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Scientists identify Ecuador's Yasuni National Park as one of most biodiverse places on earth
Date:1/19/2010

AUSTIN, TexasA team of scientists has documented that Yasun National Park, in the core of the Ecuadorian Amazon, shatters world records for a wide array of plant and animal groups, from amphibians to trees to insects.

The authors also conclude that proposed oil development projects represent the greatest threat to Yasun and its biodiversity.

"This study demonstrates that Yasun is the most diverse area in South America, and possibly the world," said Dr. Peter English of The University of Texas at Austin. "Amphibians, birds, mammals and vascular plants all reach maximum diversity in Yasun."

The study is published in the open-access scientific journal PLoS ONE.

"We have so far documented 596 bird species occurring in Yasuni," said English, a bird specialist. "That's incredible diversity to find in just one corner of the Amazon rainforest and rivals any other spot on the planet."

Other specialists joined in to give the first complete picture of the extraordinary diversity found in Yasun National Park.

"The 150 amphibian species documented to date throughout Yasun is a world record for an area of this size," said Shawn McCracken of Texas State University. "There are more species of frogs and toads within Yasun than are native to the United States and Canada combined."

The scientists also confirmed that an average upland hectare (2.47 acres) in Yasun contains more tree species, 655, than are native to the continental United States and Canada combined. The number of tree species rises to more than 1,100 for an area of 25 hectares.

"In just one hectare in Yasun, there are more tree, shrub and liana (woody vines) species than anywhere else in the world," said Gorky Villa, an Ecuadorian botanist working with both the Smithsonian Institution and Finding Species.

Perhaps the most impressive statistic of all is that a single hectare of forest in Yasun is projected to contain 100,00
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Contact: Peter English
english@austin.utexas.edu
512-627-7517
University of Texas at Austin
Source:Eurekalert  

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