|Origin and maintenance of Western Amazon biodiversity:
a multidisciplinary approach
Jukka Salo, University of Turku
The Amazon Basin is the worldís most important center of biodiversity,
but major elements of this diversity are currently under threat due to
deforestation and socioeconomic change. This development has caused an
imminent need for a better understanding of the past and present biological
processes which maintain and give rise to the high species richness of
the area. Unfortunately the current scientific concepts applied in conservation
biology of the Amazon Basin are largely handicapped due to poor understanding
of the basic geological, climatic and ecological processes of the Amazon.
Furthermore, lack of solid data on such components of biodiversity as biogeographic
distributions, patterns of endemism, species richness and habitat diversity
has lead to the present widely speculative nature of biodiversity studies
in the Amazon. This is effectively hindering conservation planning and
sustainable use of biodiversity in the Amazonian lowlands.
Recently, fundamentally new data have emerged on geological history, landscape
ecology and forest variability in the region. It has been shown that in
spite of their uniform appearance, the tropical rain forests of western
Amazon consist of a mosaic of dozens or even hundreds of floristically
differentiated forest types. The characteristics of the forests depend
on the underlying soils, and the distribution of the different soils is
under the control of the geological dynamics of the Andean foreland belt.
These dynamics have resulted in a dramatic change in the landscape of the
western Amazon since the Miocene: from a large Pebas embayment, the landscape
has evolved through various stages, such as lacustrine phases, perimarine
wide tidal flats and brackish phases to the current riverine ecosystem.
This geological history has left its marks both in the edaphic heterogeneity
of western Amazonia and in the distribution patterns of the Amazonian biota
in ways not yet well understood.
The research program aims at (1) characterisation of Western Amazon geological
setting, including tectonism, (2) biogeographic synthesis derived from
the historical, edaphic, geological, geomorphical and climate data and
(3) development of new land use and conservation models.
The program is a collaborative effort of Departments of Biology, Geography
and Geology of the University of Turku and it involves ca. 10 other research
institutions in South America and Europe.
Origin and maintenance of Western Amazon biodiversity: a multidisciplinary
Department of Biology
University of Turku,
FIN-20014 Turku, Finland.
tel. +358-2-333 5777, Fax +358-2-333 5730,
e-mail jukka.salo(at) utu.fi