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Conserving the genetic diversity of plants in Austral and Neotropical America (ANA): a metanalysis of published studies using samples of the region.


The reduction of biological diversity on the planet, as a direct or indirect consequence of human action, is currently accepted worldwide, not only within the scientific community but also by the public (Frankham, 1995; Hammer et al., 2003; McFarlane, 2005; Hoffmann et al., 2010), even more after the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992. Due to increasing concern, Conservation Biology has emerged as a crisis discipline that allows us to understand the driving processes responsible for changes in the abundance and/or distribution patterns of biodiversity mainly due to anthropogenic factors, and develop strategies to minimize their consequences (Soule, 1985). Conservation biology is by nature a multi-disciplinary field, and amongst the different disciplines that this science needs to include in order to achieve its goals, population genetics is becoming more important. The need to incorporate new techniques to assess the status of a population genetic pool is increasingly agreed upon among conservation biologists. These tools are included in the area that Soule and Wilcox (1980) named "Conservation Genetics." The main goal of conservation genetics is the study of the molecular biodiversity in natural populations stressed by human impact (Sole-Cava, 2004). Determining the level of genetic diversity in endangered populations is the first step towards assessing the risk of genetic variation loss, as a consequence of reductions in population size or increased inbreeding; both demographic conditions which could potentially lead endangered populations to extinction (Frankham, 1995; Lehman, 1998; Loew, 2002; DeSalle & Amato, 2004; Godoy, 2009).

One of the main goals of the genetic conservation approach is to provide essential information in order to manage populations, maintaining an "acceptable" level of genetic diversity, whose loss could have a severe impact on their fitness (see O'Brien, 1994; Lehman, 1998; Laikre, 1999). Taking into account the lessons learned from domestic breeding, together with observations of the loss of genetic variability in natural populations stressed by over-exploitation, suitable management strategies can be developed. In order to achieve this goal, it is important to acknowledge that conservation genetics should develop, or incorporate from other fields, techniques that take into account patterns and processes and provide a cohesive approach that must feed decision-making protocols (DeSalle & Amato, 2004). One of the techniques that conservation genetics would benefit from is genomics (DeSalle & Amato, 2004; Allendorf et al., 2010). The advantages that genomics offer for investigating the genetic basis of adaptation and speciation have become very clear (Bonin, 2008) and some authors are promoting the transition from conservation genetics to conservation genomics (Allendorf et al., 2010; Frankham, 2010; Ouborg et al., 2010a, b).

The knowledge of genetic diversity is substantially improved by the development of more and better molecular techniques (Amos & Balmford, 2001; Loew, 2002). Nevertheless, some works have cast doubts upon its real contribution towards developing strategies in biodiversity conservation (Vernesi et al., 2008; Kramer & Havens, 2009).

The ANA region (ANA; Austral and Neotropical America, from Mexico to Argentina, including Caribbean countries) (Rodriguez et al., 2006; Ceballos et al., 2009) has a heterogeneous natural and cultural landscape, with an outstanding biodiversity, taking into account that at least six of countries are considered as megadiverse (Mittenneier et al., 1997; Aguilera et al., 2003), and seven biodiversity hotspots are located in ANA (Ceballos & Brown, 1995; Myers et al., 2000). After the declaration of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), it became the obligation of each country, especially those considered megadiverse, to increase knowledge of their biological diversity. The problem is that 70 % of megadiverse countries are neither included in the group of the most industrialized countries, nor have large Gross National Product incomes to invest in the basic research needed in this area (Ceballos et al., 2009). This constraint forces conservation biology researchers in ANA to make a huge effort to obtain economic resources for infrastructure, development and training to improve the knowledge of their biodiversity (Michelangeli et al., 2004; Rodriguez et al., 2005, 2006; Ceballos et al., 2009), thereby affecting the development of research in genetic conservation. Molecular genetic techniques are more accessible and affordable every day (DeSalle & Amato, 2004) and it should be expected that, despite these difficulties, ANA countries could take advantage of this knowledge and fulfill their responsibilities in their biodiversity research programs over time, reinforced by the terms of the CBD through the accession of genetic resources in each country.

