2015. Predicting priority areas for conservation from historical climate modelling: stingless bees from Atlantic Forest hotspot as a case study. J. Insect Conserv. 19(3):581-587.

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Charpentier, A. 2015. Insights from life history theory for an explicit treatment of trade-offs in conservation biology. Conserv. Biol. 29(3):738-747.

Chynoweth, M.W., Çoban, E., and Şekercioğlu, Ç.H. 2015. Conservation of a new breeding population of Caucasian lynx (Lynx lynx dinniki) in eastern Turkey. Turk. J. Zool. 39(3):541-543.

Ciechanowski, M. 2015. Habitat preferences of bats in anthropogenically altered, mosaic landscapes of northern Poland. Eur. J. Wildlife Res. 61(3):415-428.

Cieraad, E., Burrows, L., Monks, A., and Walker, S. 2015. Woody native and exotic species respond differently to New Zealand dryland soil nutrient and moisture gradients. New Zeal. J. Ecol. 39(2):198-207.

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Clark, R.D., Mathieu, R., and Seddon, P.J. 2015. Selection for protection from insolation results in the visual isolation of Yellow-eyed Penguin Megadyptes antipodes nests. Bird Conserv. Int. 25(2):192-206.

Clark, R.P., and Gagnon, E. 2015. A revision of Mezoneuron (Leguminosae: Caesalpinioideae) in New Caledonia, with perspectives on vegetation, geology, and conservation. Phytotaxa 207(1):68-92.

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Clavero, M. 2015. Non-Native species as conservation priorities: response to Diez-Leon et al. Conserv. Biol. 29(3):957-959.

Clouet, M., and Barrau, C. 2015. Decline of the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) in Ethiopia. J. Raptor Res. 49(2):222-226.

Cogoni, D., Fenu, G., and Bacchetta, G. 2015. Reproductive biology of the narrow endemic Anchusa littorea Moris (Boraginaceae), an endangered coastal Mediterranean plant. Turk. J. Bot. 39(4):642-652.

Colangelo, P., Abiadh, A., Aloise, G., Amori, G., Capizzi, D., Vasa, E., Annesi, F., and Castiglia, R. 2015. Mitochondrial phylogeography of the black rat supports a single invasion of the western Mediterranean basin. Biol. Invasions 17(6):1859-1868.

Coleby, D. 2015. Epacris browniae (Ericaceae), a newly discovered shrub from the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Telopea 18:67-72.

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Constantine, R., Johnson, M., Riekkola, L., Jervis, S., Kozmian-Ledward, L., Dennis, T., Torres, L.G., and de Soto, N.A. 2015. Mitigation of vessel-strike mortality of endangered Bryde's whales in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand. Biol. Conserv. 186:149-157.

Crees, J.J., and Turvey, S.T. 2015. What constitutes a 'native' species? Insights from the Quaternary faunal record. Biol. Conserv. 186:143-148.

Crespin, S.J., and Simonetti, J.A. 2015. Predicting ecosystem collapse: Spatial factors that influence risks to tropical ecosystems. Austral Ecol. 40(4):492-501.

Crocker, E.V., Karp, M.A., and Nelson, E.B. 2015. Virulence of oomycete pathogens from Phragmites australis-invaded and noninvaded soils to seedlings of wetland plant species. Ecol. Evol. 5(11):2127-2139.

Crosby, A.D., Elmore, R.D., Leslie, D.M., and Will, R.E. 2015. Looking beyond rare species as umbrella species: Northern Bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) and conservation of grassland and shrubland birds. Biol. Conserv. 186:233-240.

Cruz-Elizalde, R., Ramírez-Bautista, A., Wilson, L.D., and Hernández-Salinas, U. 2015. Effectiveness of protected areas in herpetofaunal conservation in Hidalgo, Mexico. Herp. J. 25(1):41-48.

Čuda, J., Skálová, H., Janovský, Z., and Pyšek, P. 2015. Competition among native and invasive Impatiens species: the roles of environmental factors, population density and life stage. AoB Plants 7:plv033.

