Projects and programmes in Latin America

Forest Futures: Livelihoods and sustainable forest management in the Bolivian Amazon

Forest clearance in PandoIn October 2013, with support from the UK Darwin Initiative, Kew and its partners launched an exciting new project in the Bolivian Amazon. The project aims to promote sustainable forest management in Pando Department, including: 1) diversification of non-timber forest product (NTFP) resource collection and marketing; 2) agroforestry adapted to regional socio-economic context, contributing directly to poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation; and 3) awareness of economic incentives for sustainable forest management and maintenance of ecosystem service values increased at a range of decision-making levels.

George Gardner: new website provides access to previously unavailable data on historic Brazilian collections

Detail from frontispiece of George Gardner's 'Travels in the INterior of Brazil'.In the 1830s George Gardner made one of the most significant early botanical collections in the interior of Brazil. These included many type specimens of previously undescribed species. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew holds an important set of Gardner's specimens, which are of considerable botanical and historical significance. A new website, incorporating biographical information on Gardner, details of his travels and collections, a transcription of his Catalogue of Brazilian Plants (a manuscript held in Kew's archives) and a database of his collections, is now available on the Kew website, based on an ongoing research project by Dr Nicholas HInd.

Restoring forest and ecosystem services in the Brazilian Amazon

Seed mixture for agroforestry plantingIn the southern Brazilian Amazon Kew is working with local partners on a programme helping smallholder farmers to reforest the margins of water courses.  Deforestation of stream banks and sources has caused them to dry up leaving some farmers with no year-round water supply.  The programme is based around the development of agroforestry systems incorporating useful species that provide for local livelihoods whilst restoring essential ecosystem services and biodiversity.   Kew is helping to select appropriate local species for use in these systems and providing information and technical on seed collection and storage, species management and monitoring. This project is supported by Defra's International Sustainable Development Fund.

Latin American Malvoideae

The latest development from the Neotropikey programme: an interactive illustrated key to 78 genera of Latin American Malvaceae Subfamily Malvoideae. This is the first of a series genus-level keys to be incorporated in the Neotropikey 'family'.

The key is currently available in prototype form, for testing. We welcome your feedback.

Neotropical Vegetation data - map-based information resource

This prototype website is designed to make published and unpublished inventory and vegetation survey data for Latin America accessible on a geographical basis. This will help researchers, conservation planners, developers and governmental organisations to gain access to location-specific information rapidly, informing decision-making and maximising the use of a vast body of data that until now has been largely inaccessible and whose existence is often little-known.

Simply click on the red on the map and a summary of the survey will appear, with links to the associated data. The data are held on a Google Fusion database that can be developed by multiple contributors.

Neotropical Plant Image Database
A growing resource for identification of Latin American plants

Projeto Flora Toucan Cipó: conservation in the Serra de Espinhaço

This collaborative project aimed to support conservation decision-making and planning in one of the richest areas of botanical diversity in Brazil.

Its outputsinclude a report comprising a floristic list with over 1,000 species in 481 genera and 124 vascular plant families, amongst which twelve are new to science and others were long lost until rediscovered during the course of the project.

Twelve different vegetation types have been studied, amongst which the most representatives of the region are open formations such as highland rocky fields above 1,000 m, and semideciduous forest and savanna between 700 and 900 m. Human impacts have also been analysed, and scientific papers are in preparation.

New 2014: Publication of an illustrated guide to the plants and vegetation in the project area. Read more.

Diversity of Tropical Meliaceae

The aim of this ongoing project is to document the diversity of Neotropical Meliaceae, a medium sized family of c. 150 spp. in the Flora Neotropica region, containing most of the premier timber trees of the Neotropics including true mahogany and its relatives. They are widely used throughout Latin America in construction, building and joinery.