In order to identify the size of the gap between investment and knowledge in the ANA countries, it is of interest to follow the evolution and emphasis in the development of knowledge in conservation genetics in the region. It is of the utmost importance to identify what, where and who is working on topics related with genetics applied to conservation in the ANA countries (Rodriguez et al., 2006).

This assessment will hopefully provide the necessary information to determine how large the gap is between the conservation work that needs to be done, and the availability of professionals and resources for conservation genetics in this region, given the socioeconomic limits that many of the ANA countries face, as highlighted in other studies related with conservation biology (Rodriguez et al., 2006), tropical ecology (Stocks et al., 2008) or systematic biology (Michelangeli et al., 2004).

Under this scenario, the main aim of this paper is to analyze the actual capabilities of ANA countries to develop research on their genetic diversity, with emphasis on their regional phytodiversity, in order to improve their conservation capacity.


To assess current scientific capacity in conservation genetics in Austral and Neotropical America (ANA), a search was performed using Web of Science (, including studies published since 1980 until December 15th 2010. The total number of articles published in 2010 is not complete due to a delay in their detection in the databases, sometimes even until March of the next year. The search was performed by looking simultaneously for keywords that included the names of ANA countries in English and Spanish and the terms "conservation genetics" or "genetic diversity and conservation." Austral and Neotropical America is often perceived as being united by the Spanish language (Gordon, 2005), and sometimes called Latin America. In fact, it consists of countries where Portuguese, English, French, and hundreds of indigenous languages are spoken (Gordon, 2005).

The criteria to select a publication for analysis were: a) at least one author works in ANA institutions, or b) the source of biological material is located in ANA. We also included studies with authors located in ANA although the species under study was not distributed in ANA, in order to know the level of expertise acquired in the area of conservation genetics, which could potentially be returned to ANA countries.

For each publication the following was recorded: i) country or geographical region of collected or analyzed samples, ii) the name of the first author; iii) the country of the institutional affiliation of the first author; iv) the name of the corresponding author; v) the country of the institutional affiliation of the corresponding author; vi) the institutional affiliation of first and corresponding authors; vii) presence of other authors and their countries of institution affiliation; viii) the year of publication; ix) journal name; x) main taxonomic group and plant family that belongs the sample under study; xi) type of analysis, which was divided in: phylogeny, phylogeography, populations and/or individuals; xii) identification of the research according to the Conservation Framework Action (Salafsky et al., 2002); xiii) the level of threat or endangerment following IUCN nomenclature (IUCN, 2010) and category on CITES (CITES, 2011) of the species under study; xiv) type of organism according to its exploitation condition (wild or genetic resource), and its geographic origin when the species is under exploitation: native genetic resource (NGR) or introduced genetic resource (IGR). For IGR only studies about populations which have been naturalized were taken into account (Benton, 2004; Earle, 2011; Guiry, 2011; Hechenleitner et al., 2005; Jenner, 2006; Koenemann & Jenner, 2005; Mapula-Larreta et al., 2008; Martin & Davis, 2001; Nelson, 2006; Putnam et al., 2008; Shultz, 2007; Stevens, 2001; Tree of Life Web Project, 1995;, 2011).

The publications that were suitable were organized using six wide geographical regions as a reference, following the convention proposed by the Society of Conservation Biology (SCB) and adopted by several authors (Rodriguez et al., 2005, 2006): Africa (AF), Austral and Neotropical America (ANA), Asia (AS), Europe (EU), North America (NA) and Oceania (OC). ANA includes all countries from Mexico to Argentina and the Caribbean. For the purposes of this publication NA was considered to be Canada and the USA only. We further subdivided ANA into three non-overlapping sub-regions: i) NeoA (Neotropical America), comprising all continental countries from Mexico to Brazil and Bolivia; ii) AusA (Austral America), comprising Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay; and iii) Caribbean, comprising Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Lesser Antilles, and Trinidad &Tobago. Furthermore, Neotropical America was internally divided in two blocks: North (from Mexico to Panama) and South (from Colombia to Brazil and Bolivia).

