More good news! Today Karina passed her viva examination – congratulations Dr Banda-R!
The following is posted on behalf of Toby Pennington
Karina’s research topic was the tropical dry forests in Latin America, which are amongst the world’s most threatened tropical forests. Less than 10% of their original extent remains in many countries, much less than many rain forests such as Amazonia that remains approximately 80% intact. Dry forests were the cradle of pre-Colombian civilisation in Latin America, and the source of globally important crops such as maize, beans, peanuts and tomato, but despite this and their widespread destruction, they have been long-overlooked by scientists and conservationists.
Karina’s project started with a focus on the tropical dry forests of Colombia, but expanded to take in the entire area of Latin America and the Caribbean via her role in the Latin American Seasonally Dry Tropical Forest Floristic Network – DRYFLOR, for which she co-ordinated work in Colombia. DRYFLOR includes more than 50 scientists and conservationists and has developed an unprecedented database of dry forest tree species, based upon 1602 inventories across Latin America and the Caribbean. As part of her PhD, Karina led the analyses of this huge dataset for a paper published in the journal Science that show that these dry forests contain a remarkable 6958 species of woody plants. Karina showed that species found in different regions of dry forest are seldom shared, meaning that each contains species growing nowhere else. This conveys a simple but urgent message that numerous protected areas across many countries will be needed to protect the full diversity of dry forests. In the light of probable warmer climates in the tropics, conservation of unique dry forest species that have adaptations to heat and drought should be global priority.
Publishing a paper in Science during a PhD is a remarkable achievement for Karina. Her hope is that these results will provide the scientific framework within which, for the first time, national decision makers can contextualise the significance of their dry forests at a regional and continental scale.