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The conservation lens
Date:10/24/2007

The definition of conservation priorities for biodiversity often focuses only on the numbers of vertebrate animals and seed plants in the northern hemisphere or in the tropics. But what about the other organisms, and the more extreme regions of the world, where the species richness of flowering plants and mammals is low" An interdisciplinary team of US, UK and Chilean taxonomists, ecologists, and philosophers explored the worlds southernmost forest and tundra ecosystems to estimate the diversity of the dominant vegetation, namely tiny bryophytes and lichens growing on trees, soils and rocks.

They assess its regional and global significance in their study, Changing lenses to assess biodiversity: patterns of species richness in sub-Antarctic plants and implications for global conservation. The work appears in the online issue of Frontiers of Ecology and the Environment.

Much of todays conservation strategies focus on charismatic mega fauna such as pandas, tigers, and whales; or on vascular plants such as giant redwoods and orchids. Ricardo Rozzi (University of North Texas and Universidad de Chile) and colleagues from Chile are pushing for the integration of other less conspicuous but not less important organisms in regional biological inventories. Their research compares the geographical distribution of species of vascular and non-vascular plants in southern South America, from the tropics to Cape Horn.

Mosses, liverworts, and lichens are important pioneer species colonizing bare rocks, and soil. They occur throughout the world, in virtually all ecosystems, contributing to the flow of nutrients and the overall water balance, particularly in areas where they are abundant (e.g., tropical montane forests, temperate rainforests, peatlands).

Globally, vascular plants are 20 times more abundant than non-vascular plants, with the global figures of 300,000 vascular plant and 15,000 non-vascular species. Yet, as Juan Armesto (Uni
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Contact: Annie Drinkard
annie@esa.org
Ecological Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

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