September 14, 2012
Madidi National Park May Be Most Biologically Diverse In The World
Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
At the IUCN World Conservation Congress, an international gathering of conservationists, held this year in Jeju, South Korea, it was announced that the Madidi National Park, located in the remote Northwestern region of Bolivia, may be the most biologically diverse location on the globe.
The Wildlife Conservation Society, in conjunction with the Bolivian Park Service (SERNAP), has published a compendium of species that provide the region with its variety and diversity. The report, spanning 15 years and the dedication of more than 50 scientists from the WCS, Bolivian Fauna Collection, Bolivian National Herbarium, Amazon Conservation, Armonia, Missouri Botanical Garden and others, revealed such interesting facts as 11 percent of the world´s birds call this region home. Additionally, there are more than 200 species of mammals, 300 type of fish and 12,000 plant and fauna varieties on the 7,335 sq/mi protected reserve. Geographically, Madidi is famous for altitudinal gradients that spans from its lowland tropical forests of the Amazon to its snow-capped peaks of the High Andes.
"With Madidi's almost 6,000-meter (19,685 feet) altitudinal range, no other protected area captures the diversity of South American habitats that pushes these numbers through the ceiling. All the scientists who contributed to this compendium feel privileged to work in Madidi, and we are all very happy to help SERNAP promote the national and international conservation importance of the area," said WCS's Madidi Landscape Program Director Dr. Robert Wallace.
In no small part, the diversity of the region has aided in Madidi being a prime destination for ecotourism. Visitors, seeking unspoiled and, until recently, undiscovered habitats can hope to see many of the 1,868 invertebrates (including over 1,088 species of birds), countless mammals such as the 660-pound lowland tapir to the diminutive insectivorous Spix´s disk-winged bat that weighs .14 ounces. Among the spectacular bird species are the Harpy Eagle, regarded as one of the more powerful birds of prey on Earth whose diet regularly consists of sloth and monkey, to one of more than 60 species of hummingbird in the region, the Coquette.
Despite this seemingly comprehensive study, there are still regions within Madidi that are unknown. In particular, the tropical montane, (or cloud forests), located in a altitudinal range between 3,280 and 9,842 feet, are believed to contain an additional two thirds of the park´s as yet undiscovered species. With the threat of climate change and how that will affect all the world´s mountains, a sense of urgency is expressed by the WCS and participating organizations to formally register or, at the very least, observe the biodiversity of this particular region.
Dr. CristiÃ¡n Samper, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said: "The Wildlife Conservation Society is proud to be assisting the Bolivian government in the conservation of these magnificent places. This important compendium emphasizes just how poorly known the cloud forests of the Tropical Andes really are. Apart from their biodiversity and wildlife importance, they are critical from a watershed management perspective and are aesthetically beautiful."
Madidi National Park, created as a protected zone in 1995, is part of a larger zone that spans all the way south to Peru, making it one of the largest natural preserves on Earth. Despite its designation, the park, and the larger region as a whole, is struggling to defend against any further development like roads and industry such as clear cutting of important and vital rainforest land.