Lista do Brasil
An international collaboration delivering an on-line catalogue of the plants and fungi of Brazil
Sample page from the Lista do Brasil web site
An authoritative census of the Brazilian flora with sufficient scientific credibility to guide conservation planning has long been needed. The last complete inventory of Brazilian plants was the detailed and comprehensive Flora Brasiliensis, published between 1833 and 1906, in which 19,958 species of plant, algae and fungi were reported for Brazil. Over the following century, thousands of new species and new distribution records for Brazil were published but no subsequent comprehensive survey of the Brazilian flora was completed. Reviews of existing knowledge include estimates of described species of plants and fungi ranging from 60,700 to 70,210. The most recent figures cited for vascular plants are 56,108 species, including 12,400 (22%) endemic.
Target 1 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), adopted by the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2002, called for a working list of all known plant species by 2010. GSPC Target 1 stimulated diverse responses at global and national level, among the most ambitious of which was a Brazilian initiative begun only in late 2008 to assemble and review existing data on Brazilian plants, algae and fungi and deliver a complete list of known species by 2010. To reach Target 1, the Botanic Gardens of Rio de Janeiro was requested, by the Brazilian Ministry of Enviroment, to coordinate the preparation of the Lista do Brasil. In September 2008 the first meeting was organized at the Botanic Gardens, to establish the organizing committee and coordinators for each taxonomic group, as well as basic information fields to be completed during the first step of the process.
The taxonomic scope of the project included vascular plants, bryophytes, algae and fungi, although it was accepted that coverage for the latter two groups would be patchy due to the uneven distribution of sampling effort and taxonomic expertise. A database and Web-interface to support the project were developed in partnership with the Centro de Referência em Informação Ambiental (CRIA). Datasets were obtained from published sources as well as from existing web resources [Flora Brasiliensis revisitada (2009)], and Kew provided access to its World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2009) and Authors of Plant Names from The International Plant Names Index/IPNI (2009), and from some unpublished sources provided by specialists. All datasets were fed into the system and integrated, totaling c. 90,000 name citations. All original sources are acknowledged in the system.
The comprehensive new inventory of Brazilian plants and fungi was published just in time to meet the 2010 Convention on Biological Diversity target, offering important insights into its global significance. Brazil is here confirmed as home to the world’s richest flora (40,989 species; 18,932 endemic) including two of the hottest biodiversity hotspots: Mata Atlântica (19,355 species) and Cerrado (12,669 species). While total known species numbers are one-third lower than previous estimates, the absolute numbers of endemic vascular plant species are higher than previously estimated and the proportion of endemism (56%) is the highest in the Neotropics. This catalogue serves not merely to quantify the scale of the challenge faced in conserving Brazil’s unique flora, but also as a key resource to direct action and monitor progress.
The compiled data were reviewed and refined on-line by a network of 413 taxonomists during 2009. This remarkably comprehensive and rapid collaboration was possible only through advances in information and communication technology and increased Internet speed, allowing many people to work remotely and simultaneously. The list was then edited, and was released on-line in May 2010.
The Brazilian Catalogue of Plants and Fungi (Forzza et al. 2010a) represents a snapshot of our current understanding of Brazilian plant diversity at a critically important time. With a new species being added to the inventory each working day, the hard-copy version will soon be outdated, but the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden will coordinate continuous updating of the Web version (Forzza et al. 2010b) and yearly on-line releases. Maintenance of the list will require continued support for and recognition of the network of taxonomic specialists who created it. Enhancements to the coverage of fungi and micro-algae should be prioritized and will require investment in taxonomic capacity for these neglected groups.
This landmark achievement by the Brazilian scientific community not only provides a robust new baseline for taxonomic and floristic work; it is also a key tool for policy makers and land managers seeking to direct and implement conservation actions on a scale sufficient to safeguard the world’s most important flora. It will serve as an inventory of resources to be assessed for conservation status and prioritized for conservation action, avoiding duplication of effort and accidental oversight. South Africa provides a clear example of how a national list of plant species can form the foundation for a range of practical information products and establish a baseline for more applied socio-economic initiatives. In the Brazilian context the list’s relevance is illustrated by the fact that more than two-thirds of plant species considered by expert botanists as threatened in 2005 were deemed to lack sufficient reliable information to be officially recognized as conservation priorities.
The existence of the list will also enable information on Brazilian plants to be organised in a logical and retrievable way, linked to information about the properties of these species and their role in ecosystems, making these more readily accessible to land managers. Practical needs, such as biome specific manuals of species suitable for use in habitat restoration can be addressed using subsets of the list.
Key papers published since 2006
- Forzza, R.C., Baumgratz, F.A., Bicudo, C.E.M., Canhos, D.A.L., Carvalho, Jr, A.A., Costa, A., Costa, D.P., Hopkins, M., Leitman, P.M., Lohmann, L.G., Nic Lughadha, E., Maia, L.C., Martinelli, G., Menezes, M., Morim, M.P., Nadruz Coelho, M.A., Peixoto, A.L., Pirani, J.R., Prado, J., Queiroz, L.P., Souza, S., Souza, V.C., Stehmann, J.R., Sylvestre, L.S., Walter, B.M.T., & Zappi, D. 2010. Síntese da Diversidade Brasileira. In: Forzza, R.C. et al. (eds), Catálogo de Plantas e Fungos do Brasil. Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro, vol. 1: 21 – 42.
- Forzza, R.C. Baumgratz, F.A., Costa, A., Costa, D.P., Hopkins, M., Leitman, P.M., Lohmann, L.G., Martinelli, G., Morim, M.P., Nadruz Coelho, M.A., Peixoto, A.L., Pirani, J.R., Queiroz, L.P., Souza, V.C., Stehmann, J.R., Walter, B.M.T., & Zappi, D. 2010. Angiospermas do Brasil. In: Forzza, R.C. et al. (eds), Catálogo de Plantas e Fungos do Brasil. Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro, vol. 1: 78 – 89.
Project partners and collaborators
Dr Rafaela C. Forzza – Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro
Ministério do Meio Ambiente
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.