The distribution of biodiversity richness in the tropics

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Science Advances  09 Sep 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 37, eabc6228
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc6228

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  • Biodiversity richness in Papua New Guinea's forests
    • Paul Dargusch, Associate Professor, The University of Queensland

    Raven et al.'s analysis that 'Tropical Asia is likely to be proportionately richest in plant diversity, and for biodiversity in general, for its size' resonate with the findings of our work on the National Forest Inventory in Papua New Guinea. Approximately 80% of the Papua New Guinea is classified as forest land; more than 38 million ha, the third largest tropical forest area in the world after the Amazon and Congo basin. Of that forest, more than 75% (28 million ha) is classified as ‘intact’ or undisturbed by human activities. These forests provide vital habitat; Papua New Guinea alone accounts for more than five per cent of global biodiversity. The number of plant species in Papua New Guinea has been estimated to be between of 15,000 to 20,000, representing about six per cent of the world’s flora. It is estimated that Papua New Guinea’s forests provide habitat for more than 150,000 species of insects; 314 species of freshwater fish (82 endemic); 641 species of amphibians and reptiles (328 endemic); 740 species of birds (77 endemic) and 276 species of mammals (69 endemic). Of global concern, Papua New Guinea’s forests are being lost at an alarming rate. Forest loss in Papua New Guinea’s low altitude forests, which account for around 20 million has of total forest cover, has continued at between 3 and 5% loss by area per year since 2010, mostly through log-export driven logging operations, most of which are illegal .

    Competing Interests: None declared.

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