New biodiversity map of the Andes shows species in dire need of protection

January 27, 2012

The Andes-Amazon basin of Peru and Bolivia is one of the most biologically rich and rapidly changing areas of the world. A new study published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Ecology has used information collected over the last 100 years by explorers and from satellite images which reveals detailed patterns of species and ecosystems that occur only in this region. Worryingly, the study also finds that many of these unique species and ecosystems are lacking vital national level protection.

Endemic species are restricted to a specific area and occur nowhere else. These species are especially vulnerable to climate and environmental changes because they require unique climates and . This makes them an ideal indicator for measuring biodiversity.

A multinational team from the United States, Bolivia, Peru, and other countries mapped a wide range of in Bolivia and Peru, from the wetlands of Beni and the Iquitos várzea, to the bone dry xeric habitats of inter-Andean valleys, and the cool and humid montane forests along much of the eastern Andean slope. Over 7000 individual records of endemic species locations for 115 birds, 55 mammals, 177 amphibians and 435 plants were combined with climate data (WorldClim), topography (NASA's SRTM), and vegetation (NASA's MODIS satellite sensor), resulting in species distribution maps, accurate to 1km.

Analysis of the maps showed that the highest concentration of endemic birds and mammals was along a narrow band of the Andes mountains, between 2500 and 3000m above sea level. Endemic amphibian species peaked at 1000 to 1500m and were especially concentrated in southern Peru and northern Bolivia. One of the areas that had the highest levels of 'irreplaceability' and highest number of species for birds and mammals, is an unprotected region surrounding the small World Heritage Site of Macchu Pichu (Cordillera de Vilcabamba, Peru).

Disturbingly, the authors found that a total of 226 endemic species have no national protection and about half of the ecological systems have 10% or less of their range protected. Additionally only 20% of the areas with high numbers of endemic species and 20% of the irreplaceable areas are currently protected.

Dr Jennifer Swenson, from Duke University, who led the research said, "Biodiversity in the Andes is under threat from oil and gold mining, infrastructure projects, illegal crops, and many other activities. There is already evidence of species migrating upslope to keep up with climate change in this region. Conservation across the needs urgent revising and we hope that our data will help protect this incredibly unique region."

Explore further: Scientists discover new species of distinctive cloud-forest rodent

Related Stories

8 new species discovered in Boliva national parks

November 4, 2010

Botanists at the Missouri Botanical Garden have described eight new plant species collected in the Madidi National Park and surrounding areas located on the eastern slopes of the Andes in northern Bolivia. The new species ...

Stable temperatures boost biodiversity in tropical mountains

June 8, 2011

We often think of rainforests and coral reefs as hotspots for biodiversity, but mountains are treasure troves for species too -- especially in the tropics, scientists say. But what drives montane biodiversity? The diversity ...

Modern ecosystems feel ancient climate change effect

October 12, 2011

Earth's animals migrate to ensure their survival in suitable conditions. This is especially true when climate cycles switch between warm and cool periods. Now researchers in Denmark and the United Kingdom shed new light on ...

Recommended for you

Scientists overcome key CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing hurdle

December 1, 2015

Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT have engineered changes to the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system that significantly cut down on "off-target" ...

Study finds 'rudimentary' empathy in macaques

December 1, 2015

(—A pair of researchers with Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université Lyon, in France has conducted a study that has shown that macaques have at least some degree of empathy towards their fellow ...

Which came first—the sponge or the comb jelly?

December 1, 2015

Bristol study reaffirms classical view of early animal evolution. Whether sponges or comb jellies (also known as sea gooseberries) represent the oldest extant animal phylum is of crucial importance to our understanding of ...

Trap-jaw ants exhibit previously unseen jumping behavior

December 1, 2015

A species of trap-jaw ant has been found to exhibit a previously unseen jumping behavior, using its legs rather than its powerful jaws. The discovery makes this species, Odontomachus rixosus, the only species of ant that ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.