SCY 2013 Biodiversity Statement Update

 Scientists Concerned for Yasuní

Updated Statement on Biodiversity of Yasuní National Park

September 23, 2013

In 2010, scientists published the first comprehensive, peer-reviewed synthesis of biodiversity data for Yasuní National Park in the scientific journal PLOS ONE[1]. That study concluded that Yasuní has a) outstanding global conservation significance due to its extraordinary biodiversity and b) potential to sustain this biodiversity in the long term if not degraded by human activities such as oil development and accompanying roads.

Here, we, the “Scientists Concerned for Yasuní,” review the principal findings from the 2010 study regarding species richness, present new information obtained in the 3.5 years since its publication, and reaffirm a set of science-based recommendations.

The Scientists Concerned for Yasuní consists of more than 100 scientists from Ecuador and around the world (Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States) with experience in the park[2].

Key notes: For all text below, local scale refers to areas ≤100 km2 and landscape scale refers to areas ≤10,000 km2. Data for Yasuní National Park includes findings from the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, which is directly adjacent to the park.

Species Richness

  • Yasuní National Park occupies a unique biogeographic position where species richness of four major taxonomic groups – amphibians, birds, mammals, and vascular plants – all reach diversity maxima for the Western Hemisphere (i.e., quadruple richness center, see Figure 1). For amphibians, birds, mammals, and trees, these are not just continental, but global, maxima of species richness at local scales. This relatively small quadruple richness center encompasses just 0.16% of South America and less than 0.5% of the Amazon Basin.
  • The 150 amphibian species documented for Yasuní National Park in 2010 represented a world record at the landscape scale. Since publication, the number of species has risen to 153, including three newly described species. Several additional new species are currently in the process of being described.
  • Adding the 121 documented reptile species, the total herpetofauna of Yasuní National Park —274 species of amphibians and reptiles—is the most diverse assemblage ever documented on a landscape scale.

Yasunibiodiversitycenter

  • Yasuní National Park now contains at least 597 documented bird species, representing one-third of the Amazon’s total native species. The park is part of a north-south stretch of forest in the western Amazon that appears to be the richest known globally at the local scale.
  • Yasuní National Park now has 176 documented mammals, adding 7 additional species of bats since the 2010 study. It is estimated that Yasuní National Park is one of the few places in the world with over 200 coexisting mammal species.
  • Ten primate species (in fact, 10 genera) are confirmed to coexist near Tiputini Biodiversity Station, a remarkable diversity at the local scale. Three additional species may inhabit the park, but they are currently unconfirmed. This upper estimate of 13 monkey species approaches the richest known sites in the world.
  • Yasuní National Park has among the highest local bat diversity for any site in the world, with over 100 coexisting species expected at Tiputini Biodiversity Station.
  • Yasuní National Park contains 382 documented fish species, more than the entire Mississippi River Basin. The lower Yasuní River Basin, which passes through the ITT oil block, has 277 confirmed fish species. The estimated fish diversity for the park is around 500 species.
  • A single hectare of forest in Yasuní National Park is estimated to contain at least 100,000 arthropod species, approximately the same number of insect species as is found throughout all of North America. This represents the highest estimated biodiversity per unit area in the world for any taxonomic group. Since 2010 nearly two dozen new species of insects have been described from Yasuní National Park.
  • Yasuní National Park is among the richest areas globally for vascular plants at the landscape scale. At least 3,135 vascular plant species are currently documented, a substantial increase from the 2,700 species reported in 2010. This updated data includes over 2,300 trees and shrubs and 800 lianas, epiphytes, and ferns. Over 3,200 species are expected in the park based upon current collections.
  • Yasuní National Park holds a number of global records for woody plant (trees, shrubs, and lianas) species richness at the local scale. For example, it has the highest average number of tree and shrub species per hectare of anywhere in the world. The park is part of an equatorial band of forest (stretching from the Ecuadorian Andes to Manaus in Brazil) that contains the richest 1-hectare tree plots in the world.
  • A typical hectare of terra firme forest in Yasuní National Park contains at least 655 tree species, more than are native to the continental United States and Canada combined, and over 900 plant species overall.
  • Yasuní National Park 50-hectare Forest Dynamics Plot update: In 2010, the plot had over 1,100 species-level taxa of trees and shrubs in the first 25 hectares. With the census completion of an additional 25 hectares, a conservative estimate of the current number of documented species is ~1,150. Over 30 new species of trees, including two new genera, have been described from the plot. Four of the new species and both new genera have been described since 2010. Additional new species await formal description.
  • Specifically regarding lianas (woody climbers), 350 species have been documented in 14 hectares of censused plots in the park, more than double the amount of species reported in 2010. Just one hectare contains an average of 200 liana species. Liana biologists estimate that the park is home to around 550 species in total.

