Covering nearly a quarter of Brazil, the Cerrado is the largest neotropical savanna is the world, home to more than 12,000 plant species including a large herb-shrub flora widely neglected in scientific studies and conservation policy.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Vegetation Science, researchers used nearly a million primarily GBIF-mediated occurrences combined with bioclimatic predictors and soil variables to model distributions of more than 5,000 herb-shrub species. By stacking the predicted distributions, the authors derived a species richness map of the Cerrado, revealing the highest levels of richness in the central-south and western parts of the region. The study also identifies two floristically distinct clusters of phytogeographic regions.
Plotting protected areas over the species richness map indicated that only 18 per cent of areas with predicted high species richness are found in priority areas, showing that current Cerrado conservation plans do not reflect the actual biological importance of herb-shrub flora.