Tropical forests are home to over half of the world’s vertebrate species

What do a jaguar, a ring-tailed lemur and a ruby-throated hummingbird have in common? They are all among the 62 percent of terrestrial vertebrate species that call tropical forests home, according to a study by CSL researchers published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Tropical forests play a central role in biodiversity conservation and in climate regulation, as they are both carbon sinks and key sources of oxygen for the entire planet. Through human activity, these forests are shrinking and some species are going extinct, making it all the more important to determine how many terrestrial mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians live in these rapidly vanishing ecosystems.

“We have estimated roughly 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe, but no one knows exactly how many species inhabit the most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystem on planet Earth,” lead author Rajeev Pillay says. “Our finding that tropical forests are home to an astounding 62 percent of terrestrial vertebrate species not only helps satiate an aspect of innate human curiosity about nature but also strongly suggests that the continued destruction of these imperilled ecosystems will likely lead to significant, imminent biodiversity losses.”

The paper, Tropical forests are home to over half of the world’s vertebrate species, finds that despite covering only 18 percent of Earth’s total land area, tropical forests are home to 63 percent of all mammals, 72 percent of birds, 76 percent of amphibians and at least 42% of reptiles. Rajeev worked with CSL researchers Michelle Venter, Jose Aragon-Osejo and Oscar Venter on this paper.

Read the full UNBC news coverage here.

Picture: Juan Ramirez. Spider Monkey – Peru