Threatened Species and Endemism

  • Yasuní National Park is home to 28 Threatened or Near Threatened vertebrate species, such as White-bellied Spider Monkey, Giant Otter, Poeppig’s Woolly Monkey, Amazonian Manatee, Lowland Tapir, Giant Armadillo, and Harpy Eagle[3]. Nearly half of these 28 species are facing a high to extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
  • Oil-related activities and contamination may impact the Giant Otter and Amazonian Manatee, two Threatened large aquatic mammals. Both species have been documented in the Tiputini and Yasuní Rivers, which would likely be the principal access routes and infrastructure sites for oil development in ITT and Block 31.
  • Yasuní National Park is likely home to over 100 Threatened or Near Threatened plant species. Over half of these species are facing a high to extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
  • Yasuní National Park is home to 43 vertebrate species that are regional endemics (i.e. endemic to the Napo Moist Forests ecoregion), including 2 monkeys, 19 birds, and 20 amphibians.
  • Yasuní National Park is likely home to hundreds of plant species that are regional endemics.

Conclusion

In 2010, the authors of the PLOS ONE study generated a number of science-based policy recommendations, including:

1 ) Permit no new roads nor other transportation access routes—such as new oil access roads, train rails, canals, and extensions of existing roads—within Yasuní National Park or its buffer zone;

2) Permit no new oil exploration or development projects in Yasuní, particularly in the remote and relatively intact Block 31 and ITT Block.

3) Establish a protected corridor between Yasuní and Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve that, together with the Peruvian reserves, would form a trans-boundary mega-reserve with Yasuní National Park at its core.

Here, we, the “Scientists Concerned for Yasuní”, reaffirm these recommendations. The Scientists Concerned for Yasuní consists of more than 100 scientists from Ecuador and around the world (Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States), including:

Stuart Pimm

Doris Duke Professor of Conservation
Nicholas School of the Environment
Duke University
USA

 

Terry Erwin

Curator of Coleoptera
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
USA

 

Kelly Swing

Director Estación Tiputini
Colegio de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales
Universidad San Francisco de Quito
Ecuador

 

Anthony Di Fiore

Professor, Department of Anthropology
Director, Primate Molecular Ecology and Evolution Laboratory
University of Texas at Austin
USA

 

Bette Loiselle

Director, Tropical Conservation and Development Program
Center for Latin American Studies
Professor, Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
University of Florida
USA

 

Phyllis Coley

Distinguished Professor of Biology
University of Utah
USA

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Panama

 

Michael Forstner

Regent’s Professor
Alexander Stone Chair in Genetics
Department of Biology
Texas State University
USA

 

Sara Alvarez

Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Spain

 

Christian Miguel Pinto Báez

The City University of New York
Ecuador

 

Robyn J. Burnham

Associate Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
University of Michigan
USA

 

Kenneth Chapin

University of California, Los Angeles
USA

 

Laura M. Cisneros

University of Connecticut
USA

 

Jim Dalling

Professor
Department of Plant Biology
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
USA

 

Juan F. Dueñas-Serrano

Lincoln University New Zealand
Ecuador

 