In order to assess the effort and amount of work performed in ANA by ANA researchers the three main aspects considered in the analysis were: i) the geographic region where the samples were collected; ii) the geographic region of the institutional affiliation of the first, corresponding, and co-authors of the studies; and iii) the level of genetic analysis, joined with the approach in a Conservation Framework Action for plant conservation genetics.

Statistical associations were assessed with contingency tables to compare the regional patterns and trends that could obtained at different time periods. All the contingency tables were tested with a chi-square test following Preacher (2001).


Taxa Studied

The initial search produced 1,211 entries. After an exhaustive review, only 656 publications met the defined criteria. These were focused on species from 3 kingdoms: Plantae (46 %), Fungi (0.6 %) and Animalia (53.4 %). Only 1.2 % of the publications simultaneously evaluated more than one taxonomic group above family level. Table 1 shows the number of studies on conservation genetics performed on the three biological kingdoms mentioned before. It is notable that flowering plants comprise more than 80% of the plant studies. Because publications on plant conservation genetics in ANA formally start in 1991, all data was analyzed after that time.

Among the main Families identified, only five of them, representing 8% of the total number of families detected in this study, cover 42% of publications (see Fig. 1). Three families belong to the Division Magnoliophyta: Fabaceae, Poaceae and Solanaceae, and two to the Division Pinophyta: Pinaceae and Araucariacae. It is noteworthy that almost all studies are limited to few species within a family (Fig. 1). The Family Araucariaceae is an extreme case, where 16 studies were restricted to two species. Furthermore, only 29% of the plants studied can be considered as wild, with no recognized human use, while 68% were classified as NGR, having uses ranging from ethnobotany to commercial and 7% were introduced plants (IGR), mainly of commercial interest, that have gone through a process of adaptation to the region (ANA). Studies of commercial cultivars were excluded. Fifteen percent of all species considered in the publications that were suitable are included in the CITES appendices (3.7% in Appendix Table 4, 9.4% in II, and 2% in III) (CITES, 2011). From the point of view of threat status, 27% of the studies concerned species at risk of extinction, while 73% do not appear on the IUCN Red List (IUCN, 2010).

Geographical Distribution of Research Effort

The samples used in the publications were grouped as following, taking into account its geographic origin as described before: 83% coming from Neotropical America, 9% coming from Austral America, 2% coming from Caribbean, and 6% from different countries throughout ANA (Fig. 2). Figure 3 shows the distribution of publications done with ANA samples sorted by ANA countries. Samples from Brazil and Mexico comprised more than 50% of all studies developed in ANA, followed by Chile (6.3%), Costa Rica (6%), Peru (6%) and Argentina (5.7%). In 6.9% of the studies it was not possible to identify the country where the sample came from. In most of these cases the publications were reviews.

Regarding the geographic origin of the institution where the first author is associated (Fig. 4), it is observed that more than 60% of studies performed with samples of subregions NeoA, AusA, and Caribbean have first authors associated to ANA's institutions. However, when the origin of samples is from countries of two or more subregions of ANA, this proportion decreases to less than 40%. The observed profile of geographical origin of institutional affiliation of first authors on NeoA, AusA and all ANA, differs significantly ([chi square]=15.5, p=0.017), the AusA countries having a higher participation of first authors affiliated to European institutions; this participation of European authors becomes higher when studies are focused on regional studies (throughtout all ANA) (right column on Fig. 4).

When the geographical origin of institutional affiliation of the corresponding authors was examined (Fig. 5), we observed a similar pattern as for first authors ([chi square]=26.5, p=0.000), where corresponding authors of ANA institutions represent more than 60%, and the European participation is higher in AusA compared with NeoA. However in this case, for regional studies (right bar on Fig. 5) the proportion of corresponding authors associated with ANA institutions decreases whereas the proportion of researchers from Oceania becomes higher (Others in Fig. 5). Furthermore, statistically significant differences were found inside of Neotropical America ([chi square] = 8.75, p=0.013), between northern and southern blocks.

