Significance for Conservation
The complex geologic and evolutionary history of the Andes, the worlds longest mountain range, has produced an exceptionally rich and diverse landscape of species and ecosystems. The eastern slope of the Andes and the adjacent Amazonian forests are home to the worlds highest diversity of birds, one-third of all freshwater fish species and more than 60,000 plant species, half of which are found nowhere else.
By almost any measure, this region harbors some of the most important biodiversity found anywhere on Earth.
- It includes three of the World Wildlife Fund's "Global 200" ecoregions with the most representative examples of the Earths biodiversity.
- It lies within the Tropical Andes hotspot, one of the 34 highest-priority regions proposed by Conservation International for global biodiversity conservation. The area is believed to have the highest level of terrestrial vertebrate endemism on Earth
- The upper Amazonian forests contain the greatest diversity of amphibians in the Western Hemisphere.
Biodiversity in Peril
Today, this extraordinary wilderness is under threat. Increasing human populations and economic activity exert increasing pressures on natural resources. Across the slopes of the Andes and the Amazon basin, loss of forests and other wild lands to logging, cattle ranching, mining, agriculture, and infrastructure continues at rates of up to 9,000 square miles per year. Balancing conservation of these irreplaceable landscapes with the needs of local peoples to earn their livelihoods is a shared global responsibility.
Together with over 50 collaborating or partnering institutions, our team of scientists developed analyses for several key conservation issues:
Modeling and Mapping Distributions of Endemic Species
Using the latest scientific research, tools, and innovative methods, we modeled and mapped the ranges of 782 endemic species of birds, mammals, amphibians and plants. The results identified areas of high conservation value as well as previously undetected centers of endemism.
Classifying and Mapping Ecological Systems
We developed a standardized detailed vegetation map of upland and wetland ecological systems across the project area. Eighty-four different ecological systems were identified and mapped using the classification of Latin American ecological systems developed by NatureServe in collaboration with numerous experts.
Supporting Conservation Planning in San Martin, Peru
Together with regional leaders, NatureServe identified sustainable ways to regulate land use while also protecting the region’s natural species and habitats. Biodiversity information generated by the project was analyzed together with existing land use data to identify areas of high conservation concern and develop scenarios of land uses for agriculture, infrastructure and forestry that have lower impact on biodiversity conservation.
Identifying Conservation Gaps in Protected Areas
To evaluate how well are the species and habitat types identified in the study currently protected and their prospects for the future, we mapped and developed a model depicting current land uses and potential future land uses in the region.