Cuissi, R.G., Lasmar, C.J., Moretti, T.S., Schmidt, F.A., Fernandes, W.D., Falleiros, A.B., Schoereder, J.H., and Ribas, C.R. 2015. Ant community in natural fragments of the Brazilian wetland: species-area relation and isolation. J. Insect Conserv. 19(3):531-537.

Cysneiros, V.C., Mendonça, J.D., Gaui, T.D., and Braz, D.M. 2015. Diversity, community structure and conservation status of an Atlantic Forest fragment in Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil. Biota Neotrop. 15(2):15.

D'hondt, B., Vanderhoeven, S., Roelandt, S., Mayer, F., Versteirt, V., Adriaens, T., Ducheyne, E., San Martin, G., Grégoire, J.C., Stiers, I., Quoilin, S., Cigar, J., Heughebaert, A., and Branquart, E. 2015. Harmonia + and Pandora +: risk screening tools for potentially invasive plants, animals and their pathogens. Biol. Invasions 17(6):1869-1883.

da Silva, V.L., and Schmitt, J.L. 2015. The effects of fragmentation on Araucaria forest: analysis of the fern and lycophyte communities at sites subject to different edge conditions. Acta Bot. Bras. 29(2):223-230.

Dahal, B.R., McAlpine, C.A., and Maron, M. 2015. Impacts of extractive forest uses on bird assemblages vary with landscape context in lowland Nepal. Biol. Conserv. 186:167-175.

Daley, R.K., Williams, A., Green, M., Barker, B., and Brodie, P. 2015. Can marine reserves conserve vulnerable sharks in the deep sea? A case study of Centrophorus zeehaani (Centrophoridae), examined with acoustic telemetry. Deep-Sea Res. Pt. II 115:127-136.

Daw, T.M., Coulthard, S., Cheung, W.W.L., Brown, K., Abunge, C., Galafassi, D., Peterson, G.D., McClanahan, T.R., Omukoto, J.O., and Munyi, L. 2015. Evaluating taboo trade-offs in ecosystems services and human well-being. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 112(22):6949-6954.

De Faria, J.E.Q., Mazine, F.F., and Proença, C. 2015. Two new species of Eugenia (Myrtaceae) from the Cabo Frio Center of Plant Diversity, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Phytotaxa 208(3):201-208.

de Fraga, C.N., Meneguzzo, T.E.C., and Saddi, E.M. 2015. The true identity of Serapias nitida, a species of Buchtienia (Orchidaceae) from Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Taxon 64(2):355-361.

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Zahawi, R.A., Dandois, J.P., Holl, K.D., Nadwodny, D., Reid, J.L., and Ellis, E.C. 2015. Using lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor tropical forest recovery. Biol. Conserv. 186:287-295.

Zarate-Barrera, T.G., and Maldonado, J.H. 2015. Valuing blue carbon: carbon sequestration benefits provided by the marine protected areas in Colombia. PLoS ONE 10(5):e0126627.

Zarones, L., Sussman, A., Morton, J.M., Plentovich, S., Faegre, S., Aguon, C., Amar, A., and Ha, R.R. 2015. Population status and nest success of the Critically Endangered Mariana Crow Corvus kubaryi on Rota, Northern Mariana Islands. Bird Conserv. Int. 25(2):220-233.

Zeng, Q., Shi, L.L., Wen, L., Chen, J.Z., Duo, H.R., and Lei, G.C. 2015. Gravel bars can be critical for biodiversity conservation: a case study on scaly-sided merganser in South China. PLoS ONE 10(5):e0127387.

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Zhang, L., Dong, L., Lin, L., Feng, L.M., Yan, F., Wang, L.X., Guo, X.M., and Luo, A.D. 2015. Asian elephants in China: estimating population size and evaluating habitat suitability. PLoS ONE 10(5):e0124834.

Zhang, L.J., and Lou, A.R. 2015. Pollen limitation in invasive populations of Solanum rostratum and its relationship to population size. J. Plant Ecol. 8(2):154-158.

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