When we evaluated the coauthors in studies of plant conservation genetics from ANA, the geographical origin of coauthors reveal variations (Fig. 6), but no statistically significant difference is observed. The portion of studies performed by foreign authors is higher when samples come from Neotropical America or when studies considered samples from multiple subregions of ANA (right bar at Fig. 6). Inside Neotropical America there are differences again between the northern and southern blocks ([chi square]=9.08, p=0.011), the proportion of studies limited to foreign co-authors being higher in the north of NeoA (29% vs. 14%), while the opposite tendency is observed for studies limited to local co-authors, being higher in the Southern block (64% vs. 48%).

Scientific Production Over Time

In order to analyze the trends of scientific activity, considering the geographic origin of first authors, corresponding authors, and co-authors over the total period 1991 2010, we defined three sub-periods: i) 1991-2000, ii) 2001-2005, iii) and 2006-2010. After 2000, there is a noticeable, almost exponential increase in the number of publications, reaching 160 publications in the period 2006-2010 (Fig. 7). Table 2 shows the number of first authors, corresponding authors and total group of authors classified by region for these periods. The analysis allowed identification of significant differences in the geographical origin of institutional affiliation of the first author, corresponding author and geographical composition of the co-authors in the publications for the periods evaluated (1991-2000: [chi square]=9.518, p=0.049; 2001-2005: [chi square] = 12.463, p=0.014; 2006-2010: x2=15.8, 0.003). The proportion of first authors from ANA increased from 46% (in the 90's) to 71% (2006-2010). Similarly, the proportion of corresponding authors from ANA increased from 40% (in the 90's) to 69% (2006-2010). The main change in the composition of coworker teams was the increase of publications with researchers from ANA only, versus a decrease in teams with only foreign researchers (Table 2).

Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, Chile and Peru comprised 74% of studies on plant conservation genetics for the period 1991-2010. Brazil, Argentina and Chile follow the trend described above for first author, corresponding authors, and coauthors, when all data was analyzed (Appendix Table 4); however, this trend does not hold for Costa Rica and Peru. In the last 5 years, these two countries showed a reduction in the proportion on first and corresponding authors associated to ANA regions, despite the fact that these countries showed high proportion of first and corresponding authors belonging to ANA, for the three periods considered. Furthermore, Costa Rica showed an absolute reduction of publications in plant conservation genetics in the last 5 years. Also, it is remarkable that in publications developed with samples from Peru, first and corresponding authors were from NA. The main change over time was in the composition of co-authors; recently 78% of publications include scientists from ANA versus the 37.5% detected in the 1990s.

Institutions Involved in Scientific Productions

Analyzing the affiliations of first and corresponding authors, we find that Brazil, followed by Mexico, represent the largest number of institutions involved in publications related with plant conservation genetics (Table 3). In order to understand the relationship between institutions and productivity in plant conservation genetics, we calculated the ratio between the number of institutions associated to first and corresponding authors and the number of publications where at least one co-author comes from ANA. Brazil, Argentina and Chili are countries that show a better relationship between institutions and productivity (Table 3).

In a qualitative analysis of the type of institutions where these studies were performed, it was found that Universities contribute the most number of publications in plant conservation genetics (>60%), and the research centers associated to Universities are next in number of contributions.

Journal Categories in Studies

The papers included were published in 44 journals. Of these, 43% of the journals published more than three publications about plant conservation genetics (87% of analyzed publications) and 57% published less than three studies. When we considered only journals with more than three publications, we found that 36% of studies are in journals oriented toward genetics, systematics and evolution, and represent the highest proportion of journals (n=9). Twenty five percent of studies were found in conservation journals (n=4), 20% on taxon oriented journals (n=6), 12% in agricultural and forestry journals (n=3), and 7% in a general journal.

One noticeable point is that in the case of Brazil, scientists are publishing in national journals (20% of all periodical publications with articles on conservation genetics of plants are Brazilian, and 20% of all publications analyzed in this study were performed with samples from Brazil). For other countries, like Mexico, the tendency to publish papers in national journals was not the same. So while Brazilian scientists publish their results mainly in national journals, other countries, including Mexico, are using international journals.

Level of Genetic Analysis, and Position in a Conservation Action Framework

In Fig. 8 the percentage of publications classified by type of genetic analysis is shown. It is noticeable that almost 63% were focused on population genetics. Of these, 65% were related to species considered as NGR. Furthermore, the rise in number of publications in all types of genetic analysis (Fig. 9) revealed the same performance observed for all publications analyzed (Fig. 7), especially for those related to population genetics papers.