A Monograph of Cedrela

T.D. Pennington & A.N. Muellner, DH Books, Milborne Port, 2010

Cedrela has had over 250 years of commercial exploitation and is one of the most important Tropical American hardwoods - perhaps now the most important. This work supplies the scientific information vital to support the conservation and sustainable use of its subject genus. Seventeen species are here recognised, in contrast with eleven in the previous account. Fieldwork has recognised four previously undescribed species, while DNA studies suggest that the heavily traded Cedrela odorata has multiple origins and may comprise at least three distinct species. Such information is critical to planning the long-term future of the genus. Published in the International Year of Biodiversity, this work is a conservation tool for foresters, planners, researchers and policy makers.


Preliminary checklist of the Compositae of Bolivia

An updated synonymized checklist of the Compositae of Bolivia is now available online. The checklist is based on the only catalogue of the Bolivian flora, that of Foster dating from 1958, a literature survey, together with additional herbarium work whilst naming many recent J. R. I. Wood collections; it does not represent a complete herbarium survey.

Currently, 13 tribes are represented by 1044 species in 223 genera with an estimated 295 endemic species, which is equivalent to 28.26% endemism. Keys to tribes, and genera of the tribes, are provided, with keys to taxa within some genera.


Botanical fieldwork in Mato GrossoResearch-based conservation and capacity building in Mato Grosso, Brazil

On the southern edge of the Brazilian Amazon, Kew is working with the Cristalino Ecological Foundation (a local NGO), the University of the State of Mato Grosso (UNEMAT) and the state environment secretatiat (SEMA) to develop research-based support for the establishment and management of protected areas. The project is located near Alta Floresta, in Amazonia's 'arc of deforestation'. 

Activities include botanical research and vegetation mapping, training and capacity building, support for the development of management plans for the Cristalino State Park and adjacent (new) private reserves (RPPNs), and production of resources for environmental education and awareness raising.

Latin American Plants Initiative (LAPI)

This project, funded by the Mellon Foundation and initiated in 2007, aims to database and image all the Latin American type specimens held in the Kew Herbarium. The specimens and information will become available from the ALUKA website (a not-for-profit international collaboration of educational and cultural institutions), together with those from other participating organisations in Latin America, Europe and the USA. They are also available from Kew's online Herbarium Catalogue HERBCAT.

Neotropikey: Interactive key to the flowering plants of the Neotropics

FlowersKew is developing an interactive, multi-access key to the flowering plant families of the Neotropics. The key, based on LUCID 3 software, will be available on the Internet at no charge. It is being designed for use by specialists and non-specialists alike, with images to aid the identification process.

This is a collaborative project involving taxonomic specialists and generalists from many countries.

Conservation & sustainable management of dry forest in South Coast Peru

Erosion and Tamarix invasionThe Huarango (Prosopis pallida) forests of the south coast of Peru are among the most highly threatened ecosystems on earth. The majority of Huarango forests have been cleared for industrial fuel and large-scale agriculture. The few remaining relics are suffering illegal felling and burning for the production of charcoal, sold in the cities. The region (Ica and Nazca) is home to over 600,000 people, most of whom are very poor and have few economic resources.

The project is working with local communities to promote habitat restoration, conservation and sustainable management in this important habitat.

Torotoro leafletPriority conservation areas in the Central Andean Valleys of Bolivia

This programme of applied research and dissemination is following up on the results of a three-year project, funded by the UK Darwin initiative, that identified key areas of plant diversity in the Central Andean Valleys.

Work includes in-depth botanical inventory, capacity-building with local communities and park guides, and the development of information resources (leaflets, posters).


Conservation of the Cerrados of Eastern Bolivia

Kew is a partner in this three-year project (2007-2010) which aims to identify conservation priorities in the savanna woodland formations (Cerrados) of the Chiquitano region of Eastern Bolivia. The project is supported by the UK Darwin Initiative and is led by the University of Oxford.

