I chose to study an amazing region of the world in South America called the Tropical Andes. This hotspot contains more endemic species than anywhere else in the world. An outstanding fifty percent of its plants only grow in this region. There are many endangered species in this area due to negative human involvement. There are conservation efforts being made to protect the remaining habitat but will it be in time?
(Tropical Andes, http://www.conservation.org/where/priority_areas/hotspots/south_america/Tropical-Andes/Pages/default.aspx, accessed 7 May 2012)
What is a biodiversity hotspot? It is defined as a threatened region with a large range of endemic plant species (at least 1 500) and where more than 70 percent of the original habitat has been lost because of human activities. Typically, the diversity of endemic vertebrates is also high (Biodiversity Hotspot, http://www.science-dictionary.com/definition/biodiversity-hotspot.html, accessed 7 May 2012). The Tropical Andes is a diverse hotspot located in South America. The area of this hotspot spans through Chili, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, and Venezuela. Ecosystems in this hotspot include the snow covered tops of the Andes mountain range to the deepest gorge in the entire world. This unique hotspot also contains the highest navigable lake in elevation, Lake Titicaca.
(Lake Titicaca, http://www.boliviaweb.com/tours/TourDetails.aspx?TourId=49&lang=en&step=1, accessed 8 May 2012)
(Andean Bromeliad,http://www.flickr.com/photos/greggzimmerman/5455332110/, accessed 8 May 2012)
Some of the most rich and diverse forests are found in this hotspot called the cloud forests. One amazing plant in this region includes the high Andean bromeliad (puya Raimondi) that is an endemic palm. It takes a century for this plant to reach full maturity. There are over 15,000 endemic plant species that live in this hotspot. An endemic animal that lives in the Tropical Andes is the mountain coati. This curious creature almost resembles a raccoon in many ways. The mountain coati is about the size of a house cat and has double jointed ankles allowing them to easily go down trees. They live about 7-8 years and are very social animals. They might be small but when aggressively provoked become fierce fighters.
|South American Coati|
(South American Coati, http://zoologicalwildlifefoundation.com/animals/mammals/procyonidae/ mountain-coati/, accessed 7 May 2012)
In 1988, Norman Myers was the first person to identify ten tropical hotspots. Since then many more hotspots have been identified and informative books have been published about hotspots. For an area to qualify as a hotspot it must first meet some requirements. It must contain at least 1,500 species of endemic vascular plants and have lost 70% of its original habitat.
Atelopus exiguus is an endemic amphibian that is critically endangered due to severe habitat loss.
(Central Conservation Amphibians, http://zooamaru.com/amphibian-conservation-center/, accessed 7 May 2012)
The Tropical Andes has a wide range of socio-economic conditions. The region is one of the most divers and unique places on Earth. There is the largest known variety of amphibian species in the world. There are an outstanding 664 species of amphibians with 450 of those species listed as endangered. This has a lot to do with the fact that only one fourth of the regions original habitat still exists. In the places where the Incas lived only 10% of original habitat remains due to being degraded. If people move quickly there are still pristine places in Peru and Bolivia that could become reserves. Large cities within the hotspot are expanding because of the massive population growth.
People have made biodiversity in the Tropical Andes decrease. Given the many different areas if this hotspot the ways the land is stripped might be different but is devastating all the same. People are looking for oil, cutting down trees, mining, and stripping land to plant narcotics like opium. The habitat that different species live in is being destroyed. Invasive foreign species of plants and animals are being introduced into the area hurting the native species. The cloud forests are threatened by deforestation, dams, roads being built, and the pressure from hydro electrical dams.
Only a handful of plants have been tested for medical uses and if plants are becoming extinct this hurts our chances of finding new treatments. When a plant no longer exists it can never be tested for medical uses. When a species is gone it is gone forever. The process of extinction is a natural occurring process that usually produces another species called a speciation at the same time. The problem is that due to so many negative human involvements species are becoming extinct are alarming rates. Extinction is happening at a rate that is too fast for another species to have time to form. (http://www.fws.gov/nc.es/whocares.html, accessed 6 May 2012)
In the Tropical Andes there are 600endemic birds and over 1,700 species of birds. Sadly approximately 160 bird species are listed as threatened in this diverse area. One of these endangered birds is a small hummingbird called the black-breasted puffleg. This unique bird lives in elevations above 10,000 feet during the rainy season and between 9,006-10,000 feet regularly. Due to massive habitat loss this bird’s numbers are only 250 known individuals. In July 2010, the US Fish and Wildlife Services officially listed the black-breasted puffleg as endangered. This raises awareness and restricts further habitat loss of the black-breasted puffleg.
(Center for Biological Diversity, http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/black-breasted_puffleg/index.html, accessed 6 May 2012)
When a small event happens it is never as small as people assume. Things tend to happen like a chain reaction. As an example, if you suddenly take salmon out of grizzly bear country, what happens? Many bears would die or have to further explore for food. Some bears might end up in your backyards. Then when you think past the bears and start thinking about the small plant and animal species in that area. The plant and animal species will also be impacted by the loss of one species. Something small might not seem critical until you look at the big picture. Everyone should be concerned about plant and animal species that are endangered or dangerously close to becoming extinct.
Andean Bromeliad,http://www.flickr.com/photos/greggzimmerman/5455332110/, accessed 8 May 2012.
Central Conservation Amphibians, http://zooamaru.com/amphibian-conservation-center/, accessed 7 May 2012.
Center for Biological Diversity, http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/black-breasted_puffleg/index.html
Lake Titicaca, http://www.boliviaweb.com/tours/TourDetails.aspx?TourId=49&lang=en&step=1, accessed 8 May 2012.
South American Coati, http://zoologicalwildlifefoundation.com/animals/mammals/procyonidae /mountain-coati/, accessed 7 May 2012.
Tropical Andes, http://www.conservation.org/where/priority_areas/hotspots/south_america/Tropical-Andes/Pages/default.aspx