Biodiversity collapse imminent in world’s tropics, study says

Deutsche Welle | July 2018

More than three-quarters of all plant and animal species live in the tropics. But time to protect them is running out, a new study finds. Researchers are calling for a better approach to save this precious biodiversity.

A current study suggests that the damage to biodiversity in the tropics could even be worse than expected if we don’t get a grip on the environmental problems there.

An international team of researchers from around the world put a figure on biodiversity in tropical regions, looking at forests, savannahs, freshwater regions and coastlines.

Their results: Even though the tropics cover only about 40 percent of the Earth’s surface, they harbor a whopping 78 percent of all plant and animal species, including amphibians, terrestrial mammals, fish, ants and flowering plants.

And these tropical regions are even more important for birds: 91 percent of all terrestrial birds live in those warm and humid zones. Many more living elsewhere cross or visit the tropics on their annual migrations.

The tropics are also home of almost all shallow-water corals known so far.

Most of these tropical species are found nowhere else, and researchers estimate that at least 150,000 species are as yet unknown to science.