Andrea C. Encalada

Cornell University
Ecuador

 

Maria Jose Endara

Department of Biology
The University of Utah
USA

 

Peter English

College of Natural Sciences
University of Texas at Austin
USA

 

Matt Finer

Senior Scientist
Center for International Environmental Law
USA

 

Ola Fincke

University of Oklahoma
USA

 

Paul Fine

Department of Integrative Biology
University of California
USA

 

Carla Garzon

Oklahoma State University
USA

 

Juan M. Guayasamin

University of Kansas
Ecuador

 

Juan E. Guevara

Department of Integrative Biology
University of California
USA

 

Clinton N. Jenkins

Principal Research Scholar
North Carolina State University
USA

 

Ted R. Kahn

Executive Director
Neotropical Conservation Foundation
USA

 

Jordan Karubian

Tulane University
USA

 

Ryan P. Killackey

Filmmaker / Biologist
USA

 

Holger Kreft

University of Göttingen
Germany

 

Anjali Kumar

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
USA

 

Thomas A. Kursar

Department of Biology
University of Utah
USA

 

Omar R. Lopez

Researcher. Centro de Biodiversidad y Descubrimiento de Drogas
INDICASAT
Panama

 

Massimo De Marchi

Professor of Environmental Assessment
University of Padova
Italy

 

Shawn F. McCracken

Department of Biology
Texas State University
USA

 

Patricio Mena Vásconez

Wageningen University
Ecuador

 

Eliot Miller
University of Missouri, St. Louis
USA

 

Hugo Mogollon

Endangered Species Coalition
Ecuador

 

Julio Molineros

Associate Staff Scientist
Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Oklahoma State University
USA

 

Melissa Moreano

Department of Geography
King’s College London
United Kingdom

 

Mark Mulligan

Department of Geography
King’s College London
United Kingdom

 

Priscilla M. Muriel

Universidad Catolica del Ecuador
Ecuador

 

Manuel V. Sánchez Nivicela

Eng. Ecotourism (Escuela Politécnica del Chimborazo)
Ecuador

 

Sean O’Donnell

Associate Department Head
Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science
Drexel University
USA

 

Maria Olga Borja

Universidad San Francisco de Quito
Ecuador

 

Ana Cristina Palma

School of Marine and Tropical Biology
James Cook University
Australia

Fundación Proyecto Primates
Colombia

 

Salvatore Eugenio Pappalardo

University of Padova
Italy

 

Jefferson Mecham Parson

Utah State University
Ecuador

 

Nigel C.A. Pitman

Center for Tropical Conservation
Nicholas School of the Environment
Duke University
USA
Amy Porter

University of California Davis
USA

Paulo C. Pulgarín-R –

Universidad de Los Andes
Colombia

 

Tom Quesenberry

El Monte Owner/Naturalist
Ecuador

 

Morley Read

Investigador Asociado
Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador
Ecuador

 

Andrés Esteban León Reyes

Biodiversity and Conservation in Tropical Areas (España)
Ecuador

 

Jose Luis Rivera

Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador
Ecuador

 

Thomas Brandt Ryder

Research Associate
Smithsonian National Zoological Park
USA

 

Ingo Schlupp

Professor
Brian and Sandra O’Brien Presidential Professor
Assistant Chair of Biology
University of Oklahoma
USA

 

Cagan H. Sekercioglu

Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
University of Utah
USA

President & Associate Professor
KuzeyDoga Society
Turkey

 

Alejandro Solano

Arizona State University
USA

 

Stephanie Spehar

Associate Professor of Anthropology
University Leadership Fellow for Sustainability
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
USA

Inty Felipe Arcos Torres

Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE, Costa Rica)
Ecuador

 

Ursula Valdez

University of Washington
Peru

 

Andrés Vallejo

editor, revista Ecuador Terra Incognita

Universidad Católica del Ecuador
University of Cambridge
Ecuador

 

