In addition, the Atlantic Forest biodiversity hotspot in which the bird occurs is one of the most threatened in the world. Considered one of the "hottest of the hotspots," this region has some of the most unique biodiversity in the world and is also at high risk of losing it unless immediate conservation action is taken. Less than 10 percent of the Atlantic Forests' original vegetation remains. In an area 50 times smaller than the Brazilian Amazon, it holds an incredible 20,000 plant species, 40 percent of which are found no where else. Combined, the 25 global biodiversity hotspots contain 60 percent of terrestrial plant and animal species in only 1.4 percent of the planet's land area.
The new species has been seen in only two locations in Pernambuco making it even more critical that its habitat be protected. Researchers warn its range is limited, its habitat severely fragmented and in a state of continuing decline due to unchecked human activities in the region.
The area in which the pygmy-owl lives harbors half of the 850 bird species that exist in the Atlantic Forest, with 17 globally threatened species and one extinct in the wild, the Mitu mitu. The region has one of the highest numbers of threatened species in all of South America.
"Urgent conservation action is needed if we are to save the pygmy-owl and the other species in this forest," said Marcelo Tabarelli, director of The Environmental Research Center of the Northeast Brazil (CEPAN). "Until now, protected areas have been too small and fragmented for effective forest maintenance and regeneration. A minimum level of landscape connectivity is necessary to promote key ecological processes," he said.
Conservationists have recommended a regional strategy that includes forest restoration and the establishment of ecological corridors to connect remaining forest fragments.
Contact: Pamela Moyer