First Catalogue of the Flora of Acre, Brazil
Douglas C. Daly, Marcos Silveira, and collaborators
This book was the culmination of nearly 20 years of work by the two co-authors as well as the efforts of a number of students at the Federal University of Acre (UFAC) in Brazil, herbarium staff at The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), and a large number of taxonomic specialists who generously shared the knowledge they accumulated over many decades (see Acknowledgments).
In 1901, the German botanist Ernst Ule traveled up the Rio Juruá in what is now Acre, Brazil. He was supposed to be reconnoitering populations of the Pará Rubber Tree (Hevea spp.) but took advantage of the opportunity to become the first person to make botanical collections in Acre or anywhere else in southwestern Amazonia. His expedition up the Rio Purus in 1910 was the second in the region. (An English translation of Hermann Harms’ 1916 biography of Ule can be found here.
Several other pioneering botanists collected in Acre starting in the 1930s, but it was still a “black hole of biodiversity” (Silveira et al. 1997) as of 1989, when NYBG and UFAC began work on a long-term program called Floristics and Economic Botany of Acre, Brazil.
Acre as a biological frontier was in itself a strong motive to research this region, but the immediate impetus was a commitment to assist the extractivist movement in rubber-tapper communities led by Chico Mendes, who was assassinated in 1989. In an effort to help rubber-tappers diversity their economy, which was based principally on wild-collection of rubber and Brazil Nuts, the NYBG-UFAC program regularly provided information on the identity, ecology, and management of native economic plants (e.g., Daly 2004; Daly et al. 2018).
By the time the Catalogue was published (Daly, Silveira et al. 2008), the program had become the point of reference for information about the plant resources of SW Amazonia. Entirely bilingual in Portuguese and English, It includes the first flora checklist of an Amazonian state in Brazil. The checklist accounts for 4,000 species – all vetted for identification and nomenclature — of vascular plants and bryophytes and formed the foundation for 10% of Brazil’s national checklist, completed in 2010.
The Catalogue is much more than a checklist. The book’s eight chapters also explore vegetation types, economic plants, botanical history, strategies for documenting the flora, patterns of diversity, floristic affinities, common names (including a glossary), and applications of its floristic data to conservation. Other publications have further investigated particular vegetation types (Daly et al. 2006, 2016).
Documentation of the Acre flora is far from complete. As of 2008, every sixth identification of a plant collection from Acre resulted in an additional species record for the state, and every 30th identification added a previously unrecorded genus. When the checklist was updated five years later, that added 500 species to the known flora, and remarkably, the rate of increase (number of new records versus identifications) remained the same (Medeiros et al. 2014).
Two of the lessons to be learned from the experience of producing the Catalogue are (1) a small group of people can have a large impact on our knowledge of the Amazon flora, and (2) these people depend heavily on the knowledge and generosity of taxonomic specialists.
CONTENTS OF THE CATALOGUE
1. Acre: A geographic and biological frontier in southwestern Amazonia
2. Physical environments and vegetation cover of Acre
3. A century of botanical history in Acre
4. Strategies for cataloguing, surveying, documenting, and identifying the Acre flora
5. First catalogue of the Acre flora
6. Basic analyses of diversity and affinities of the Acre flora
7. Glossary of common names for the Acre flora
8. The application of botanical information in conservation and natural resource management initiatives
Daly, D. C. 2004. Diversas outras espécies [“Diverse other species”]. Pages 223-232. In: Shanley, P. & G. Medina, eds. Frutíferas e Plantas Úteis na Vida Amazônica [“Fruits and Useful Plants in Amazon Life”]. Editora Supercores, CIFOR/IMAZON, Belém.
Daly, D. C., D. P. Costa, & A. W. F. Melo. 2006. The “salão” vegetation of Southwestern Amazonia. Biodiversity and Conservation 15: 2905-2923.
Daly, D. C., M. Silveira, & collaborators. 2008. First Catalogue of the Flora of Acre, Brazil / Primeiro Catálogo da Flora do Acre, Brasil. PRINTAC/EDUFAC, Rio Branco.
Daly, D. C., M. Silveira, H. Medeiros, W. Castro, & F. A. Obermüller. 2016. The white-sand vegetation of Acre, Brazil. Biotropica 48: 81-89.
Daly, D. C., M. Silveira & F. A. Obermüller. 2018. Making and making use of a baseline: Botanical research and the legacy of Chico Mendes. Desenvolvimento e Meio Ambiente 48: 432-445. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5380/dma.v48i0.58800
Medeiros, H., F. A. Obermüller, D. C. Daly, M. Silveira, W. Castro and R. C. Forzza. 2014. Botanical advances in southwestern Amazonia: The flora of Acre, Brazil five years after the first Catalogue. Phytotaxa 177 (2): 101–117. (http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/phytotaxa.177.2.2)
Silveira, M., N. M. C. de Paula, I. F. Brown, H. B. N. Borges, D. Daly & L. A. Ferreira. 1997. Os “buracos negros” da diversidade — Estudos no Acre revelam precariedade do conhecimento sobre a flora amazônica [The “black holes” of diversity — Studies in Acre reveal the precariousness of our knowledge of the Amazonian flora]. Ciência Hoje 22(128): 64-65.