Varsha Vijay

Duke University
USA

 

Christian C. Voigt

Senior Research Scientist
Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research
Germany

 

Peter Wetherwax

Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
University of Oregon
USA

 

Catherine Woodward

Faculty Associate
Institute for Biology Education
University of Wisconsin – Madison
USA

 

Leo Zurita-Arthos

Environmental Monitoring and Modelling Research Group
Department of Geography
King’s College London
United Kingdom

 

Tatiana Lucía Santander García

Universidades Autónoma, Complutense y de Alcalá, Madrid
Spain

 

Todd Mitchell

University of Washington
USA

 

Ross Furbush

University of Washington
USA

 

Alison Sienkiewicz

University of Washington
USA

 

Pablo Felipe Serrano Montesinos

Universidad del Azuay
Ecuador

 

Kimberly S. Sheldon

University of Washington
USA

 

Federico David Brown Almeida

University of Washington
Brazil

 

Marisol Ayala Valdivieso

York University
Austria

 

James V. Remsen

McIlhenny Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences
Louisiana State University
USA

 

Jose Fabara Rojas

University of Missouri-St Louis
Ecuador

 

Jaime García Domínguez

Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo
Spain

 

Jaime Antonio Salas Zambrano

Universidad de Guayaquil
Ecuador

 

Maria Veronica Troya Suarez

University of Geneve
Switzerland

 

Francisco Villamarín

Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University
Ecuador

 

Berit Kamp Kragh

Aarhus University
Denmark

 

Sébastien Haye

University of Geneva
Switzerland

 

Borja Milá

Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales
Spain

 

Marco Rodrigo Calderón Loor

The University of Melbourne
Ecuador

 

Andreas Futschik

Assoc. Professor, Dept. of Statistics
University of Vienna
Austria

 

Niels Kaare Krabbe

University of Copenhague
Denmark

 

Rosa Isela Meneses Q.

Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz
Bolivia

 

Kalle Ruokolainen

University of Turku
Finland

 

Scott T. Olmstead

University of Arizona
USA

 

Francisco Xavier Cuesta Camacho

University of Amsterdam
Ecuador

 

Raúl Ortiz-Pulido

Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo
Mexico

 

Karim Musálem Castillejos

Universidad Autónoma Chapingo, México
Paraguay

 

Robert S. Ridgely

President, Rainforest Trust
USA

 

David Bartelle McDonald

University of Arizona
USA

 

Nathan Muchhala

University of Miami
USA

 

Nelly Llerena

University of Turku
Peru

 

Geovanna Lasso

University of Leeds
Ecuador

 

Rob Williams

Frankfurt Zoological Society
Peru

 

Judit Torres Fernández del Campo

Universidad de León
Spain

 

Johan Ingels

Ghent University
Belgium

 

Paul J. Greenfield

Temple University
Ecuador

 

Guy M. Kirwan

University of East Anglia
England

 

Glenda Marisol Pozo Zamora

Universidad Central del Ecuador
Ecuador

 

Elisa Bonaccorso Sánchez

University of Kansas
Ecuador

 

David Santiago Parra Puente

Universidad Católica del Ecuador
Ecuador

Mark Higgins

Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford
USA

 

María del Carmen Vizcaíno Barba

Universidad Católica del Ecuador
Ecuador

 

Paola Moscoso Rosero

Universidad Católica del Ecuador
Ecuador

 

 


[1] Bass MS, Finer M, Jenkins CN, Kreft H, Cisneros-Heredia DF, et al. (2010) Global Conservation Significance of Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park. PLoS ONE 5(1): e8767. http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0008767

[2] To contact the Scientists Concerned for Yasuní, write to Matt Finer (matt.finer@gmail.com) and Shawn McCracken (frocga@gmail.com)

[3] Ateles belzebuth, Pteronura brasiliensis, Lagothrix poeppigii, Trichechus inunguis,Tapirus terrestris, Priodontes maximus, and Harpia harpyja, respectively.