The distribution of biodiversity richness in the tropics

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Science Advances  09 Sep 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 37, eabc6228
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc6228


We compare the numbers of vascular plant species in the three major tropical areas. The Afrotropical Region (Africa south of the Sahara Desert plus Madagascar), roughly equal in size to the Latin American Region (Mexico southward), has only 56,451 recorded species (about 170 being added annually), as compared with 118,308 recorded species (about 750 being added annually) in Latin America. Southeast Asia, only a quarter the size of the other two tropical areas, has approximately 50,000 recorded species, with an average of 364 being added annually. Thus, Tropical Asia is likely to be proportionately richest in plant diversity, and for biodiversity in general, for its size. In the animal groups we reviewed, the patterns of species diversity were mostly similar except for mammals and butterflies. Judged from these relationships, Latin America may be home to at least a third of global biodiversity.

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