2 New Species Per Week Discovered in New Guinea

A staggering 1060 new species have been discovered over the past ten years on the pacific island of New Guinea according to a new report by WWF. Around 260 new species of vertebrate, 580 species of invertebrates and 220 new species of plants were discovered during the course of the study which was carried out between 1998 and 2008. The report titled ‘Final Frontier: Newly discovered species of New Guinea (1998 – 2008)’ forms part of WWFs 50th anniversary celebrations drawing attention to the loss of biodiversity.

Approximately two species were discovered per week throughout the study. Many new species of mammal were discovered including a new species of dolphin, a group in which new discoveries are very rare. Many new species of birds, amphibians and insects were also discovered. The study serves as a reminder of the undiscovered diversity of earth. Dr Mark Wright, conservation science adviser at WWF, said “The world is full of fantastic and fantastical creatures, of quirky and improbable lifestyles. The more we look, the more we find. But this exuberance of nature is under threat. Despite the best efforts of groups like WWF, it is clear that we will not save all we would like to.”

The island of New Guinea has an area of only 0.5% of the earth’s landmass but it has been estimated that it contains around 6 to 8% of global species, and remains relatively understudied despite this fact. The country also has extraordinarily high levels of endemic species. However the forest ecosystems of New Guinea are under threat from deforestation cause by rapid development and conversion of land to agriculture, particularly for the production of palm oil. 99 of New Guinea’s vertebrate species are on the IUCN red list of threatened species. It has been predicted that forest cover could be reduced to just 50% of its original area by over the next 10 years. Mangroves and coral reefs are also at risk from development in costal regions.

It is hoped that Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation and certification of sustainable palm oil through the Roundtable on Sustainable palm oil could provide a solution to some of the problems both people and nature are facing in the country.