Regarding the focus defined in the Conservation Action Framework (according to Salafsky et al., 2002) that we could identify in the selected papers, we can observe in Fig. 10, that 32.6% of the studies tried to identify how threats influence the genetic pool of a particular species or population; this is followed by 21% of the publications concerning target identification. It is noteworthy that other very important conservation actions, like defining and evaluating strategies, are represented in a very low percentage of the papers, while use of genetic tools to execute strategies is absent in the selected publications. If we analyze the trend over time (Fig. 11), it is observed that if there is an overall increase in the numbers of publications for any of the conservation actions identified, the action "Identifying threats" shows the fastest increase; while "Defining Strategies" shows the lowest increase. Finally, NGR species represented 69.8% of the papers related to "Target identification" and 58.6% of the papers related to "Identifying threats".


First of all, it is important to mention that although our analyses were performed on information gathered from one of the most complete databases available, it is likely that some non-indexed journals on the Web of Science were not considered, implying that this analysis should be further complemented with similar searches on additional databases, like EBSCO and Cambridge Scientific Abstracts.

In addition, it is possible that the number of articles analyzed represents an underestimation of the scientific production in ANA, even in the case of ISIWeb, because studies in conservation genetics of plants may not include the keywords that were used. However, the underestimation should be negligible, since very general words such as genetic diversity and the names of the countries were used. That the initial number of papers obtained in the search conducted was double the final number of studies suitable for this analysis provides evidence for this. Likewise, studies performed with ANA samples were discarded when they were focused only on development of molecular techniques, and did not include genetic analyses. That does not mean that these works will not be important to conservation studies a posteriori.

In relation to the data obtained, the bias towards studies on Magnoliophyta species is remarkable but not surprising. This is the group with the largest number of representative species amongst terrestrial plants. However, in this case the difference in proportion of studies of conservation genetics on both divisions, in relation to the number of species recognized in each Division is remarkable (7.2% for Pinophyta versus 0.2% for Magnoliophyta). A possible explanation is that this group includes a large number of species with economic value and 86% of them are under a category of threat. Seventy one percent of the studies with Pinophyta fall into both categories, species with a high economic value and under extinction risk. In the case of Fabaceae, Poaceae, Bromeliaceae and Solanaceae, the most studied families amongst Magnoliophyta, 74% have some human use (NGR), 9% are threatened and only 7% are considered useful and threatened.

The difference between richness in species in different families and the number of studies performed in each family, seem to be determined by two main factors: i) the degree of interest in the use of a particular species, and ii) the level of threat of the species studied, as the analysis of the Conservation Action Framework indicates. Other factors that may contribute to this pattern could be the special taxonomic and/or evolutionary interest of a species group, the existence of well consolidated research groups or research lines that show a high rate of publication, interest promoted by large international agendas that drive conservation priorities (Rodriguez et al., 2007) and also financial support the of research (Stocks et al., 2008). Finally, it should be noticed that access to financial resources for research is limited in many ANA countries, adding some pressure to the choice of study subjects (Michelangeli et al., 2004).

Regarding the origin of the samples used, although in studies of ANA subregions the affiliation of authors is mainly with ANA institutions (>60% of the papers published), the results indicate that the capability of ANA authors to develop studies at large geographical scales in ANA is limited. This is shown by their reduced contribution to studies that attempt to perform analyses over a scale greater than a single sub-region within ANA (Fig. 6). The reasons behind this pattern could be financial, lack of or weak relationships between research groups from different biogeographical areas (different subregions) or problems with obtaining genetic resource access permits (Michelangeli et al., 2004).

Within ANA region, Brazil and Mexico were the countries that had the most publications in plant conservation genetics. Since both are mega-diverse countries and have developed capabilities to perform studies with molecular genetics in conservation, either with internal research groups or collaborations with research groups outside of ANA, it is not surprising that they have a greater number of publications. A similar trend was found by Michelangeli et al. (2004) in their study of use of molecular techniques in plant systematics in Latin America. This study made in 2002, showed that Mexico led the number of publications in plant molecular taxonomy, followed by Brazil.

