The high species richness of tropical forests has long been recognized, yet there remains substantial uncertainty regarding the actual number of tropical tree species. Using a pantropical tree inventory database from closed canopy forests, consisting of 657,630 trees belonging to 11,371 species, we use a fitted value of Fishers alpha and an approximate pantropical stem total to estimate the minimum number of tropical forest tree species to fall between ~40,000 and ~53,000, i.e., at the high end of previous estimates. Contrary to common assumption, the Indo-Pacific region was found to be as species-rich as the Neotropics, with both regions having a minimum of ~19,000-25,000 tree species. Continental Africa is relatively depauperate with a minimum of ~4,500-6,000 tree species. Very few species are shared among the African, American, and the Indo-Pacific regions. We provide a methodological framework for estimating species richness in trees that may help refine species richness estimates of tree-dependent taxa.
Topic: diversity,trees,species,tropical forests,spatial distribution,spatial variation,species richness,species diversity
Publication Year: 2015
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 112(24): 7472-7477