After decades of research, scientists from around the world have quantified the number of individual trees and species scattered throughout the Amazon Basin.
Kenneth Feeley, professor in the FIU Department of Biological Sciences and co-author of the study, is one of 100 international researchers from 88 institutions who contributed to “Hyperdominance in the Amazonian Tree Flora,” an article published in Science in October.
The study examined more than 1000 1-hectare plots, or nearly 4 square miles, in the Amazon Basin. The basin, located throughout parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Venezuela, is the part of South America drained by the Amazon River. At 2.1 million square miles, the Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest. Using extrapolations from data compiled for more than 10 years, researchers estimate there are nearly 390 billion individual trees of about 16,000 species.
Feeley, who has spent more than 15 years studying the ecology, biogeography and conservation of tropical plant and animal communities, provided collections of fruit, plant and leaf specimens, known as herbaria, to the study and analyzed and compared data.
“One of the most remarkable and important outcomes of this study is the revelation of how little we actually know about the Amazon” Feeley said. “This study attempts to answer incredibly basic questions: How many trees are there in the Amazon? How many species of tree are there? What are the most common species? How many rare species are there? To event attempt to answer these questions, we worked for many years to gather immense amounts of data from across the huge expanses of remote and uncharted territories.”