Protecting endemic palms of the Amazon

Study identifies important areas of high palm endemism while placing threatened species outside current conservation units

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 17,310 species occurrences
Bactris martiana
Preserved specimen of Bactris martiana from the The New York Botanical Garden. Photo licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Widespread and abundant in the tropics and nearly absent in temperate regions, palms play important ecological roles as a food source, but also in supporting local communities with cultural and economic significance. The Amazon region is home to more than 120 endemic palm species, and recognizing the areas of palm endemism is important for conservation planning.

By plotting GBIF-mediated occurrences of palm species in the Amazon region, authors of a new study identified one and three-degree squares containing at least two distinct species–defining these as endemic areas–based on two different analytic approaches.

The highest level of palm endemicity appeared in the Peruvian Amazon with seven species, followed by the Andean sub-region with six species. Combining the results of the two analyses revealed two main endemic areas–a large one in Western Amazon and a smaller one in the Andean sub-region.

Among the species supporting the identified endemic areas, five species are endangered according to IUCN, however, the known distributions of these all fall outside current protected areas in the region.

Link to original article

Alvez-Valles CM, Balslev H, Carvalho FA, Garcia-Villacorta R, Grandez C and Menini Neto L (2017) Endemism and conservation of Amazon palms. Biodiversity and Conservation. Springer Nature 27(3): 765–784. Available at: