Botanists estimate that perhaps as many as 20,000 species of plants – between 80-90% of which are found nowhere else on earth – exist in New Guinea , but only a small fraction of these are actually documented. The reality is that the vast majority of species on the planet are still undocumented. Many areas of the Indo-Pacific region have never had any serious biological sampling and are likely to harbor many plants and animals that are yet to be discovered.
How can species be protected over the long-term if they’re not even known to exist?
Unfortunately as habitat is destroyed, species are lost before they are ever found. Plants with potential pharmaceutical uses vanish before medicines can be made. Animals disappear before they’re ever seen. In order to protect species, biological surveys must be undertaken to identify the flora and fauna and to determine where species are located and their habitat requirements. This information is essential to efforts to preserve the species. It is also essential to carry out biodiversity surveys in order to have a baseline estimate of the population densities of various species, in order to be able to make later comparisons and assess the degree of success of conservation efforts.
Current attempts to protect terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity are constrained due to the lack of accurate baseline biological data for many areas. Since it is impossible to conserve every habitat, conservation priorities must be set. Biological surveys are an essential tool to gather baseline data and thus help define patterns of richness or endemism, and thus to refine which areas are the most important priorities for conservation. Moreover, designing appropriate conservation area management plans, or monitoring the effectiveness of their implementation, is highly problematic without access to this baseline scientific information.
In 2002, IPCA and our partners P.T. Hatfindo Prima (the Indonesian affiliate of Canada’s Hatfield Group) carried out a rapid biological assessment of the Tangguh LNG Project in Bintuni Bay, Papua, Indonesia. This survey was undertaken in partnership with Beyond Petroleum to help the project understand the biodiversity of the project area in order to facilitate the understanding needed to protect it. Carried out by the world’s leading scientific experts in the fields of botany, entomology, ichthyology, herpetology, ornithology, and mammology, the report from this survey can be found here. The full report is here.