Nav: Home

150-year records gap on Sulawesi ends with 5 new species in the world's largest tree genus

June 19, 2017

It seemed rather unusual that the largest tree genus, Syzygium, containing over 1500 species, was only represented by about a dozen of records on the biodiversity-rich island of Sulawesi, the latest new species description dating back to the mid-19th century.

One hundred and fifty years onwards, a new article published in the open access journal PhytoKeys, highlights the large portion of undocumented plant diversity on the island, by introducing not one, but five new species to add to the abundant tree genus.

Conducting fieldwork on plant diversity and ecology of the tropical mountain forests of Sulawesi in the period 2006-12, a team of ecologists from the University of Göttingen had difficulties identifying plant specimens of the myrtle family brought back from their field surveys. They noticed that only some 14 species of Syzygium were known to occur in Sulawesi, surprisingly few compared to around 200 each in neighbouring Borneo and the Philippines.

"In addition to the limited knowledge about plants in Sulawesi, we were dealing with what is probably the largest genus of trees in the world, the size of which was apparently putting off to many researchers of the past." comments PhD student F. Brambach. "This is probably why our basic knowledge of the taxonomy of Syzygium hasn't improved much since the early days of botanical exploration of the region in the first half of the 19th century."

The ecologists turned to Dr Byng, director of Plant Gateway and Visiting Research Fellow at Naturalis Biodiversity Centre in the Netherlands, who is coordinating a global revision of Syzygium, a genus best known for the clove tree. To him the possibility of what appeared to be undescribed species came as no surprise.

"After extensive screening of herbarium specimens from Sulawesi, I had estimated around 90 additional species to be present on the island, most of which are not yet named and probably only occur there. This would mean we only currently known around 13% of the island's real diversity," explains the expert.

The potential number of new Syzygium still waiting to be described raises concern, especially when considering the fast rate at which tropical forests in Indonesia are lost. Sulawesi is no exception, with three of the five newly described species considered to be "endangered" following the criteria of the IUCN.

"In this time of rapid species loss worldwide, cooperation between field ecologists and herbarium taxonomists is important to document the vast diversity of organisms in understudied regions, such as tropical mountain forests, especially for large and complicated groups like Syzygium," Dr Culmsee said.

Well-known for its unique fauna, the flora on the island of Sulawesi has received considerably less attention to date. With the publication of the new five species, the authors, Fabian Brambach, Dr Heike Culmsee, and Dr James W. Byng, hope to change this and instigate more botanical research in the area.
Original source:

Brambach F, Byng JW, Culmsee H (2017) Five new species of Syzygium (Myrtaceae) from Sulawesi, Indonesia. PhytoKeys 81: 47-78.

Additional Information:

The research was founded by by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst (Germany).

Pensoft Publishers

Related Tropical Forests Articles:

NASA examines potential tropical or sub-tropical storm affecting Gulf states
NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement mission or GPM core satellite passed over a developing low pressure area in the Gulf of Mexico and gathered two days of rainfall and storm height information.
Lianas stifle tree fruit and seed production in tropical forests
Vines compete intensely with trees. Their numbers are on the rise in many tropical forests around the world.
'Narco-deforestation' study links loss of Central American tropical forests to cocaine
Central American tropical forests are beginning to disappear at an alarming rate, threatening the livelihood of indigenous peoples there and endangering some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in North America.
Long-term fate of tropical forests may not be as dire as believed, says CU Boulder study
Conventional wisdom has held that tropical forest growth will dramatically slow with high levels of rainfall.
Climate policies alone will not save Earth's most diverse tropical forests
Many countries have climate-protection policies designed to conserve tropical forests to keep their carbon locked up in trees.
Smart road planning could boost food production while protecting tropical forests
Conservation scientists have used layers of data on biodiversity, climate, transport and crop yields to construct a color-coded mapping system that shows where new road-building projects should go to be most beneficial for food production at the same time as being least destructive to the environment.
Road planning 'trade off' could boost food production while helping protect tropical forests
Scientists hope a new approach to planning road infrastructure that could increase crop yield in the Greater Mekong region while limiting environmental destruction will open dialogues between developers and the conservation community.
Natural regeneration may help protect tropical forests
A new article summarizes the findings of 16 studies that illustrate how natural regeneration of forests, a low-cost alternative to tree planting, can contribute significantly to forest landscape restoration in tropical regions.
NASA sees Tropical Storm Nicole going 'extra-tropical'
Tropical Storm Nicole was becoming extra-tropical when the NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite passed over it from space and captured a visible picture of the storm.
Can't see the wood for the climbers -- the vines threatening our tropical forests
Woody climbing vines, known as lianas, are preventing tropical forests from recovering and are hampering the ability of forests to store carbon, scientists are warning.

Related Tropical Forests Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#530 Why Aren't We Dead Yet?
We only notice our immune systems when they aren't working properly, or when they're under attack. How does our immune system understand what bits of us are us, and what bits are invading germs and viruses? How different are human immune systems from the immune systems of other creatures? And is the immune system so often the target of sketchy medical advice? Those questions and more, this week in our conversation with author Idan Ben-Barak about his book "Why Aren't We Dead Yet?: The Survivor’s Guide to the Immune System".