Cactus conservation in the Central Andean Valleys, Bolivia

Neoraimondia herzogianaThe dry valleys on the eastern edge of the Andes support many endemic cactus species. A local initiative in Pulquina (Santa Cruz), developed with support from the Mayor of Comarapa, is working to establish a small conservation area/botanic garden in this region. It is hoped that this will become a visitor attraction and focal point for information on rare Bolivian cacti. Kew is providing technical support for this project, including botanical research, plant propagation/management techniques and interpretation.



Vegetation mapping and management in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil

In February 2005 a team of botanists from the Herbarium worked with scientists and students from the University of Mato Grosso do Sul (UFMS), EMBRAPA (Brazil's agricultural research organisation) and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to undertake the first detailed vegetation survey and mapping of the Morraria de Santa Cruz, near Corumbá. This impressive ironstone mountain, rising from the edge of the internationally important Pantanal wetlands, supports a complex mixture of habitats including cliff vegetation, grassland, tree savanna (cerrado) and semi-deciduous forest.

The purpose of the survey was to provide baseline information on the vegetation of the mountain, for improved management of a large iron ore mine. Our long term aim is to help minimise the impact of mine development and expansion, and improve local capacity for restoration of damaged habitats.

We are continuing to work with a range of local and international partners to develop and implement recommendations and solutions for biodiversity action planning, habitat restoration and compensatory conservation measures for the site.

Tree Flora of Peru

Trees of PeruThis collaborative project with Universidad Agraria La Molina and Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh has been documenting tree diversity in Peru and providing information on silviculture and utilization of the more important species in the Peruvian Amazon and Andes.

The Illustrated Guide to the Trees of Peru was published in 2004, the Guide to the Useful Trees of the Peruvian Amazon in 2003, and the Guide to the Useful Trees of the Peruvian Andes in 2006.

The project also provided herbarium- and field-based training for Peruvian scientists and foresters.


Guyana: Biodiversity and Sustainable Development of Butterfly Production (Lepidoptera)

Kew is a partner in this Darwin Initiative project (2007-2009) led by the University of Warwick. The project purpose is to increase knowledge of the butterfly diversity and sustainably exploit these populations within the Iwokrama forest and surrounding community areas.

Plantas do Nordeste - Sustainable use of fuelwood in NE Brazil

Making paper from Caraua fibrePlantas do Nordeste (Plants of the Northeast) was Kew's flagship project in Brazil for over ten years. This collaborative initiative worked with a range of Brazilian partner institutions to promote botanical research, conservation and sustainable plant use in the Northeast of Brazil. The region supports a diverse flora composed primarily of dry vegetation, much of which is under considerable pressure from the expanding human population.

The PNE programme includes one of Kew's ongoing projects in Brazil, working towards sustainable use of fuelwood in the caatinga vegetation.

Orquideas da Chapada Diamantina (Orchids of the Chapada Diamantina)

A new illustrated account of the diverse orchid flora of part of Northeast Brazil was published in January 2006. This was the result of a long collaborative effort between Brazilian and Kew scientists.

Richard Spruce
Richard Spruce Project

The plant specimens and other objects collected by Richard Spruce during the nineteenth century constitute an important botanical, historical and ethnological resource. Spruce spent approximately 15 years exploring South America, from the Amazon to the Andes, and was the one of the first Europeans to visit many of the places in which he collected.

The Richard Spruce Project, a collaborative initiative between Kew and the Natural History Museum, is databasing the Spruce holdings in our respective herbaria. The information is made available, via the Internet, to a worldwide audience of botanists, historians and others interested in the exploration of the Amazon and the Andes.

The first phase of the project focused on Spruce's collections from Peru and Ecuador.


The Kew Latin American Research Fellowships programme was designed to offer support for visiting botanical scientists from Latin America (including the West Indies and the Guianas) wishing to consult the collections or conduct other botanical research at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew or the Natural History Museum. Some fellowships also include visits to other European research institutes. This programme has been serving as an important mechanism for promoting active collaboration between UK and Latin American scientists and building capacity in the region.