Tropical dry forests of Venezuela: Characterization and current conservation status

Laurie Fajardo, Valois González, Jafet M. Nassar, Pablo Lacabana, Carlos A. Portillo Q, Fabián Carrasquel, Jon Paul Rodríguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Tropical dry forests are located predominantly in the northern portion of Venezuela, above 6°N. Although their potential extent covers ca 400,000 km2 (44% of the land), they currently occupy about 10 percent of this area. The diversity and complexity of Venezuelan dry forests increases from north to south along a gradient of decreasing severity of the dry season. A typical dry forest in Venezuela presents ca 110-170 species of plants from ca 40 to 50 families within an area of approximately 10 ha. Species composition and forest structure, however, are dependent on local landscape conditions (e.g., soil type, topography), and nearby forest types can be very different. Our analysis of five dry forest variants showed a maximum family similarity of 67 percent, although most values fell in the 50-60 percent interval. They are currently considered as one of Venezuela's most threatened ecosystems, but only 5 percent of extant dry forests are included in protected areas; this represents 0.5 percent of their potential extent. It is fundamental to promote the creation of at least 3 or 4 more large protected areas (ca 5000 ha), with different climatic and orographic characteristics, in combination with the recovery of threatened species, the restoration of degraded systems, and the implementation of sustainable development projects. Their apparent high resilience suggests that with the proper management we can restore and maintain the integrity of Venezuelan dry forests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-546
Number of pages16
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • Composition
  • Conservation
  • Distribution
  • Functional aspects
  • Land cover change
  • Land use change
  • Remote sensing
  • Species composition
  • Structure
  • Tropical dry forests
  • Venezuela


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