Rainforests are the most diverse places on earth and contain thousands of different species. However, we still know so little about them and the treasures that they contain. No one has been able to say how many plant species that there in the Amazon rainforest, until now. An international team of researchers from Brazil, the U.K., Columbia, and Spain have painstakingly compiled a list of 14,003 plant species that are growing in the Amazon rainforest.
Don’t be mistaken, this number is not the total number of plant species in the Amazon, only the number that have been formally identified. There are still troves of species in the Amazon waiting to be discovered. Identifying all the ones that we know is a start. And certainly, this was no easy task, as this information can be scattered across many different sources, and in different languages.
The researchers did not go to the forests themselves but checked through countless research papers, databases, and other scientific sources. They only included species that could be verified from multiple sources. As you can imagine, hundreds of people were involved in this endeavor, not just those listed as authors of the publication. Now there is a list and count of every plant species that grow in the lowland Amazon biome. Overall, 6,727 of the plants are trees and all the rest are vines, herbs, liana, shrubs, and small trees. This list is now a starting point from which to create conservation plans and to build upon to discover new species.
As for the undiscovered plants, people have made estimates about the total number of plant species in the Amazon and the number has ranged from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. This work suggests that the total number of plant species in the Amazon is more along the scale of tens of thousands of species. It is critical to know about the plants (and animals) that live in the rainforest, as the forests are being endangered by logging. This list is a good start.
Journal reference: Amazon plant diversity revealed by a taxonomically verified species list. PNAS 2017, doi:10.1073/pnas.1706756114