What remains to be discovered in Central American forests

The earth's biological wealth lies in its forests and oceans: delicate, complex systems of plants and animals. But at this late date, we still don't even know what organisms live on our planet, much less what role they play. To get at this information requires science and society to take an extremely organized approach.

On January 11, 2002, representatives from the World Wildlife Fund-US, the Mesoamerican and Caribbean Herbarium Network, the Panamanian National Authority for the Environment (ANAM), the Mesoamerican Biological CorredorPanamanian Atlantic Region (CBMAP) and the National Museum of Costa Rica gathered in the conference center at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Insititute in Panama City, Panama, to present a new summary of gaps in our knowledge of Central American flora: "Identificacin de vacos de informacin botnica en Centroamricaan", an important first step in trying to fill them. The volume includes contributions by a number of STRI researchers: Mireya Correa, Noris Salazar, Stanley Heckadon and Maria Staff. Cristian Samper, STRIs Acting Director, who is, himself, very active in establishing a global adgenda for research and conservation, told the audience: This exercise to establish priorities for the future at the international level and with a common agenda is extremely essential and represents an important regional contribution to the international conservation movement.

It is easier to convince people to conserve an area if it includes organisms occuring nowhere else on earth. However, in many forests, these species still have not even been discovered. Therefore, the World Wildlife Fund, founded in 1961, one of the largest international conservation groups organized "to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature" organized and paid for the publication of this assessment of Central Americas amazingly diverse flora.

Although distan

Contact: Mireya Correa
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

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