Most biodiverse places on earth

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 20, 2010 10:35 hrs

A team of scientists has documented that Yasunm National Park, in the core of the Ecuadorian Amazon, is one of most biodiverse places on earth, with a wide array of plant and animal groups, from amphibians to trees to insects.

"This study demonstrates that Yasunm is the most diverse area in South America, and possibly the world," said Dr. Peter English of The University of Texas at Austin.

"Amphibians, birds, mammals and vascular plants all reach maximum diversity in Yasuni," he added.

"We have so far documented 596 bird species occurring in Yasuni," said English, a bird specialist.

"That's incredible diversity to find in just one corner of the Amazon rainforest and rivals any other spot on the planet," he added.

Other specialists joined in to give the first complete picture of the extraordinary diversity found in Yasunm National Park.

"The 150 amphibian species documented to date throughout Yasunm is a world record for an area of this size," said Shawn McCracken of Texas State University.

"There are more species of frogs and toads within Yasunm than are native to the United States and Canada combined," he added.

The scientists also confirmed that an average upland hectare (2.47 acres) in Yasunm contains more tree species, 655, than are native to the continental United States and Canada combined.

The number of tree species rises to more than 1,100 for an area of 25 hectares.

"In just one hectare in Yasunm, there are more tree, shrub and liana (woody vines) species than anywhere else in the world," said Gorky Villa, an Ecuadorian botanist working with both the Smithsonian Institution and Finding Species.

Perhaps the most impressive statistic of all is that a single hectare of forest in Yasunm is projected to contain 100,000 insect species.

According to eminent entomologist Dr. Terry Erwin, that is the highest estimated diversity per unit area in the world for any plant or animal group.

"One of our most important findings about Yasuni is that small areas of forest harbor extremely high numbers of animals and plants," said lead author Margot Bass, president of Finding Species, a non-profit with offices in Maryland and Quito, Ecuador.

"Yasuni is probably unmatched by any other park in the world for total numbers of species," Bass added. (ANI)

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