The Botanical Review

, Volume 75, Issue 3, pp 271–291 | Cite as

Plant Communities of Western Amazonia

  • Randall W. MysterEmail author


In this review I focus on the socially and ecologically important western Amazon basin and its associated plant communities. I delineate this vast area as between the Andes to the west and the confluence of the Amazon and its first major black-water river, the Rio Negro, to the east. Although scientists have explored here, and local people have lived here for years, we still have—unfortunately—only a most basic understanding of its plant communities. This review is motivated by that lack of knowledge, and attempts both to add a level of organization to what we do know and to suggest future avenues of research. I do this by first realizing that plant communities here must be fundamentally differentiated by the degree of flooding they experience, the kind of water involved, and how regularly that flooding occurs. Within that context, plant communities can then be further defined by such characteristics as soil type, micro-topological relief, and human-induced disturbance regime. After completing the review, I suggest that the diversity of plant communities, not just the plants themselves, is large and likely to grow substantially as we sample more and more, that is to say the peak of the plant community-sampling area curve has not yet been reached. I close with basic questions to help guide future efforts, ideas on how plant communities could be defined quantitatively, and a call for more research funding of the Western Amazon.


Plant Community Amazon Basin Leaf Area Ratio Terra Firme Amazonian Rainforest 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


En esta revisión que enfoco en la cuenca del Amazonas socialmente y ecológicamente importante occidental y se ha asociado las comunidades de planta. Delineo esta área vasta como entre los Andes y la confluencia del Amazonas y su primer río mayor de negro-agua, el Negro de Rio. Aunque científicos hayan explorado aquí durante años, nosotros tenemos todavía—desgraciadamente—sólo un comprensión muy básico de su estructura. Esta revisión es motivada por esa falta del conocimiento, y las tentativas para agregar un nivel de la organización a lo que sabemos. Hago que por darse cuenta de primero que esas comunidades de planta aquí deben ser diferenciadas fundamentalmente por el grado de la inundación ellos experimentan, la clase de agua implicada, y si esa inundación ocurre con regularidad o no. Dentro de ese contexto, aún más comunidades de planta entonces fueron definidas. Encontré que la diversidad de comunidades, no apenas las plantas sí mismos, son grande y probable de crecer substancial como probamos cada vez mas, eso es el pico de la curva de comunidad-área tiene todavía no fue alcanzado. Cierro con algunas preguntas básicas y también algunas ideas de mi propio análisis de Neotropic campos viejos en cómo nosotros quizás definamos las comunidades cuantitativamente, así como una llamada para más financiación de investigación



I would like to thank Dr. Hugo Naverette, Dr. Renato Valencia, and the staff of the Yasuni field station (Ecuador), Ms. Euidice Horonico and the staff at the Jenaro Herrera Field Station (Peru), and Dr. Paul Beaver and the staff of the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Reserve (Peru) for their help in facilitating my research in the Western Amazon. I would also like to thank Henrik Balslev, Evan Notman and Michael Gilmore for commenting on a previous version of the manuscript. This research was supported by NSF grants DEB-0218039 and DEB-0620910 to the Institute for Tropical Ecosystem Studies/University of Puerto Rico and to the International Institute of Tropical Forestry as part of the long-term ecological research program in the Luquillo Experimental Forest. Additional support was provided by the Forest Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and the University of Puerto Rico.

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© The New York Botanical Garden 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biology DepartmentOklahoma State UniversityOklahoma CityUSA

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