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Brummitt, Neil A. (Left 2010)

Job title: 

Plant Diversity Analyst

Science Policy
Joined Kew: 
Foreign languages: 
French (basic); Portuguese (basic)
Qualifications and appointments: 
  • BA (Hons), Biological Sciences, Univ. Oxford
  • MSc, Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants, Univ. Edinburgh
  • PhD, “Patterns in the Diversity and Distribution of Flowering Plant Genera”, Univ. Edinburgh.
  • Co-convener, Geography subgroup Committee, Taxonomic Databases Working Group (TDWG)
  • IUCN Red List Technical Working Group
  • Terrestrial Species Monitoring Workgroup of the Group on Earth Observations - Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO-BON)

The application of biological collections data to studies of global patterns of plant diversity and its conservation.

My main interest is in documenting and describing the broad-scale global patterns of flowering plant diversity and biogeography. This interest arose out of a project I had previously undertaken at RBG Kew, recording global distributions for all vascular plant genera. I went on to analyse these data as the basis of my recent PhD, jointly supervised by RBG Kew and the University of Edinburgh. Amongst other things, this showed that the majority of angiosperm genera display only a small number of distribution patterns, but that areas of the world richest in numbers of genera were also richest in number of floristic elements for those genera. I still maintain this database as an element of this post.

In particular my interest is in applying existing RBG Kew data to answering questions of biogeography, biodiversity and, increasingly, for conservation. This is at several different levels: with specimens, for publication of names, for species, and genera and higher taxa. For example, which are the richest parts of the world for plants? Is this true at different taxonomic levels? Is this also where the greatest numbers of new taxa are being described from? Can we estimate how many species there are in total, known and unknown, as well as just known species. I am also involved in projects focussing on finer-scale patterns of distribution and diversity and am currently working with both systematic groups (Myrtaceae, legumes) and regional teams (SE Asia) analysing specimen data from the herbarium.

I am also the co-ordinator of the Sampled Red List Index for Plants, an international project which will produce a first representative global picture of the state of plant conservation. We are taking a random sample of approximately 1500 species for each of bryophytes, ferns and their allies, monocots and dicots, and all gymnosperms, and producing IUCN conservation assessments for each species. By repeating these conservation assessments at 5-yearly intervals we will be able to track trends in the status of plant diversity. This is part of the larger Sampled Red List Index to measure the 2010 Biodiversity Target of the Convention on Biological Diversity being co-ordinated by the Zoological Society of London and IUCN, and is now being expanded into EDGE Plants, using conservation status and phylogenetic relationships to prioritise species conservation efforts.

This global assessment is being complemented with more detailed analyses for countries or regions of especial interest, to identify priority areas for plant conservation, together with studies predicting species most likely to become threatened in the future and regions of the world most susceptible to biodiversity loss through climate change.

Selected recent publications: 

Baillie, J.E.M., Collen, B., Amin, R., Akçakaya, H.R., Butchart, S.H.M., Brummitt, N.A., Meagher, T.R., Ram, Hilton-Taylor, M.C. & Mace, G. (2008). Toward monitoring global biodiversity. Conservation Letters 1: 18–26.

Brummitt, N.A., Bachman, S.P. & Moat, J.F. (2008). Applications of the IUCN Red List: towards a global barometer for plant diversity. Endangered Species Research 6: 127–135.

Davis, A.P., Govaerts, R., Bridson, D.M., Ruhsam, M., Moat, J.F. & Brummitt, N.A. (2009). A global analysis of distribution, diversity, endemism and taxonomic effort in Rubiaceae. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 96: 68–78.

Murray-Smith, C., Brummitt, N.A., Bachman, S.P., Oliveira-Filho, A.T., Nic Lughadha, E., Moat, J.F. & Lucas, E.J. (2009). Plant diversity hotspots in the Atlantic coastal forests of Brazil. Conservation Biology 23(1): 151–163.

Paton, A.J., Brummitt, N.A., Govaerts, R., Harman, K., Hinchcliffe, S., Allkin, R. & Nic Lughadha, E.M. (2008). A working list of all known plant species – progress and prospects towards Target 1 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. Taxon 57(2): 602–611.


Brummitt, Neil A. (Left 2010)