Jump to content Jump to navigation

Sylvia Mota de Oliveira

Dr. S. (Sylvia) Mota de Oliveira, Research fellow - Biodiversity Discovery


Email: sylvia.motadeoliveira@naturalis.nl
Phone: +31 (0)71-75 17 218
Room number: 1A, Nieuwenhuizenweg 19


I was born in the Northeast of Brazil. I got my diploma as Biologist at Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco (UFRPE) and my MSc degree at Universidade Federal the Pernambuco (UFPE), studying phenology of bryophytes in the Brazilian Atlantic forest.After that I worked at INPA (Instituto de Pesquisas da Amazônia) in Manaus, focusing on the hidrochemistry of Amazonian black water rivers. The work in the forest brought me a lot of experience and renewed my botanical interest. In 2006 I started my doctorateresearch. My PhD thesis at Utrecht University, “Bryophyte diversity across the Amazon”, was the first large scale, systematic investigation of the Amazonian epiphytic bryophytes, from the understory to the forest canopy. Currently I am appointed at Naturalis Biodiversity Center, as part of an institutional effort on Neotropical Botany.


Research interest

I am interested in the plant diversity of the Amazonian flora. My research questions span the fields of taxonomy, species inventories, and bryophyte ecology and biogeography. Because I truly support equal access to scientific knowledge, disclosure of taxonomic literatureis an important topic alongside my editorial activities in the Flora of the Guianas.


myristicaceae, flora of the guianas, e-taxonomy., amazonia, bryophyte ecology

Current research topics


Taxonomy, phylogeny and biogeography of VirolaAublet in the Neotropics

The genus VirolaAublet belongs to the Myristicaceae, a family of woody species that have significant ecological and ethnobotanical importance worldwide as a component of primarily lowland tropical forests. In the Amazon, the family is represented with 57 species, 11 of which belong to the most common Amazonian trees, i.e. the hyperdominants (terSteege et al. 2013). The Amazon is also the center of diversity of Virola.In this project I will integrate morphological and molecular data of Virola species across the Neotropics in order to produce a phylogeny for the genus and to assess current morphological species delimitations.


Life is in the air: long distance dispersal across the Amazonian atmosphere

Dispersal of bryophytes is an intriguing issue, that can help understanding the geographical distribution of species and the assemblage of communities. However, dispersal over large areas, known as long distance dispersal, is hardly ever documented. Wind movement above the forest canopy is an important long distance vector for plants dispersing via spores, such as bryophytes. In this project, biological particles transported by the wind above the Amazon forest will be collected from a 325 meter high tower.Taxonomic identification of airborne diaspores at species level will be based on DNA metabarcoding (Next Generation Sequencing), and coupled to an extensive DNA reference library being built for Amazonian species as well as to sequences available in public databases. Diversity and composition of airborne diaspores will be analysed in the light of a comprehensive species dataset for the region, including species relative abundances, species traits and habitat specialization.


Flora of the Guianas

The Flora of the Guianas is a long term project dedicated to the taxonomic treatment of all plant species occurring within the borders of French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana. I have been making efforts to disclose its content in a free and open platform. The ultimate goal is to change the Flora workflow in a system that will deliver species descriptions and related data freely available on the web, tools for data representation and extraction, fast publication time and content updates through peer-review. (For instance the Encyclopedia of Life)


Amazonian bryophytes: distribution patterns and community assembly

I have a deep interest on the interplay of biological processes on the community assemblage of epiphytic bryophytes in the Amazon. Although this is not my main research theme anymore, I still work on this subject through student supervision. Relevant questions are: how are species distributed across the Amazon Basin? Which microclimatic and macroclimatic elements influence species occurrence? Are there morphological traits related to the different microhabitats where species grow? 


Supervision PhDs


Laura Vitoria Campos Salazar  – Distribution pattern of epiphytic bryophytes in the Colombian Amazon: a regional approach (PhD, ongoing).

