Floristics of neotropical seasonally dry forests: a perspective from complete vascular plant inventories
Linares-Palomino, Reynaldo; Aybar, David; Morales Ruiz, Erika J.
Seasonally dry tropical forests (SDTF) most often are characterised through woody plant inventories. This approach is taken because these forests are subjected to strong seasonal droughts, during which most herbaceous plants dry out and are not amenable to collection and taxonomic identification. Several studies show that the non-woody component of tropical forests contains a considerable proportion of the species richness and endemism values of these forests. We investigated whether floristic patterns shown by SDTF woody plant inventories are paralleled by complete inventories of vascular plants. We collated data from nine SDTF sites from across the Neotropics where complete vascular plant inventories were implemented, and obtained information from 2259 species. We found partial agreement between the woody plant and the complete vascular plant approaches recognising the major neotropical SDTF groups proposed previously using woody plants only. Leguminosae dominated both approaches and additional important families in our data included Asteraceae, Malvaceae and Poaceae, with an overwhelming presence of herbs. Endemism values were much lower than suggested by woody plant approaches. We suggest strengthening the research focus during the rainy season and on non-woody plants as this will add valuable knowledge that can help understand these seasonal ecosystems, calling further attention to their conservation needs.