However, in the present study, Brazil, the biggest country of ANA region, leads the number of publications with ANA samples, most of them obtained into the country. Likewise, this can bias the interpretation of a possible collaboration between scientists of different countries inside the same subregion, because Brazil covers so big a surface that include the distributions of a lot of species living in the Neotropics.

On the other hand, the number of studies inside subregions increased in the later period analyzed (2006-2010), simultaneously with the number of studies with foreign authors, particularly in Mexico. Maybe this can be understood as the result of the fact that some researchers have migrated to North America and the European Union.

Other megadiverse countries such as Peru, Costa Rica, Colombia and Venezuela have a very low number of publications in plant conservation genetics. These countries have not been as successful as Brazil or Mexico, either in developing the capacity to perform the studies internally or to establish the necessary collaborations with non-ANA countries to perform research in conservation genetics. This is clear from the number of institutions in these countries that were involved in the studies evaluated. Additionally, these countries have to cope with very strict regulations on permits to access genetic resources and/or a very poor implementation of mechanisms to obtain such authorizations (Grajal, 1999).

Although the key search was performed to identify studies in genetic diversity and conservation, the proportion of studies published in specialized journals on these subjects, considering only journals with more than three studies, is 30 %. This may be due to the existence of a small number of journals related with conservation (21 % of mentioned selection) and the emergence of new journals focused on theoretical topics (47 % of this selected group) which analyze the applicability of the results of crisis disciplines (e.g. conservation biology, genetic conservation, alimentary production) to solve specific problems. There is also a general tendency to publish in journals where the taxonomy and systematics are the main objectives regardless whether studies are focused on phylogeny, phylogeography, molecular demography or other areas (32 % of selected group) and in many cases these studies aim to resolve genetic and evolutionary questions. Intriguingly, an important proportion (16 %) of publications was observed in journals focusing on agricultural production and forestry, despite the fact that the search criteria did not include forestry as a key factor. This is indicative of the interest in research on wild species with potential use for some kind of production; which is supported by the fact that 68 % of the publications retrieved were focused on species with recognized uses. Again, it is important to stress that this analysis excluded studies focusing on plants under production; the selection was centered on populations of species found in the wild or in gene banks for maintenance of plant diversity.

The results also show that the main type of genetic analysis represented in the papers of conservation genetics in plants is population genetics, reflecting a growing concern about the genetic status of many species, both for wild and NGR sources, as a consequence of fragmentation and overexploitation. But it is worrying that genetic tools, especially with molecular markers, are still not widely applied to develop strategies to monitor illegal trade, for example. It is necessary that researchers go toward research where they can define objectives on conservation genetics and evaluate their success, in order to achieve the genetic diversity conservation goal. Examples of these kinds of studies are evaluation of germoplasm banks in order to assess their representativeness on the genetic diversity of a type of crop. In the analysis that was performed, it is noteworthy that many studies related with NGR and 1GR species are related with the maintenance and right identification of germplasm banks (Debouck et al., 1993; Krishna et al., 2004; Rao, 2004).

This study shows that there is an increasing number of researchers with an institutional affiliation to ANA involved in the study of the local genetic diversity, its conservation and the potential use of their species as resources, without causing damage to genetic pool of the species. Notably over the last 10 years, local researchers have run, led and formed working groups to study plant genetic diversity in their countries. This was displayed by the increasing number of publications carried out by ANA research groups, decreasing the dependence on research groups outside ANA and also by the slightly increasing collaboration between ANA and Non-ANA researchers in studies totally performed by external researchers. However, this pattern is highly asymmetrical and only very few countries reach it (Brazil, Chile and Argentina), so there is still much work to do in order to increase the current capacity for performing research on plant conservation genetics in the region. A similar pattern was found by Stocks et al. (2008) in relation to tropical ecology research. Moreover, the observed pattern did not differ from the one outlined by Michelangeli et al. (2004) for research in plant molecular systematics, who, as in the present paper, found that Brazil involved more first author affiliated to institutions of ANA region, while Mexico involved more researchers from outside ANA.

