Our planet is approximately 510.1 million km² in all its extension. However, the distribution of natural wealth in terms of flora and fauna is very uneven.
The United Nations Environment Program confirms it for us: 60% of the world’s biodiversity is found in Latin America, this being the region with the largest number of animals and plants.
Although it seems a bold number, it is not surprising in broad strokes. After all, the region is home to global icons of biodiversity, such as the Amazon, which is home to 10% of all species on the planet.
EVERY DAY NEW SPECIES
Even when the numbers above are impressive, this is hardly the known truth about Latin America’s natural wealth. It is common for new species of plants, fish, mammals, birds and insects to emerge in different parts of Latin America. In 2023, the discovery of two vibrantly colored fish in the Amazon region was confirmed tukif.
Poecilocharax rhizophilus, one of them, turned out to be the smallest freshwater cyprinid ever recorded.
In Peru, there were also interesting findings: the National Service for Protected Natural Areas this year found a species of tree in Loreto, which was baptized under the name of Virola parvusligna, a Latin translation of “small tree”.
The problem is that while new and exciting life forms continue to be discovered on this continent, all of them could be in danger of disappearing at some point. This is due, to a large extent, to the lack of environmental control and care policies in a large part of the countries that make up the continent.
According to Murilo Pastana, who is part of the team that discovered the minnows and works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, observing the felling of trees, deforestation, and the conversion of patches of forest to land for ranching generated a sense of urgency to document these species and publish their findings as soon as possible.
AN ACCELERATED LOSS
Latin America is the region with the greatest biodiversity in the world, but unfortunately it is also the one that is losing it the fastest. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) “Living Planet 2022” report, species populations in Latin America and the Caribbean fell by 94% between 1970 and 2018, compared to a global reduction of 69%.
Every two seconds, forests the size of a football field are lost in the region and since 1970 a third of wetlands have been lost. The director of WWF in Colombia, Sandra Valenzuela, pointed out that this situation is one of the greatest threats facing humanity today. The COP 15, led this year by China and which began in Montreal, seeks to stop this crisis and environmental organizations and scientists hope that serious and executable commitments will be reached.
The United States, the only country that has not ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), claims to be committed to the 30×30 initiative, which seeks to protect 30% of land and water by 2030, but there are doubts about its real commitment .
Environmental organizations stress the need to take urgent action simultaneously to address the extinction crisis and the climate crisis, focusing on justice issues and supporting vulnerable communities and indigenous peoples.
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