Neotropical dry forests make it to the cover of Science!


We are very excited to announce that a new paper on the plant diversity and conservation of neotropical dry forests has been published in the journal Science. This paper is the result of a massive collaborative effort from DryFlor – the Latin American and Caribbean Seasonally Dry Tropical Forest Floristic Network – and highlights the challenges facing the conservation of this highly threatened biodiversity hotspot.

You can access the paper here

Find out more about the neotropical dry forest here

The Wild Magic of Colombian biodiversity

We were delighted to attend the screening of the documentary Colombia Magia Salvaje on Thursday 28th June at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). Along with one hundred and fifty enthusiastic attendants, we embarked on a journey through Colombia’s incredibly diverse ecosystems. The magnificent shots took us from immaculate snow capped peaks in the Andes to the endless Amazon rainforest. The film also features some of the country’s most representative animals and plants. Animals such as the jaguar – the largest feline in the Americas – and the spectacled bear – the only bear species native to South America – made an appearance. So did the wax palm, Colombia’s national tree which can be found from 2000 meters above sea level, growing up to 45 m on the steep Andean slopes! Just to give you a taster.

Colombia Magia Salvaje is the first of its kind for Colombia and it is the most watched documentary in the history of the country’s cinema. It has successfully introduced global audiences to the extraordinary biodiversity of Colombia, the second most biodiverse country in the World, and raised awareness about the unfortunate but very real threats facing its ecosystems – expansion of agricultural and industrial activities, illegal logging, illegal trade of wildlife, water pollution, extensive mining exploitation and habitat degradation.

The event was jointly organised by RBGE and the Embassy of Colombia in the United Kingdom. A selection of photos from the reception preceding the screening is shown below. All photos by Amy Fokinther.



rbgeColombia aims to study the biogeography, evolution and conservation of Colombian biomes whilst running an outreach programme promoting its research. Find more here.

Follow us on Twitter @rbgeColombia

Congratulations Eugenio

Congratulations to Eugenio Valderrama who successfully defended his PhD thesis at RBGE one week ago (apologies for the late posting!). Eugenio´s PhD utilized DNA sequence data obtained from a screen of markers from transcriptomes of three species of Renealmia (Zingiberaceae). The markers were used to produce a dated phylogeny of nearly all the species that was then used to compare diversification rates between African and Neotropical lineages of the genus. Faster rates were found in the Neotropical lineages, consistent with the hypothesis of more rapid speciation in the Neotropics being responsible for the greater diversity found there. This rapid speciation may be associated with the uplift of the Andes mountains in Northwestern South America from the mid to late Miocene. Eugenio also produced an account fo the Colombian species of Renealmia.

Eugenio post viva

Celebrating the defence: Karina, Eugenio, Mafe, Julieth, Andreas and Maca. Photo: Toby Pennington.

The Age of Chocolate

Together with researchers at the University of the Andes, University of Miami and the USDA we have recently published an article that investigates the diversification history of Theobroma (the genus to which Theobroma cacao, the source of chocolate, belongs). We show that the genus and its relative Herrania diversified from approximately thirteen million years ago. This diversification coincided with, and may in part have been caused by, the formation of the Andes Mountains in Northwestern South America. Colombia is home to 50% of the 20 or so species in Theobroma and is thus a centre of diversity for the genus.


We also show that Theobroma cacao evolved 10 million years ago which means that we should not be surprised to see extensive genetic diversity within the species. Varieties of cacao that have different flavours or may be resistant to fungal diseases may be of benefit to a growing chocolate industry. Maintenance of this genetic diversity in its natural state, together with the animals that pollinate flowers and disperse fruits in native ecosystems, has the potential to assist with improving the quality and quantity of production that could help ensure an environmentally and economically sustainable future for the chocolate industry.

You can download a pdf of the article here.

Festival Colombiano 2015

Come and learn about RBGE’s work in Colombia. Meet our team who are researching Colombia’s rich botanical diversity and their efforts to conserve it.


With music from Khantara, dance, art and craft activites. All free.

12-5 pm, Sunday 30th of August, John Hope Gateway, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

rbgeColombia on ARC Gloria

              We invite you to visit Colombias’s National Flagship ARC Gloria.


Explore this magnificent vessel and learn about Colombia’s rich natural resources, habitats and people and join us in celebrating some of Colombia’s vibrant cultural traditions.

Music and dance by the ship’s band, art and crafts activities. All free.

1-5 pm on Saturday 29th of August at Ocean Terminal, Ocean Drive, Edinburgh.

The Cocaine Conspiracy at the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas

You are invited to our show “The Cocaine Conspiracy” at the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, taking place at the Fringe festival this year.

The show will be from 3pm to 4pm on the 23rd of August 2015 at St Andrew Square.

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas is a debate, discussion and discourse, designed as an informal platform for academics and researchers to engage with the public on an array of topics.

Tickets are available at

The cocaine trade has enormous social and ecological consequences on both global and local scales. The production of cocaine involves large scale deforestation and pollution as a result of the discarding of the reagents used to process from leaf to final product. Western governments have been pursuing the so-called war on drugs for many years at a cost of billions of dollars. But how successful has this approach been? Is a hard line approach the only solution? In this forum we will discuss this and alternative approaches to tackling the problem.

Cocaine Conspiracy 1

The event  discussion will expose personal opinions and will not reflect RBGE views.