Climatic past is “a guide to species”

Understanding a region’s climatic history can help scientists locate areas rich in species, say researchers who pinpointed likely hotspots of genetic diversity in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, the BBC reported. The North and South American group, writing in the journal Science, said the approach could set “new priorities” for conservation in regions likely to harbour interesting plants and animals.


With this method, said research leader Ana Carolina Carnaval of the University of California at Berkeley, scientists can identify biodiverse areas that have “remained climatically stable through time, where local communities have been able to persist”.


“Despite the fact that we haven’t sampled them exhaustively yet,” she said, “we think there is a lot of undocumented, hidden diversity there — the potential for a lot of species still unknown to science.”


Using DNA from three frog species across the region, the researchers found that those in the central part of the Atlantic forest were more genetically diverse. This indicates that those populations had been more stable, they said, and that the area had seen less climatic variation over the last 20,000 years.


The Atlantic Forest once stretched for thousands of kilometres down the Brazilian coast, extending inland through Paraguay into northern Argentina. Less than 10% of its original area remains and is categorised as a World Biosphere Reserve.


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