September 7, 2014
It is well known that Manu National Park is among the most biodiverse places –if not the most biodiverse one- on earth. In 1987, due to its mind-blowing diversity, it was named as a “UNESCO World Heritage Centre”. A privilege that only a handful of places have. But how can a National Park host so much diversity? Why is it possible to find about 10% of all bird species in the world inside a single Park?
The answers to these questions are mostly geological. Firstly the park is big. The total area of the park is little over 1,710,000 hectares. More importantly it has a huge altitudinal range, ranging from 150 to 4,200 meters above sea level. This allows for a lot ecological floors and ecosystems, such as the Highlands, Elfin forest, Cloud Forest and Amazonian basin, each of them with its unique set of flora and fauna. These niches have allowed for speciation over the last thousands of years, creating species that inhabit only on these localized and remote areas. So, while the Harpy Eagle, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Jaguar, Spectacled Bear and the Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan live inside the park, each of them does in their own ecological and altitudinal niche.
Another reason for its biological richness is the location of the park itself. It is literally in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest. It takes a couple days to get inside the park, which limits the amount of hunters and loggers that will get into the park. This has allowed for the park to maintain mostly intact to external forces, to the point that the park is one of the few places in South America where “un-contacted tribes” still roam the forest in the restricted area of the park where no tourists are allowed for safety and conservation reasons.
The last reason that enables the park to boost such diversity is its location relative to the equator. It is inside the tropical range. If you look at any biodiversity map, you will notice that this area around the Equator is where most of the species live. But, why? The answer to this question is overly complicated, but can be simplified as: The temperate and moisture conditions inside the Tropics, are the perfect scenario for the enzymes to chemically react and do their work. Thanks to this, evolution has taken place at much faster in this area, than elsewhere in the planet.