Yesterday, Oct. 23, 2013, World Wildlife Fund announced that at least 441 new species of plants and animals have been discovered in the last four years in relatively primitive regions of the Amazon rainforest.
The value of the rainforest to human life is great, but the extent of its significance is still unknown. More than 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon rainforest and the Amazon basin is home to about one fifth of the world’s fresh water. Many natural pharmaceuticals originate in the rainforest. According to the Hinkley report, 25% of all pharmaceuticals in the US orginate in the Amazon. While rainforest is lost to development, unique species may be lost before humans are even aware of their existence and value. About one-fifth of the rainforest has already been lost to development.
“These species form a unique natural heritage that we need to conserve. This means protecting their home – the amazing Amazon rainforest – which is under threat from deforestation and dam development,” said Claudio Maretti, Leader of Living Amazon Initiative, WWF.
The new species include 258 plants, 84 fish, 58 amphibians, 22 reptiles, 18 birds and one mammal. Not included in the total are insects and other invertebrates. While the WWF compiled the results the discoveries were made and verified via scientific peer review. The Amazon is so rich in diversity that one in every ten species is from the Amazon basin.