Friday, February 21, 2014

Peru’s Manu National Park sets new biodiversity record

Robert Sanders at the UC Berkeley News Center: Peru’s treasured Manu National Park is the world’s top biodiversity hotspot for reptiles and amphibians, according to a new survey published last month by biologists from the University of California, Berkeley, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale (SIU-Carbondale) and Illinois Wesleyan University.

The park, which encompasses lowland Amazonian rain forest, high-altitude cloud forest and Andean grassland east of Cuzco, is well known for its huge variety of bird life, which attracts ecotourists from around the globe. More than 1,000 species of birds, about 10 percent of the world’s bird species; more than 1,200 species of butterflies; and now 287 reptiles and amphibians have been recorded in the park.

Postdoc Rudolf von May discusses the reptile and amphibian biodiversity in Peru’s Manu National Park. Video by Phil Ebiner and Roxanne Makasdjian. Photos and video footage by Alessandro Catenazzi, SIU-Carbondale, and Rudolf von May, UC Berkeley.

“For reptiles and amphibians, Manu and its buffer zone now stands out as the most diverse protected area anywhere,” said study coauthor Rudolf von May, a postdoctoral researcher in UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

Despite the park’s abundant and diverse animal life, von May said, not all is well in the preserve. The devastating chytrid fungus has caused a decline in the number of frogs there, as it has elsewhere around the world, while deforestation for subsistence living, gold mining and oil and gas drilling are encroaching on the buffer zones around the park.

“All of this is threatening the biodiversity in the park and the native peoples who live in settlements in the park,” von May said. At least four Amazonian tribes and a nomadic group of hunter-gatherers known as Mashco-Piro live within the confines of Manu National Park and its buffer zone....

A new species of stream-living lizard discovered in Manu National Park, Peru, by Alessandro Catenazzi. Catenazzi of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, UC Berkeley postdoc Rudolf von May and taxonomist Edgar Lehr of Illinois Wesleyan University have completed a survey of the park and its buffer zone, uncovering a greater diversity of reptiles and amphibians than any other protected area in the world. Alessandro Catenazzi image.

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