Our results pointed out that Universities contribute with the largest number of publications in plant conservation genetics followed by research centers associated to main Universities. This is opposite to the trend that was observed in forest genetic resources, in which the research is mainly driven by state research centers (Salcedo et al., 2009).

Strategies to reduce this asymmetry could be: to improve and encourage collaboration between research groups in the different countries of ANA, to encourage the exchange of researchers and/or students in order to develop research and training programs including conservation genetics, promote national and international agendas that allow access to adequate financial resources for the development of conservation genetics of ANA biodiversity, build and support a network of exchange of information among ANA countries, like ReGeneC, and/or make the process of acquiring the permits of genetic resources access within ANA countries less burdensome, amongst others. Similar considerations were made by Rodriguez et al. (2005, 2007) in relation to conservation biology programs to be developed in ANA countries in order to promote researcher training programs in this area.


Most of the studies performed on plants within ANA, related to the topics of conservation genetics and genetic diversity of wild species, are focused on organisms with identified uses. In particular, in the case of conifers, the studies also are aimed at species under threat of extinction. Although most of these studies are conducted and organized by ANA researchers, the proportion of studied taxa and available research institutions is not enough to address questions to effectively survey and generate the necessary information on the genetic diversity of plant species in the region. This is the case of Brazil, which presents the largest number of studies in their flora, according to the survey performed in this work. It is also necessary not only to maintain researches related to population genetics, but to also improve genetic tools and research to develop conservation actions to monitor the plant genetic diversity in ANA region. Our results indicate that there is a clear trend to close the gap between local scientific capacity and the study of the phytodiversity in the ANA region, but there is still a lot of work to be done considering that more than 60 % of the neotropical mega-diverse countries present less than 10 taxa as objects of study in plant conservation genetics.

DOI 10.1007/s12229-013-9128-5

Published online: 16 August 2013

Acknowledgments We are grateful to Omar Cornejo, who provided many suggestions to the article and was a great help in revising the text. To Ana Maria Kelly and Dominique Noome for helping us to revise the English text. To Angelica Cibrian for the invitation to the Symposium on Conservation Genetics held in Chile and to be part of this initiative. To the friends who helped us get access to the papers we were unable to obtain either in Venezuela or Chile. This work was done within the framework of the activities of the Latin American Network for Conservation Genetics (ReGeneC).


Table 4 Number of papers published in plant conservation genetics
from six ANA countries, discriminated by regional origin of the
first author, corresponding author, and coauthor teams, through
the period 1991-2010

Origin of    Periods     Publications    First author
                                         ANA (a)    NA (b)

Argentina   1991-2000          7            4
            2001-2005          4            2         1
            2006-2010          9            8
Brazil      1991-2000          7            5         1
            2001-2005         31            29        1
            2006-2010         62            56        1
Chile       1991-2000          2
            2001-2005          9            3         2
            2006-2010         11            8         1
Costa       1991-2000          3                      1
Rica        2001-2005         13            8         2
            2006-2010          5            3         2
Mexico      1991-2000         13            6         2
            2001-2005         20            16        2
            2006-2010         42            25        9
Peru        1991-2000          8            3         3
            2001-2005          4                      2
            2006-2010          9            2         4

Origin of    Periods     First author       author
                         EU (c)   Others    ANA    NA    EU

Argentina   1991-2000      2         1       3            2
            2001-2005      1                 2      1     1
            2006-2010      1                 8            1
Brazil      1991-2000      1                 5      1     1
            2001-2005      1                 29     1     1
            2006-2010      5                 57     1     4
Chile       1991-2000      2                 1            1
            2001-2005      4                 3      2     4
            2006-2010      2                 8      1     2
Costa       1991-2000      2                        1     2
Rica        2001-2005      2         1       8      2     3
            2006-2010                        2      3
Mexico      1991-2000      4         1       6      2     4
            2001-2005      2                 15     3     2
            2006-2010      7         1       25     9     8
Peru        1991-2000      1         1       2      4
            2001-2005      2                        3     1
            2006-2010      3                 1      5     3

Origin of    Periods     author           Co-authors team
                             Others       ANA   Other    Ana &

