Amphibians and Reptiles of Mainland Southeast Asia
A major component of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation's (CBC) work in Mainland Southeast Asia focuses on diversity, distribution, and conservation status of the amphibians (frogs, salamanders, and caecilians), and reptiles (snakes, lizards, turtles, and crocodiles) of Vietnam, Lao PDR (Laos), Cambodia, and Thailand. This enormous and geographically complex area south of China is located in the heart of the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot and harbors an array of some of the world's most spectacular and threatened amphibians and reptiles. Mainland Southeast Asia is home to the southern and eastern-most extensions of the Himalayas, and several unique habitats, including isolated mountain ranges (such as the Annamites and the Cardamoms), and enormous river systems (including the Red and Mekong Rivers), and their associated deltas.
Despite a long history of regional explorations dating back to the early 19th century, a large gap remains in our knowledge of Mainland Southeast Asia's amphibian and reptile species. The regional diversity of these groups is still greatly underestimated and our knowledge of their natural history remains severely limited. Our lack of this basic information is made all the more pressing by the severe threats from human-induced pressures now bearing on the region's amphibians and reptiles. Land use practices have dramatically lowered the amount of forested area, which is increasingly being converted to agricultural areas. The remaining forests are threatened by sophisticated hunting and trading practices, which have decimated local populations and extirpated species from large areas of Indochina. Reptiles comprise the largest portion of all animals found in trade in Vietnam and the regional trade in turtles has reached alarming rates. In addition, amphibians and reptiles have largely been left out of regional conservation decision-making processes in favor of better-known plants and animals.
Researchers from the CBC, in collaboration with scientists and conservation workers from Asia, Europe, and North America, have surveyed sites throughout Mainland Southeast Asia. This work has yielded descriptions for 17 amphibian (and an additional 10 re-described), and one snake species, as well as over 200 range extensions and novel natural history data for dozens of species. Data from this primary research have been used for major phylogenetic studies by CBC staff and has been made available to research colleagues around the globe. Results have been incorporated into conservation assessments of proposed conservation corridors and protected areas, and have been directly applied to assessing the conservation status of over 650 amphibian and reptile species in the region for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
CBC researchers are continuing long-term collaborative projects to get a more complete understanding of the dynamics and diversity of amphibian and reptile species in the region. Among these projects is a large biogeographic study that will allow CBC researchers to prioritize threatened amphibian and reptile species and areas within Mainland Southeast Asia. This will directly inform regional conservation managers on how best to focus their resources.
The CBC has been engaged in research in Mainland Southeast Asia since 1997, partnering with the Institute for Ecology and Biological Resources (Hanoi) and dozens of additional international universities and museums as well as non-governmental conservation organizations including the IUCN, World Wildlife Fund (Greater Mekong Programme), Birdlife International (Indochina), Fauna and Flora International (Indochina), the Vietnam Environmental Network, and Wildlife Conservation Society (Lao PDR).
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