So far, researchers have been able to find around 12,000 Amazonian tree species. Researchers estimate there could be about 4,000 more species yet to be discovered.
Amazon is unlike any other forest existing in the world. The forest is so diverse that it took around three centuries to catalogue tree species found in it but still we have not discovered the last one. So far, researchers have been able to find around 12,000 different tree species while thousands more are still unreached.
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The exact number of Amazonian tree species has long been a mystery. In 2013, researchers estimated that there could be around 16000 tree species in the Amazon, but no one ever had attempted to count them all up and to keep a record. This is the first serious attempt to find how many trees species have already been identified and how many have yet to be discovered.
“Before this paper we didn’t have a list of Amazonian trees,” said co-author Nigel Pitman, a tropical forest ecologist at the Field Museum in Chicago. “With this list we are answering ‘How many species have been found?’ and ‘What are they?’”
An international team of botanists looked at more than half a million specimen collected from the Amazon between 1707 and 2015 and came up with a list of 11,676 tree species. Based on this figure, they suspect that about 4,000 more species are remained to be discovered and described.
“Since 1900, between fifty and two hundred new trees have been discovered in the Amazon every year. Our analysis suggests that we won’t be done discovering new tree species there for three more centuries.” Pitman said.
For compiling the list, researchers used photographs and digital records pieced together by Amazonian countries while they did not need to visit the places in person. All the data was obtained via downloading.
“We couldn’t have written this paper without digitization efforts,” said Pitman. “All of the information we needed was in the same place, so we didn’t have to go through every individual museum in the world. We were able to use data not just from the Field Museum, but from museum collections everywhere.”
Researchers believe that their checklist is an invaluable source of information and it could assist ecologists in studying Amazon rainforest and its biodiversity.
“This is an effort to pull together this 300-year-long research on this incredibly diverse region and convert it into a simple tool that anybody can use.”
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Hans ter Steege, tropical biologist at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands and lead author of the study suggests the information could also prove beneficial in maintaining the Amazonian ecosystem as it contains several those rare tree species that are not found anywhere else in the world. “The checklist gives scientists a better sense of what’s actually growing in the Amazon Basin and that helps conservation efforts.”