139 New Species in Greater Mekong Region: Significance and Implications for Biodiversity

139 New Species in Greater Mekong Region: Significance and Implications for Biodiversity

Question: 139 new species have been discovered by scientists in the Greater Mekong Range in 2014, as per a WWF report. Discuss the significance of this discovery and its implications for biodiversity

• Amidst the 139 new species discovered in the Greater Mekong Region in 2014 are a “dementor” wasp, the world’s second longest insect, a stealthy wolf snake and a colour changing thorny frog.

A. Significance of this Discovery

• Around 90 plants, 23 reptiles, 9 fishes, 16 amphibians and one mammal have been found in this region and many of them are at risk

• The discoveries include a feathered coral whose closet relatives are in Africa, 4 moths, 2 orchids and many diverse flora and fauna.

• The Greater Mekong region includes the following nations:
- Cambodia
- Laos
- Myanmar
- Vietnam
- Thailand

• It brings the total number of species to 2216 between 1997 and 2014

• This is an average of 3 new species discovered each week

B. Implications for Biodiversity

• Greater Mekong’s unique ecosystem is one of its kind and it provides critical benefits for people across the region

• Scientists are racing against time to document these species and advocate their protection before they disappear

• Increased capacity of and support for rangers are needed to protect these discoveries and their habitats

• This also highlights the need for making sustainable decisions regarding where to construct large infrastructure

• The Greater Mekong region is one of the most diverse regions in the world and it is home to 430 mammal species, 800 amphibians and reptiles, 1200 birds, 1100 fish and 20,000 plant species

• Their protection is critical for preserving biodiversity

• Mekong’s fertile waters generate estimated 2.6 million tonnes of fish per year

• This is upto 25% of the international freshwater catch

• The waters also replenish farms and rice paddies with sediments rich in nutrient

• Forests and wetlands in this region purify the air and water and offer protection against floods and storms

• Around 80% (a majority) of the region’s 300 million people depend upon the Mekong system for livelihood, food security and cultural traditions

• Greater Mekong is one of the top 5 biodiversity hotspots under threat of extinction in the world, as per the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund

• Climate change is increasing the pressure on temperature and sea levels leading to flooding

• Hydropower developments also threaten the Mekong river

• Environmental groups are working to protect species, help in develop sustainable forestry and promote sustainable use of freshwater resources

• The discoveries also provide conservation attention to the region and promote an understanding of the pattern and distribution of biodiversity

Facts and Stats

• Some of the many species discovered in the Mekong are as follows:

• Ampulex dementor or a wasp that stings its prey and overcomes it

• World’s second longest insect, Phryganistria heusii yentuensis is 54 cm long from the back leg to the tip

• Colour changing thorny frog Gracixalus Lumarius in Vietnam

• 10000th reptile known to science was also discovered in Laos named Crytodactylus Vilaphongi

Species Discovered By Country

• Cambodia: 7
• Laos: 28
• Myanmar: 6
• Thailand: 42
• Vietnam: 70
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