Guyana is one of the world’s most important countries for biodiversity conservation, with the second highest percentage of forest cover on Earth, high levels of biological diversity, and species that are found nowhere else. If you are a frequent reader of our column, you would know by now that the EPA in Guyana has a coordinating role in the protection and conservation of Guyana’s biodiversity – the variety of plants and animals found here. Numerous studies have revealed that Guyana’s ecosystems are rich not only in variety, but abundance of species, and contain a high number of those that can only be found here – endemic species.
Endemic species are plants and animals that exist only in one geographic region. Species can be endemic to large or small areas of the earth: some are endemic to a particular continent, some to part of a continent, and others to a single island. Usually, an area that contains endemic species is isolated in some way, so that species have difficulty spreading to other areas, or has unusual environmental characteristics to which endemic species are uniquely adapted. Endemism, or the occurrence of endemic animals and plants, is more common in some regions than in others. In isolated environments such as the Hawaiian Islands, Australia, and the southern tip of Africa, as many of 90% of naturally occurring species are endemic. In less isolated regions, including Europe and much of North America, the percentage of endemic species can be very small.
A 2017 survey report of the Kaieteur National Park and the Upper Potaro Region revealed that:
• More than 30 species, including six species of fish, three of plants, 15 of aquatic beetles and five of odonates (insects), are more than likely new to science. Many species were also recorded for the first time in Guyana.
• The Kaieteur Plateau – Upper Potaro — provides important habitat for many charismatic and threatened species, such as Tepui swifts, jaguar, Guianan cock-of-the-rock, white-lipped peccary, and the golden rocket frog, an icon of KNP.
As we start the celebration of Biodiversity Month, let’s take a closer look at some of those plants and animals that call Guyana, and Guyana alone, home.
Anomaloglossus beebei (common names: Beebe’s rocket frog, golden rocket frog)
A species of frog in the family Aromobatidae. It is endemic to Guyana, and is found only on the Kaieteur Plateau in the eastern edge of the Pakaraima Mountains. Recently, it has also been found on Mount Ayanganna. This frog inhabits the tank of the giant bromeliad Brocchinia micrantha.
Tadpoles live in small amounts of water trapped in the leaf axils. This frog is an opportunistic, sit-and-wait predator, whose diet includes small arthropods, mosquitos, and midges.
Anomaloglossus beebei has been assessed as being an endangered species because its range is small (<20 km2) and its habitat is slowly being lost by expanding forests.
Allobates amissibilis (no common name)
A new species of poison dart frog discovered by scientists during a study to determine the impact of tourism on biodiversity in a tract of the Iwokrama Rainforest. The scientists named the frog Allobates amissibilis — in Latin, “that may be lost” — in recognition of its home. The frog was discovered near Turu Falls, a waterfall at the foot of the Iwokrama Mountains in Central Guyana. Allobates amissibilis is now the third Allobates species known from Guyana. Like other poison dart frogs, it derives its toxicity from the ants, mites, and other invertebrates on which it feeds. The species is thought to be a “micro-endemic” — found in only a small area of habitat.
Spider of the Subfamily: Ischnocolinae
Not much is known or written about the mesmerising blue tarantula, except that “This tarantula was just one of the many incredible finds during the Biodiversity Assessment Team expedition to the Potaro Plateau in Guyana.” – Dr. Andrew Snyder
The new species, Carapa akuri, had long been mistaken for Carapa guianensis, a tree widely dispersed across the Amazon and commonly logged for the furniture industry.
“It is significant because it is an important source of natural oil for Makushi Amerindians and the cosmetic market”, according to Pierre-Michel Forget. Oil from Carapa’s large seeds is used for a variety of purposes, including treatment for dandruff and rashes, insect repellent, and as a moisturizer. When produced from Carapa guianensis, the oil is known as Crabwood oil or Andiroba. Carapa akuri is named after the red-rumped agouti (Dasyprocta leporina) which is likely the main seed disperser of Carapa in Guyana. The indigenous Makushi name for the agouti is “akuri”.
There are many more hidden treasures within our rainforests, and in our oceans and mangroves and other ecosystems. With such a generous storehouse of living treasures, Guyana’s natural resources need to be protected more than ever. Policies such as the Low Carbon Development Strategy provide such a pathway. As the theme for Biodiversity Day celebrations this year implores, let us work on building a shared future for all – a future that is as rich in biodiversity as the present.