The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund) has just published a report on 10 years of new discoveries of plants and animals in the Amazon system.
The launch of the report has been timed to coincide with Conference of Parties of the Convention for Biological Diversity, in Japan.
Entitled "Amazon Alive! A decade of discovery 1999-2009", the report summarises the new species of plants, mammals, birds, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles – and, of course, fishes – scientifically described from the Amazon system during the past decade. Although we may perhaps be interested largely in the fishes, it is important to remember that all the flora and fauna combine to form a single immense ecosystem.
And that is the real import of this work – the Amazon system is a vast natural resource of great ecological value to our planet. Hence the report begins with an introductory section covering geography, biodiversity, history, and so forth, to set the scene.
This is followed by sections on the various categories of flora and fauna (mammals, birds, etc) and their new species; these sections are not just lists of names, but include interesting biological and ecological information on some of the new species.
The main text concludes with a look at the threats posed to the Amazon by human activities and climate change, and what can be done to ensure its future conservation.
In addition there is an extensive bibliography and an index of all the new species.
The whole is illustrated with stunning photographs of flora, fauna, and scenery.
The total number of new fish species described during the study period was 257, but as catfish and Apistogramma enthusiasts will be well aware, far more have been discovered and collected for the hobby without yet being named and catalogued by science. This is inevitable as a lot of work is required to describe species to modern ichthyological standards.
But the recognition of the existence of fishes is a refreshing change from the majority of Amazon TV documentaries and books that rarely venture below the water’s surface, and where fishes are seen only when being caught and eaten by humans and other wildlife!