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Towards Greater Knowledge of the Brazilian Semi-arid

Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia (MCT)

Luciano Paganucci de Queiroz ; Alessandro Rapini ; Ana Maria Giulietti (Editors)

Publisher  : Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia (MCT)
Date de parution : 2006
Pages : 140 (pdf)


This book will present, along 27 chapters, a small portion of ongoing initiatives aiming to provide data about Brazilian Semi-arid biodiversity. A general view of the physical and biotic features of the Semi-arid can be found in the introductory section ‘To Set the Scene’.

In the first section, two network initiatives are presented : IMSEAR and PPBio/Semi-árido, both funding by MCT. The former presents some results after four years of project ; whereas the latter presents the component structure and its main goals.

The second section contains three chapters about biological collections in the semi-arid region. Chapter 3 presents a broad coverage of the herbaria in NE Brazil and gives a good idea of their history, main collections and problems. Chapter 4 deals of culture collections of microorganisms which are assuming strategic position in biotechnology development. An initiative of repatriation of historical collection data from a European herbarium (that of the RBG-Kew) to herbaria in NE Brazil is presented in Chapter 5. This highlight the value of historical collections, mostly in the largest European herbaria, for taxonomic works carried out in the megadiverse countries, mostly in the tropics, and shows the need to establish partnerships between Brazilian and international agencies. Unfortunately, we could not gather information about zoological collections.

The third section presents the current situation of inventories of different groups and areas in the Semi-arid. Although it is not an extensive coverage, it gives us a picture of the ongoing inventories. For the flowering plants, it is introduced a general view of this large group in the main vegetation types in the Semi-arid (Chapter 6) besides floristic works in the States of Bahia (Chapter 7) and Paraíba (Chapter 8), and in special environments that hold particular floras and ecological processes, such as the ‘campos rupestres’ in the uplands of the Chapada Diamantina (Chapter 9), inselbergs (Chapter 10) and water bodies (Chapter 11) embedded in the Semi-arid. This section also presents projects dealing with taxonomic surveys of two families of flowering plants : Polygonaceae (Chapters 12) and Rhamnaceae (Chapters 13). Current situation on the knowledge of the fungi in the Semi-arid is presented in the Chapter 14. Data about biodiversity of animals were gathered for a few groups. A general situation of biodiversity of insects in the Semi-arid is presented in Chapter 15, followed by treatments of two megadiverse orders, Diptera (the flies ; Chapter 16) and Coleoptera (the beetles ; Chapter 17). Data on vertebrates are presented for fishes (Chapters 18) and birds (Chapters 19). Data about fishes highlight the ongoing inventories and the risks of alien species introduction for local ichthyofauna inhabiting isolated basins. The chapter about birds brings the sad report of a recent extinction of the last natural population of the little blue macaw, a species known only for the caatinga of northern Bahia. Study cases about traditional uses of animals of the Semi-arid as source of food and for folk medicine by Pankararé Indians and local people are provided in Chapter 20.

The fourth section presents studies on molecular plant systematics being carried out in the Semi-arid. Chapter 21 brings information about projects on phylogenetic studies in different groups of plants and about the ‘DNA-bank’, which holds samples of more than 1,000 species. This is certainly the largest DNA bank in Brazil and is a valuable record of genetic diversity of plants in the Semi-arid and an outstanding source for studies on plant systematics using modern approaches. Chapter 22 presents the goals of a project intending to produce short diagnostic sequences of DNA that act as barcodings for species prompt identification. If successful, this project will provide researchers with accurate identifications of land plants, particularly those of the Caatinga, most of which lack leaves or flowers during the long dry season and usually rise difficult to confident identification.

The fifth section presents some of the graduate programmes in Northeast Brazil that deal with different aspects of Semi-arid biodiversity : Botany at UEFS (Chapter 23), Plant Biology at UFPE (Chapter 24), Biology of Fungi at UFPE (Chapter 25) and Biotechnology at UEFS (Chapter 26). Unfortunately, the short schedule to prepare this book did not allow us to gather extensive information from all graduate courses. Our deep apologies for the noteworthy absences of the graduate programmes at UFBA, UFC, UFPB e UFRPE. The last section presents a project that combines techniques of satellite image analysis with field observations in order to prepare maps of natural remnants of vegetation and land use in the Caatingas (Chapter 27)

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