…More on the Yasuní National Park
Our colleague Luigi Guarino from The Global Crop Diversity Trust has queried us about the presence of Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) within the Yasuní National Park (YNP) in Ecuador (the major diversity hotspot in South America). I tried to answer his question (with some help from Andy as well, I must admit), but also tried to find some additional insights.
Our CWR data (from the genepools Zea, Arachis, Manihot, Phaseolus, Solanum, Pennisetum, Eleusine, Sorghum, Triticum, Aegilops), within which lie the progenitors of several food crops of the world (peanuts, cassava, maize, wheat, potato, millets, sorghum) showed that only a couple of weeds (not worth of being mentioned now), and Manihot brachyloba are present within the YNP. But then I became interested in Theobroma and Malus (cacao and apple genera respectively). Interestingly, I found (just as Andy did during his PhD -but without actually going to the YNP), several wild Theobroma species occurring there (see below an image from GBIF -the Global Biodiversity Information Facility):
In the image, the more orange, the more species from the Theobroma genus in a pixel. I was not able to find Malus species within the YNP, as I did for Theobroma, alas. But then I went further and coupled all GBIF data and here’s what I found:
Not only the Yasuní National Park is a significant center of diversity in the region, but there are some 9 additional significant biodiversity hotspots within the region, some of which are likely to contain a comparable number of plant species to those present in the YNP.
Up to 16 thousand species were analyzed, and within the 10 hotspots lie 23 additional reserves, national parks, indigenous territories, among other types of protected areas. So, despite the marked interest in the Yasuní National Park, there are other sites that deserve close attention, especially if they are vulnerable to land use and/or climatic changes.
Among those 23 areas you will find the Rio Nare reserve in Colombia, with some 2 thousand species, the Ypacarí National Park in Paraguay with some 1.3 thousand, the indigenous community Awá area in Ecuador with some 3.6 thousand, and several other areas in Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Brazil and French Guiana