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Biogeography and conservation of the genus Ficus (Moraceae) in Mexico

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Abstract Aim 

The main objective of this study is to document the biogeographical patterns, endemism and degree of conservation of the species of Ficus (Moraceae) in Mexico. There are over 750 species of the genus Ficus distributed worldwide, and Mexico practically represents its northernmost limit in the American continent. Detailed studies at regional scales may help to understand the biogeography of large genera such as Ficus. Location 

Mexico. Methods 

The biogeographical patterns of Mexican Ficus were obtained from information of fig specimens available in two of the main herbaria of Mexico (2140 vouchers), collecting figs throughout this country, and revising the specialized literature. The presence of each species of Ficus was recorded for every one of Mexico's states and several tropical countries of America. Besides, the Mexican territory was divided into cells of 1° × 1° and the presence or absence of all species of the genus was recorded. Rarity of species was classified based on the width of geographic distribution, habitat specificity and population size. Results 

A total of 21 species of Ficus occur in Mexico, including six species (28.6%) that are endemic to this country. Five species are included in subgenus Pharmacosycea and 16 species are documented under subgenus Urostigma. Affinities of Ficus flora with other tropical countries in America generally decreased as geographical distances from Mexico increased. Mexican states and cells with highest values of Ficus species richness (both total and endemic species) were located. Ten species, including three endemics, presented a wide distribution. Five species, including two endemics, possess the three attributes of rarity (narrow geographical distribution, high habitat specificity and scarce local populations). Three species of Ficus, including the endemic and very rare Ficuslapathifolia (Liebm.) Miq., are not recorded in any protected area existing in Mexico. Main conclusions 

Most of the Mexican Ficus show a great morphological variation and occupy different habitats along their geographic distribution. The biogeographical patterns described here establish a fundamental scenario for ongoing studies on Ficus–pollinator interactions. However, many local populations are considered to be at risk, as there have been significant reductions in the number and size of local populations. Further studies are needed to understand the process of colonization, maintenance and persistence of fig–pollinator mutualism in species with different patterns of geographic distribution. Mexican Ficus require special policies for conservation due to their complex degree of rarity, particularly their geographic distribution in different types of vegetation, ranging from dry scrublands to tropical rain forests.

Keywords: Biogeography; Ficus; Mexico; Moraceae; conservation; distribution; endemism; rarity; tropics

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-03-01

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