The amazing Amazon rainforest hides no less than 16,000 species of trees. Even though scientists have studied it for over three centuries, there are still many secrets to be discovered.
The most biodiverse forest on Earth holds no less than 1,300 types of birds, 427 species of mammals and over 50,000 seed plants. The ecosystem runs over nine borders, with a vast majority of its surface laying in Brazil.
The incredible richness in species of plants is due to the 50 million tons of Sahara dust that are being blown across the Atlantic ocean every year. The Sahara sand contains phosphorus, which is critical for plant growth.
A new study focuses on trees. A team of botanists that has already been involved in taxonomy efforts concerning the trees in the Amazon forest has embarked on the greatest adventure of it all: going through samples and specimens put aside in museum collections and creating a list with all the known tree species that can be found in the South American rainforest.
Until now, there were many attempts to create an inventory for birds and mammals, but plants seemed to have been ignored.
The authors have tried to make a list of all the species of trees that had been found in the Amazon rainforest and to describe each of them regarding taxonomy.
A previous 2013 study ventured the idea that there are 16,000 tree species in the Amazon. The authors of the more recent botanical inventory wanted to see if the estimation was accurate or not.
Their work involved analyzing more than 500,000 specimens collected from the Amazon forests, the oldest of them dating from1707. After a detailed examination of each specimen, the researchers came up with a list of 11,187 unique species.
There were other 489 valid species that were reported to have been found on Amazon, but with no hard proof of their existence there.
The conclusion was that the previous estimation was correct. There are over 16,000 tree species in the Amazon rainforest, out of which only 11,187 had been discovered. The calculus leaves more than 4,000 species which are yet to be discovered.
Taking into account what was registered since the 1900s, every year up to 200 new tree species have been found on Amazon. The present study suggests humanity will need another three centuries to find and categorize all the tree species in the Amazon rainforest.
Even if the task could be almost impossible to complete during our lifetime, the researchers hope that a catalog of all trees that can be found in the Amazon rainforest may be useful for drafting new policies and taking up conservation measures.
Image Source: YouTube
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