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Romeiras M, Figueira R, Duarte M, Beja P, Darbyshire I (2014)
Documenting biogeographical patterns of African timber species using herbarium records: a conservation perspective based on native trees from Angola.
PloS one 9(7) e103403.
In many tropical regions the development of informed conservation strategies is hindered by a dearth of biodiversity information. Biological collections can help to overcome this problem, by providing baseline information to guide research and conservation efforts. This study focuses on the timber trees of Angola, combining herbarium (2670 records) and bibliographic data to identify the main timber species, document biogeographic patterns and identify conservation priorities. The study recognized 18 key species, most of which are threatened or near-threatened globally, or lack formal conservation assessments. Biogeographical analysis reveals three groups of species associated with the enclave of Cabinda and northwest Angola, which occur primarily in Guineo-Congolian rainforests, and evergreen forests and woodlands. The fourth group is widespread across the country, and is mostly associated with dry forests. There is little correspondence between the spatial pattern of species groups and the ecoregions adopted by WWF, suggesting that these may not provide an adequate basis for conservation planning for Angolan timber trees. Eight of the species evaluated should be given high conservation priority since they are of global conservation concern, they have very restricted distributions in Angola, their historical collection localities are largely outside protected areas and they may be under increasing logging pressure. High conservation priority was also attributed to another three species that have a large proportion of their global range concentrated in Angola and that occur in dry forests where deforestation rates are high. Our results suggest that timber tree species in Angola may be under increasing risk, thus calling for efforts to promote their conservation and sustainable exploitation. The study also highlights the importance of studying historic herbarium collections in poorly explored regions of the tropics, though new field surveys remain a priority to update historical information.
Keywords: Agriculture, Biodiversity, Biogeography, Biology and life sciences, Conservation science, Ecology, Ecology and environmental sciences, Forestry, Organisms, Plant ecology, Plant science, Plant taxonomy, Plants, Research Article, Trees