Amazonian Wetlands Easily Surpass the Estimates of Tree Species Richness

Amazonian Wetlands Easily Surpass the Estimates of Tree Species Richness

The wetlands of Amazon Basin provides the most diverse wetland forest of the world with 3615 tree species.

Trees form an essential commodity of our ecosystem not only because they provide us with Oxygen but also due to their ability to eliminate excessive amounts of Carbon Dioxide from our environment. The importance of trees has increased significantly in recent years following the wave of global warming. Governing authorities from all parts of the world are concerned about this global issue and are trying to mitigate this situation by planting more and more trees. In these circumstances, places like the Amazonian Wetlands are simply a treat for the humanity.

According to a recent report, researchers found 3,615 tree species in the wetlands of the Amazon Basin when they collected data from botanical collections and forest inventories. Despite the fact that it was a positive result, scientists were quite surprised with the findings as they were three times more than the original estimate. This research was performed under the guidance of the Research Program on Biodiversity Characterization, Conservation, Restoration, and Sustainable Use of the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). The results of this most comprehensive study were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The presence of different types of trees, in or around the stream gullies, made Amazon the most diverse wetland forest of the world in terms of the tree species richness. Some common kinds of vegetation found in these regions include Swamp, Mangrove, Blackwater Inundation Forest, Whitewater Inundation Forest, and White Sand Savanna. The authors of the study covered Amazonian wetlands spread over a region of nine countries to come up with these findings. Bruno Garcia Luize, a Doctoral Researcher at the Bioscience Institute of the São Paulo State University and the First Author of the study, explained their findings to the world in the following words:

The list with the names of all the species is the main contribution made by this survey, which is open access. It will serve as a basis for future studies to fill the gap in botanical knowledge of the region’s wetlands, especially on tributaries of the Solimões and Amazon rivers. If there were more inventories, the number of species could quickly triple again.”

Luize mentioned that they succeeded in finding these many species because they catered larger area for their research. Consequently, they managed to incorporate White Sand Savanna, Mangroves, and Blackwater Inundation Forests in addition to Whitewater Inundation Forests and Floodplains, which were also a part of the previous studies. Similarly, he talked about the rare inventories of forests along Madeira and Purus.

The climate of Amazonia is not an ideal one by any means as the trees have to bear recurrent flooding and drought during their lifespan. These fluctuations lead us to a point where only those species and individuals can survive which can tolerate extensive dry spells and extreme floods. In some cases, the trees may remain underwater by as much as 8 meters. This is the reason why these wetlands are considered ‘environmental filters’. Luize described the environment of the Amazonian wetlands by saying,

It’s an incredibly beautiful environment. Blackwater inundation forests, for example, are among the most emblematic images of Amazonia. Tree embryos are submerged for four or five months while they develop. Moreover, monkeys swing through the tree crowns, and the pink river dolphin [Inia geoffrensis] feeds on fish deep in the forest.

Although the hydrological conditions are quite tough in these wetlands, 53% of the 6,727 tree species, found in the entire Amazon region, comes from these parts. Likewise, 30% of the Amazonia’s total area is covered by the trees in the wetlands. The researchers found that the interchange between upland and wetland forest habitats has a massive role to play in this high proportion of trees. Luize talked about the difficulty of underwater respiration and said,

Flooded areas require a different tree metabolism. Some upland or terra firme species are able to tolerate inundation conditions, but studies have shown that populations in the different environments don’t manage the same performance. Basically, this means that if you plant a seed from an upland species in a flooded area, it probably won’t thrive and vice versa. As a result, we reach an extreme in which species are exclusive to wetland areas or only occur in upland areas.”

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