Hermeson Cassiano de Oliveira – Community ecology of epiphytic bryophytes in a fragmented remnant of Atlantic forest in Brazil (PhD, finished 2013).



Tropical Plant Families - Leiden University: lecturer in course coordinated by Daniel Thomas, Naturalis.

Supervision MSc Students

2017 Supervisor - Lindenbergh, R. - The role of asexual reproduction in habitat specialization of Lejeuneaceae in the Amazon
2016 Jasmijn Ruijgrok - A taxonomic revision of the Commelinaceae in the Guianas
2014 Supervisor - Santen M. van - Traits associated with canopy microhabitat conditions in the Amazonian Lejeuneaceae
2008 Temme, A. A. – Long distance dispersal in the Amazon as showed by the liverwort Cheilolejeunea rigidula (Lejeuneaceae)
Available student projects

Public outreach

Flora of the Guianas: Toward an Online Platform; short report article on activities during the workshop “How to promote and foster the development & adoption of common mark-up standards & interoperability between schemas”. Pro-iBiosphere Newsletter

Flora of the Guianas Newsletter 18. With contributions of N. Koster, D. Traag, P. da Silva, P. Delprete, E. Lucas, T. van Andel, B. Torke, O. Poncy and P. Acevedo.



Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Oliveira S.M. de 2018. The double role of pigmentation and convolute leaves in community assemblage of Amazonian epiphytic Lejeuneaceae. PeerJ 6: e5921.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Steege H. ter, Sabatier D., Mota de Oliveira S., Molino J-F., Gomes V., Magnusson W.E., Pos E., Salomão R.P. 2017. Estimating species richness in hyper-diverse large tree communities. Ecology 98: 1444-1454.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Hoehndorf R., Alshahrani M., Gkoutos G., Gosline G., Groom Q., Hamann T., Kattge J., Mota de Oliveira S., Schmidt M., Sierra S., Smets E., Vos R.. Weiland C. 2016. The flora phenotype ontology (FLOPO): tool for integrating morphological traits and phenotypes of vascular plants. Journal of Biomedical Semantics 7: 65.
Go to website (DOI)

Steege H. ter, Vaessen R.W., Cardenas D., Sabatier D., Antonelli A., Mota de Oliveira S., Pitman N., Jørgensen P.M., Salomão R.P. 2016. The discovery of the Amazonian tree flora with an updated checklist of all known tree taxa. Scientific Reports 6: 29549.
Go to website (DOI)

Oliveira H.C., Oliveira S.M. de 2016. Vertical distribution of epiphytic bryophytes in Atlantic Forest fragments in northeastern Brazil. Acta Botanica Brasilica 30: 609-617.
Go to website (DOI)

Journals non-SCI, peer-reviewed

Steege H. ter, Vaessen R.W., Cardenas D., Sabatier D., Antonelli A., Mota de Oliveira S., Pitman N., Jørgensen P.M., Salomão R.P., Gomes V.H.F. 2016. A descoberta da flora arbórea da Amazônia com uma lista atualizada de todos os taxa arbóreos conhecidos. Boletim do Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi. Ciencias Naturais 11: 231-261.
Go to website (URI)

Edited books

Mota de Oliveira S., Jansen-Jacobs M.J. (eds.). 2016. Flora of the Guianas. 40. Dilleniaceae, 117. Vitaceae and 131. Meliaceae.. Flora of the Guianas series A: Phanerogams 31 171 p. Kew Publishing, Richmond, UK. ISBN 978-1-84246-465-6.


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Mota de Oliveira S., Steege H. ter 2015. Bryophyte communities in the Amazon forest are regulated by height on the host tree and site elevation. Journal of Ecology 103: 441-450.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Monteiro M.T.F., Mota de Oliveira S., Luizão F.J., Cândido L.A., Ishida F.Y., Tomasella J. 2014. Dissolved organic carbon concentration and its relationship to electrical conductivity in the waters of a stream in a forested Amazonian blackwater catchment. Plant Ecology & Diversity 7: 205-213.
Go to website (DOI)

Edited books

Mota de Oliveira S. (eds.). 2014. Flora of the Guianas, series A (30): 139. Gentianaceae. 131 p. Kew Publishers, Kew, UK. ISBN 978-1-84246-507-3.


