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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 Fisher's 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.

Original publication

DOI

10.1073/pnas.1423147112

Type

Journal article

Journal

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date

16/06/2015

Volume

112

Pages

7472 - 7477

Keywords

Fisher’s log series, diversity estimation, pantropical, spatial richness patterns, tropical tree species richness, Biodiversity, Conservation of Natural Resources, Databases, Factual, Ecosystem, Forests, Phylogeography, Rainforest, Species Specificity, Statistics, Nonparametric, Trees, Tropical Climate