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Amazon plant diversity revealed by a taxonomically verified species list

  1. Rafaela Campostrini Forzzao
  1. aNational Institute of Science and Technology in Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Studies in Ecology and Evolution (INCT IN-TREE), Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal da Bahia, 40170-115 Salvador, BA, Brazil;
  2. bRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH5 3LR, United Kingdom;
  3. cNational Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20560-0163;
  4. dDepartamento de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, 45662-900 Ilhéus, BA, Brazil;
  5. ePrivate address, 13083-290 Campinas, SP, Brazil;
  6. fDepartamento de Química y Biología, Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla, Colombia;
  7. gHerbario Nacional Colombiano (COL), Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia;
  8. hInstitute of Systematic Botany, The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY 10458-5126;
  9. iDepartamento de Botanica, Centro de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, 88040-900 Florianópolis, SC, Brazil;
  10. jInstituto de Ciências e Tecnologia das águas & Herbário HSTM, Universidade Federal do Oeste do Pará, 68040-050 Santarém, PA, Brazil;
  11. kCampus do Centro Politécnico, Universidade Federal do Paraná, 8531-970 Curitiba, PR, Brazil;
  12. lEmbrapa Clima Temperado, 96010-971 Pelotas, RS, Brazil;
  13. mPrograma de Pós-Gradua??o em Botanica, Instituto de Biociências, Departamento de Botanica, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, 91501-970 Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil;
  14. nDepartment of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom;
  15. oJardim Botanico do Rio de Janeiro, 222460-030 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil;
  16. pPrograma de Pós-Gradua??o em Botanica, Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana, 44036-900 Feira de Santana, BA, Brazil;
  17. qDepartment of Forest Sciences, Federal University of Lavras, 37200-000 Lavras, MG, Brazil;
  18. rDepartamento de Botanica, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade de S?o Paulo, 05508-090 S?o Paulo, SP, Brazil;
  19. sInstituto de Biociências, Departamento de Botanica, Universidade Estadual Paulista “Júlio de Mesquita Filho”,13506-900 Rio Claro, SP, Brazil;
  20. tRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, United Kingdom;
  21. uReal Jardín Botánico, RJB-CSIC, 28014 Madrid, Spain;
  22. vFacultad de Ciencias Naturales y Matemáticas Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá, Colombia;
  23. wDepartamento de Biologia Vegetal, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, 13083-970 Campinas, SP, Brazil;
  24. xDepartamento de Ciências Naturais, Universidade Federal de S?o Jo?o del-Rei, 36301-160 S?o Jo?o del-Rei, MG, Brazil;
  25. yDepartamento de Botanica, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, 31270-901 Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil;
  26. zMissouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299;
  27. aaDepartamento de Botanica, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, 21941-590 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil;
  28. bbMuseu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, 66077-830 Belém, PA, Brazil;
  29. ccDepartment of Biodiversity, National Institute of Amazonian Research, 69060-001 Manaus, AM, Brazil
  1. Edited by Michael J. Donoghue, Yale University, New Haven, CT, and approved August 11, 2017 (received for review April 24, 2017)


Large floristic datasets that purportedly represent the diversity and composition of the Amazon tree flora are being widely used to draw conclusions about the patterns and evolution of Amazon plant diversity, but these datasets are fundamentally flawed in both their methodology and the resulting content. We have assembled a comprehensive dataset of Amazonian seed plant species from published sources that includes falsifiable data based on voucher specimens identified by taxonomic specialists. This growing list should serve as a basis for addressing the long-standing debate on the number of plant species in the Amazon, as well as for downstream ecological and evolutionary analyses aimed at understanding the origin and function of the exceptional biodiversity of the vast Amazonian forests.


Recent debates on the number of plant species in the vast lowland rain forests of the Amazon have been based largely on model estimates, neglecting published checklists based on verified voucher data. Here we collate taxonomically verified checklists to present a list of seed plant species from lowland Amazon rain forests. Our list comprises 14,003 species, of which 6,727 are trees. These figures are similar to estimates derived from nonparametric ecological models, but they contrast strongly with predictions of much higher tree diversity derived from parametric models. Based on the known proportion of tree species in neotropical lowland rain forest communities as measured in complete plot censuses, and on overall estimates of seed plant diversity in Brazil and in the neotropics in general, it is more likely that tree diversity in the Amazon is closer to the lower estimates derived from nonparametric models. Much remains unknown about Amazonian plant diversity, but this taxonomically verified dataset provides a valid starting point for macroecological and evolutionary studies aimed at understanding the origin, evolution, and ecology of the exceptional biodiversity of Amazonian forests.


  • ?1D.C. and T.S. contributed equally to this work.

  • ?2To whom correspondence should be addressed. Email: cardosobot{at}gmail.com.
  • Author contributions: D.C. and T.S. designed research; D.C., T.S., S.A., A.M.A., V.B., M.C., D.C.D., P.F., V.A.F., L.L.G., R.G., G.H., J.I., C.L.K., S.K., H.C.d.L., A.F.P.M., R.M.d.S., R.M.-S., F.A.M., J.M., P.M., P.L.R.d.M., S.A.M., T.S.N., T.D.P., J.R.P., G.T.P., L.P.d.Q., A.R., R.R., C.A.V.R., N.R., G.S., M.S., J.R.S., W.D.S., C.M.T., M.T., C.v.d.B., H.v.d.W., P.L.V., C.E.Z., and R.C.F. performed research; D.C., T.S., and R.C.F. analyzed data; D.C., T.S., D.C.D., R.G., S.K., F.A.M., L.P.d.Q., A.R., R.R., C.M.T., and R.C.F. wrote the paper; D.C., T.S., S.A., V.A.F., C.L.K., and R.C.F. collated the checklist; and D.C., T.S., S.A., A.M.A., V.B., M.C., D.C.D., P.F., V.A.F., L.L.G., R.G., G.H., J.I., C.L.K., S.K., H.C.d.L., A.F.P.M., R.M.d.S., R.M.-S., F.A.M., J.M., P.M., P.L.R.d.M., S.A.M., T.S.N., T.D.P., J.R.P., G.T.P., L.P.d.Q., A.R., R.R., C.A.V.R., N.R., G.S., M.S., J.R.S., W.D.S., C.M.T., M.T., C.v.d.B., H.v.d.W., P.L.V., C.E.Z., and R.C.F. reviewed and revised the checklists.

  • The authors declare no conflict of interest.

  • This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

  • This article contains supporting information online at www.danielhellerman.com/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.1706756114/-/DCSupplemental.

Freely available online through the PNAS open access option.

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