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Mota de Oliveira S., Steege H. ter 2013. Floristic overview of the epiphytic bryophytes of terra firme forests across the Amazon basin. Acta Botanica Brasilica 27: 347-363.
Go to website (DOI)

Edited books

Mota de Oliveira S. (eds.). 2013. Flora of the Guianas, Series E (3): Cladoniaceae. Series E: Funghi and Lichens 3 132 p. Kew Publishing, Kew, UK. ISBN 9781842464793.


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Cuartas Luz A., Tomasella J., Nobre A.D., Nobre C.A., Hodnett M.G., Waterloo M.J., Mota de Oliveira S., Cassia von Randow R. de, Trancoso R., Ferreira M. 2012. Distributed hydrological modeling of a micro-scale rainforest watershed in Amazonia: Model evaluation and advances in calibration using the new HAND terrain model. Journal of Hydrology 462: 15-27.
Go to website (DOI)

Edited books

Mota de Oliveira S. (eds.). 2012. Flora of the Guianas, Series A (29): 127. Sapindaceae. Sapindaceae. Series A: Phanerogams 29 196 p. Kew Publishers, Kew, UK. ISBN 9781842464809.


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Mota de Oliveira S., Steege H. ter, Cornelissen J.H.C., Gradstein S.R. 2009. Niche assembly of epiphytic bryophyte communities in the Guianas: a regional approach. Journal of Biogeography 36: 2076-2084.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Tomasella J., Hodnett M.G., Cuartas L.A., Nobre A.D., Waterloo M.J., Oliveira S.M. 2008. The water balance of an Amazonian micro-catchment: the effect of interannual variability of rainfall on hydrological behaviour. Hydrological Processes 22: 2133-2147.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Waterloo M.J., Mota de Oliveira S., Drucker D.P., Nobre A.D., Cuartas L.A., Hodnett M.G., Langedijk I., Jans W.W.P., Tomasella J., Araujo A.C. de, Pimentel T.P., Munera E.J.C. 2006. Export of organic carbon in run-off from an Amazonian rainforest blackwater catchment. Hydrological Processes 20: 2581-2597.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Mote de Oliveira S., Porto K.C. 2005. Sporophyte production and population structure of two species of Pottiaceae in an Atlantic Forest remnant in Pernambuco, Brazil. Cryptogamie Bryologie 26: 239-247.


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Porto K.C., Mota de Oliveira S. 2002. Reproductive phenology of Octoblepharum albidum (Bryopsida, Leucobryaceae) in a tropical lowland forest of north-eastern Brazil. Journal of Bryology 24: 291-294.
Go to website (DOI)

Mota de Oliveira S., Porto K.C. 2002. Population profile of Bryum apiculatum Schwaegr. in an Atlantic Forest remnant, Pernambuco, Brazil. Journal of Bryology 24: 251-252.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Mota de Oliveira S., Porto K.C. 2001. Reproductive phenology of the moss Sematophyllum subpinnatum in a tropical lowland forest of north-eastern Brazil. Journal of Bryology 23: 17-21.


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Pôrto K.C., Germano S.R., Mota de Oliveira S. 2000. New records of Bryophytes for Pernambuco State, Brazil. Tropical Bryology 18: 107-114.


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Mota de Oliveira S., Pôrto K.C. 1998. Reprodução sexuada em musgos acrocárpicos do estado de Pernambuco, Brasil. Acta Botanica Brasilica 12: 385-392.

Chapters in books

Pôrto K.C., Mota de Oliveira S. 1998. Biodiversidade e biologia reprodutiva de briófitas da reserva ecológica de Dois Irmãos. 115-135: Editora Universitária UFPE, Recife, Brazil.