Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Rich Biodiversity That Is Madagascar

Photo: Frank Wouters.

Madagascar, an area rich in biodiversity, much of it undiscovered has just yielded up between 129 and 221 new species of frog. This effectively doubles the known amphibian species on the island proving that Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot that should be studied not plundered.

The political instability that allows Madagascar’s natural resources to be plundered is described by Treehugger:
National Geographic is reporting that Marojejy National Park is not only closed to tourists, but that according to the park's website "gangs of armed men (led primarily by foreign profiteers in conjunction with the rich local mafia) are plundering the rainforests of Marojejy for the extremely valuable rosewood that grows there."

Mother Jones has this to say:
In the 15 years prior to these findings, researchers had discovered and described over 100 new frog species from Madagascar and believed their species inventory to be nearly complete.

But the new surveys show far more species than suspected. The results come from DNA sequencing of 2,850 specimens of amphibians at 170 sites. The data don't show suggest more individual amphibians living in Madagascar—only more species diversity. Which means the new species are likely fragile and less populous.

What sets scientists to thinking about the possible flora and/or fauna losses they will never know about is that of these newly discovered frog species, about 25% of them were discovered in areas not protected as reserve or national park. The frightening part is that Madagascar has lost about 80% of its rainforests. We may never know what we have lost; but, its effects will be felt whether we recognize them as such or not.

"People think we know which plant and animal species live on this planet," says Miguel Vences of the Technical University of Braunschweig, one of the authors. "But the century of discoveries has only just begun—the majority of life forms on Earth is still awaiting scientific recognition."

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

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