Preserving Wild Orchids and Their Ecosystems
December 22, 2006
Wild orchids are disappearing in Latin America due to over-collection and loss of habitat. Peru alone has lost more than 13 percent of its forest from 1950-1992. Thankfully, scientists, students and local resident naturalists are collaborating to document and conserve wild orchids of the neotropics and their ecosystems. In addition to discovering new orchids, there is a comprehensive orchid inventory monitoring program that provides a baseline for documenting overall ecosystem’s health.
Team members from the Andes to Amazon Biodiversity Program (AABP) at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) in collaboration with ACA are studying wild orchids in the Andes-Amazon region of southeast Peru. The project is currently based at ACA’s Los Amigos Biological Station and Wayqecha Research Station, covering transitional region where the Andes Mountains slope down to meet with the Amazon basin. Experts in the field say that research in Wayqecha could help promote conservation in the area and ensure the protection of these wild orchids and their ecosystem for many years.
The main goals are to study the diversity and ecology of wild orchids and to document this work through the publication of checklists, field guides, scientific papers and an online database. A major goal of the orchid project is to study the effect of habitat, season and elevation on the change in orchid species diversity and ecology. So far the project has been a success. The AABP field team collected 60 species of flowering or fruiting orchids from forest and wetland areas around the Los Amigos Biological Station in September 2005. In Wayqecha Research Station, in only five days of initial fieldwork in 2004, the AABP team documented 110 orchids in Wayqecha forests.
Orchid scientists and orchid enthusiast are invited to view the AABP orchid collection online at the AABP Atrium website (atrium. andesamazon.org), where one can view digital images of orchids and other plants collected by project botanists.