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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 MSc degree at Universidade Federal the Pernambuco (UFPE), studying phenology and population ecology of bryophyte species of the Brazilian Atlantic forest. After that, I worked in the Amazon forest, with hidrochemistry of black water rivers. The work in the forest brought me a lot of experience and renewed my botanical interest, specifically on bryophyte biogeography. 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, with the support of Alberta Mennega Foundation. I am responsible for the editorship and coordination of the Flora of the Guianas and I also perform research on biogeography and dispersal of Amazonian bryophytes. 


Research interest

My main focus in Naturalis is the coordination and the editorship of the Flora of the Guianas. I am interested in e-taxonomy and I aim at a radical change of the Flora workflow and publication format. The new workflow 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.

Personally, I am also interested in macroecology, biogeography and community ecology in the Neotropics, and specifically in the interplay of biological processes on the community assemblage of epiphytic bryophytes. 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? Are these traits adaptations? These are some of the questions that guide my research.


bryophytes, flora of the guianas, neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography, amazon, epiphyte, e-taxonomy

Current research topics

Flora of the Guianas online platform

Flora of the Guianas online platform will allow FoG online will make information freely available, offer more tools for data representation and identification and speed up publication, without loosing the revisionary character and the high scientific standard, peculiar to our Flora. As scientific editor, I will control and evaluate whether the data assembled together and the updates of old treatments need disambiguation, and whether it still represents the author’s opinion on the revision (which is ultimately the scientific background of such a work). The baseline for these changes is an electronic platform where all treatments are stored in a searchable and interactive manner (links to literature, etc.). The addition of the content of Flora of Suriname, as sub-project, will increase the completeness of FoG from 25% to 75% and support new treatments.


Life is in the air: bryophyte 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. DNA identification of the plant material will help understanding how bryophyte species features relate to their dispersal abilities and influence their geographical distribution.



  • Dr. K. Cavalcanti Pôrto - UFPE - Brazil.
  • Dr. E. Lucas - Kew Gardens - UK.
  • Flora of the Guianas Consortium.

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

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.