Argentina   1991-2000          2           3      2        2
            2001-2005                      2      1        1
            2006-2010                      7               2
Brazil      1991-2000                      2      2        3
            2001-2005                     24               7
            2006-2010                     51      2        9
Chile       1991-2000                             1        1
            2001-2005                      1      2        6
            2006-2010                      8      1        2
Costa       1991-2000                             1        2
Rica        2001-2005                      5      3        5
            2006-2010                                      5
Mexico      1991-2000          1           5      5        3
            2001-2005                     14      1        5
            2006-2010                     20      10       12
Peru        1991-2000          2           2      3        3
            2001-2005                             2        2
            2006-2010                      1      1        7

(a) Austral and Neotropical America: from Mexico
to Argentina, including Caribbean

(b) North America: Canada & USA

(c) European Union

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M. A. Oliveira-Miranda (1,4) * A. M. Martino (2) * R. M. De Oliveira-Miranda (1) * K. Balboa (3) * M. Aguilera (1)

(1) Biodiversidad y Biologia Evolutiva, Departamento de Estudios Ambientales, Universidad Simon Bolivar, Caracas 1081 A, Venezuela

(2) Centro de Investigaciones en Ecologia y Zonas Aridas, Universidad Nacional Experimental Francisco de Miranda, Coro 4101, Venezuela

(3) Instituto de Biologia Vegetal y Biotecnologia, Universidad de Talca, Talca 3465548, Chile

(4) Author for Correspondence; e-mail:

Table 1 Publications in conservation genetics (1980-2010)
performed on Austral and Neotropical America (ANA)

                         Publications       Proportion in
Taxonomic groups              (N)        Kingdom Plantae (%)

Kingdom Plantae                   303
  Chlorophyta (algae)               1                    <1
  Rhodophyta (algae)                2                    <1
  Cycadophyta                       7                   2.3
  Pinophyta (conifers)             42                  13.9
  Magnoliophyta                   251                  83.0
    (flowering plants)
Kingdom Fungi                       4
Kingdom Animalia                  349
Total                             656

Table 2 Geographical origin of institutional affiliation of first
authors, corresponding authors and coauthors composition of
studies performed with ANA's samples over the time

                            First author
Year         Publications
             (n)            ANA    NA    EU    Others

1991-2000         50        23     13    12    2
2001-2005         98        65     13    17    3
2006-2010        153        108    21    23    1
                 301        196    47    52    6

             Correspondence author      Co-authors team
             ANA    NA   EU    Others   ANA   Out    ANA
                                              ANA    & Out

1991-2000    20     16   11    3        16    17     17
2001-2005    62     15   19    2        46    18     34
2006-2010    105    24   24    0        91    21     41
             187    55   54    5        153   56     92

Table 3 Conservation capacities (measured as number of institutions
participating) at Austral and Neotropical America for performed
studies of plant conservation genetics

Country (a)   Total publications   Publications with
              per country (n)      at least one
                                   author from ANA (n)

Argentina             20                   17
Brazil               100                   96
Chile                 22                   18
Costa Rica            21                   21
Mexico                75                   65
Peru                  21                   15

Country (a)   ANA's institutions   Proportion
              of first &           institutions/ANA's
              corresponding        publications (%)
              authors (n)

Argentina             7                   41.2
Brazil                51                  53.1
Chile                 5                   27.8
Costa Rica            3                   14.3
Mexico                13                  20.0
Peru                  2                   13.3

(a) The six countries that comprehend 75 % of scientific
production were analyzed

Fig. 2 Relative geographic origin (%) of samples used in publications
of plant conservation genetics (1991-2010), discriminated by ANA
subregions. NeoA Neotropical America, AusA Austral America,
Caribbean Caribbean countries, ANA Austral and Neotropical America
(studies with samples for different subregions of ANA)

NeoA        83%
AusA         9%
Caribbean    2%
ANA          6%

Note: Table made from pie chart.
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Author:Oliveira-Miranda, M.A.; Martino, A.M.; De Oliveira-Miranda, R.M.; Balboa, K.; Aguilera, M.
Publication:The Botanical Review
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 1, 2013
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