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Half the world’s amphibians yet to be discovered

Vast numbers of species remain undiscovered, researchers found. Photo: Cyril Blazy

At least 48% of amphibians and 3% of land mammals globally remain undiscovered but could go extinct before they are found, new modelling shows.

A mathematical model used by researchers from from Princeton University and Standford University in the U.S., the National University of Singapore and Universidad Nacional Autonoma in Mexico found that 3051 species of amphibians and 163 land mammal species are yet to be discovered.

Most of these undiscovered species are likely to be in the warm, wet forests of the Neotropics (South and Central America), the Afrotropics (which includes the Congo basin and Madagascar), and Indomalaya (which spans parts of Southeast Asia and India).

Creating new protection zones could help save the undiscovered species, which are vulnerable due to human expansion into previously untouched forests, the authors said.

“Today’s ‘hidden’ biodiversity need not vanish without a trace. It is up to us to try to prevent such a tragedy,” said the report, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society: B.

Protecting unknown species is important because they may silently perform important roles in balancing forest ecosystems.

“There is great potential for expanding protected areas (but doing so in a way that respects the interests and values of indigenous peoples) through innovative international cooperation,” said the authors, pointing to a 2010 deal under which Norway will invest $1 billion in Indonesian forests if Indonesia declares a moratorium on the issuance of new permits to clear natural forest.

However, the Norway deal is yet to be fully implemented in Indonesia, where forest clearing remains rife.

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