Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New tropical tree species await discovery

05.06.2015

A global analysis raises the minimum estimated number of tropical tree species to at least 40,000 to 53,000 worldwide in a paper appearing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, whose co-authors include researchers from the Center for Tropical Forest Science-Forest Global Earth Observatory (CTFS-ForestGEO) and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).


Inga spiralis are plants in the bean family (Fabaceae) is only found in Panama. Many areas in the tropics have still never been thoroughly explored by botanists.

Courtesy of STRI/ Carmen Galdames

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.

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 guage 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.

Co-author 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.'

The study's lead author Ferry Slik, professor at Universiti Brunei Darussalam, collaborated with over 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. 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.

###

The Center for Tropical Forest Science-Forest Global Earth Observatories (CTFS-ForestGEO) is a global network of forest research plots and scientists dedicated to the study of tropical and temperate forest function and diversity. The multi-institutional network comprises over 60 forest research plots across the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe, with a strong focus on tropical regions. CTFS-ForestGEO monitors the growth and survival of approximately 6 million trees and 10,000 species. http://www.ctfs.si.edu/

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, is a unit of the Smithsonian Institution. The Institute furthers the understanding of tropical nature and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems. Website: http://www.stri.si.edu.

Reference: Ferry J. W. Slik, et al. 2015. An estimate of the number of tropical tree species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. DOI 10.1073/pnas.1423147112.

Media Contact

Beth King
kingb@si.edu
202-633-4700 x28216

 @stri_panama

http://www.stri.org 

Beth King | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Tropical Research ecosystems species species diversity tree species tropical

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists discover species of dolphin that existed along South Carolina coast
24.08.2017 | New York Institute of Technology

nachricht The science of fluoride flipping
24.08.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists discover species of dolphin that existed along South Carolina coast

24.08.2017 | Life Sciences

The science of fluoride flipping

24.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Optimizing therapy planning for cancers of the liver

24.08.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>