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Ecologist and Public University of Navarre (UPNA) doctoral student Ximena Herrera Alvarez has published a paper on timber species of Pan-Amazonia in scientific journal “Ecology” of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), one of the most internationally prestigious one in its field. It is the first paper that gathers the timber species of the nine countries included in said region: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, French Guiana, Peru, Surinam and Venezuela, which is the subject of study of the doctoral thesis of the researcher.  For the paper, Ximena Herrera counted on the collaboration of research centres pioneer in Amazonian forests and rainforests of the world.

zoom Ximena Herrera, at UPNA.

Ximena Herrera, at UPNA.

Thanks to the publication of the ecologist, it is possible to find out that there are currently 1,112 timber species altogether all over the Pan-Amazonia, divided into 337 genus and 72 families, out of which 161 are used commercially. The conservation status of 30% of them is unknown, following the criteria established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List.

In order to write the paper, presented as an organised data collection or dataset, the doctoral student gathered official information reported by each of the aforementioned countries, from the Amazon Regional Observatory (ORA) of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (OTCA). The information was later standardised through the tool “taxonomic name resolution service” (TNRS). These data were also added information from various sources on population, conservation, trade or response of these species to climate change and deforestation scenarios in all Amazonia.

Ximena Herrera belongs to UPNA Ecology and Environment research group (Ecología y Medio Ambiente), led by professor Juan A. Blanco, also supervisor of the aforementioned thesis, together with Gonzalo Rivas-Torres, of University San Francisco de Quito (Ecuador). Apart from the two researchers mentioned, Oliver Phillips (University of Leeds, United Kingdom), Vicente Guadalupe (ACTO), Leonardo D. Ortega-López (Syracuse University, New York) and Hans ter Steege (Naturalis Biodiversiy Center, University of Utrecht, the Netherlands), also collaborated with the paper.

Families with more species, trade and conservation status

Out of the 72 identified families of plants, the richest in species were the following: Fabaceae, Lauraceae, Sapotaceae, Malvaceae and Lecythidaceae. For their part, the most abundant families regarding the number of individuals were Fabaceae, Lecythidaceae, Moraceae, Sapotaceae y Myristicaceae. 147 hyperdominant species were identified (more frequent and abundant), representing 57.50% of the total of the abundance estimated for all the Amazonian region, and which predominate in solid ground forests, but in smaller proportion in igapó, podzol, varzea ones and swamps.

zoom Tiputini Biodiversity Station (TBS) located within the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve, Ecuador (given by Gonzalo Rivas-Torres.

Tiputini Biodiversity Station (TBS) located within the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve, Ecuador (given by Gonzalo Rivas-Torres.

As it has been mentioned before, a total of 161 species used for international trade to a greater or lesser extent were identified, according to the data of the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO). However, as the paper states, only 0.4% of them are registered in the appendix of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Finally, as it has been mentioned, information was gathered on the conservation status of each species through IUCN’s Red List. A total of 800 species were identified, assessed by this organisation (71.9% of the total), gathered in 65 families. Most of these species are in the category of least concern (721, 64.8%), but the remaining 79 are spread into the other categories considerer more worrisome gathered in the aforementioned list. “However, this number of species and categories will increase according to the climate change and deforestation scenarios expected for the Amazonian area”, states Ximena Herrera - Alvarez.

Brief CV of Ximena Herrera - Alvarez

Ximena Herrera - Alvarez has a degree in Applied Ecology by University San Francisco de Quito (Ecuador) and later studied the Master’s degree in Environmental Agrobiology taught at Public University of Navarre (UPNA) and University of the Basque Country. She has taken part in different ecology projects and her research lines tackle mostly the dynamics of rainforests and temperate forests after disturbances such as selective logging or fires, among others, as well as in various altitudinal gradients.

Ximena Herrera joined the Ecology and Environment research group, and UPNA IMAB (Institute for Multidisciplinary Research in Applied Biology) in 2019, where she has collaborated in different projects, too.