Journal of Tropical Ecology

Efficient plot-based floristic assessment of tropical forests

Oliver L. Phillips a1c1, Rodolfo Vásquez Martínez a2, Percy Núñez Vargas a3a4, Abel Lorenzo Monteagudo a2a4p1, Maria-Elena Chuspe Zans a4, Washington Galiano Sánchez a4, Antonio Peña Cruz a2, Martin Timaná a2p2, Markku Yli-Halla a5 and Sam Rose a1p3
a1 Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
a2 Proyecto Flora del Perú, Oxapampa, Peru
a3 Biodiversidad Amazónico, Cusco, Peru
a4 Herbario Vargas, Universidad Nacional San Antonio Abad del Cusco, Peru
a5 MTT, Agrifood Research Finland, Jokioinen, Finland

Article author query
phillips ol   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
vasquez martinez r   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
nunez vargas p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
lorenzo monteagudo a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
chuspe zans m-e   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
galiano sanchez w   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
pena cruz a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
timana m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
yli-halla m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
rose s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


The tropical flora remains chronically understudied and the lack of floristic understanding hampers ecological research and its application for large-scale conservation planning. Given scarce resources and the scale of the challenge there is a need to maximize the efficiency of both sampling strategies and sampling units, yet there is little information on the relative efficiency of different approaches to floristic assessment in tropical forests. This paper is the first attempt to address this gap. We repeatedly sampled forests in two regions of Amazonia using the two most widely used plot-based protocols of floristic sampling, and compared their performance in terms of the quantity of floristic knowledge and ecological insight gained scaled to the field effort required. Specifically, the methods are assessed first in terms of the number of person-days required to complete each sample (‘effort’), secondly by the total gain in the quantity of floristic information that each unit of effort provides (‘crude inventory efficiency’), and thirdly in terms of the floristic information gained as a proportion of the target species pool (‘proportional inventory efficiency’). Finally, we compare the methods in terms of their efficiency in identifying different ecological patterns within the data (‘ecological efficiency’) while controlling for effort. There are large and consistent differences in the performance of the two methods. The disparity is maintained even after accounting for regional and site-level variation in forest species richness, tree density and the number of field assistants. We interpret our results in the context of selecting the appropriate method for particular research purposes.

(Accepted November 11 2002)

Key Words: Amazonia; biodiversity; diversity; efficiency; forest; inventory; Neotropics; Peru; survey; tropical.

c1 Corresponding author
p1 Present address: Jardin Botanico de Missouri, Oxapampa, Peru
p2 Present address: Section of Integrative Biology, University of Texas, USA
p3 Present address: Volunteer Services Overseas, London, UK