This enviable title has been awarded to Manu National Park in Peru, now believed to contain the greatest variety of terrestrial species on Earth. Following exhaustive research conducted across 16 of the most biodiverse places in the world, using 60 camera traps, Manu’s pristine mosaic of 14 different ecosystems came out on top. The study was carried out by the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring [TEAM] Network, utilising systematic field station data collection procedures honed over many years to ensure the utmost veracity. Their work serves to identify trends in species diversity, which can then inform and shape conservation strategy.
The park owes much of its species multiplicity to its sheer size and location, between the Andes and Amazon; with elevations from 4500m down to almost sea level. With that comes a richness of habitat niches. It was also found to be in an outstanding state of conservation, thanks to its protected status and lack of human settlement.
Around 39,000 camera trap images were examined and indexed, in conjunction with organisations including The Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International and the Smithsonian Institute. Other wildlife havens to be surveyed to the same degree included the Yasuni National Park in Ecuador, Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Brazilian forest of Manaus and the Pasoh Forest Reserve in Malaysia.
Yet none could match the pristineness of Manu National Park, which boasts 1307 different types of butterfly, 222 mammal species, over 1000 species of bird and 210 fish species. What’s more, new species are still be discovered there, such as a new variety of Rain Frog uncovered by science earlier this year.
However, not all aspects of Manu are in excellent health, with its fish biodiversity threatened by increasing mercury contamination – a toxic by-product of alluvial gold extraction – and the expansion of small-scale agriculture.