World Parks Corridors
By traveling on foot and by raft along the entire width of South America, new sites of potential conservation and awareness were brought to light. While some of these locations have been trafficked in the past and studied scientifically, this expedition will perform a comprehensive survey of sites to be considered for conservation for future generations through the use of a 50- kilometer-wide corridor across an entire continent through four countries. Traversing the highly biodiverse Atacama Desert, the South American Altiplano and the watershed of the Rio de la Plata, including the Bermejo, Paraguay, Paraná, Uruguay and Pelotas Rivers, there are opportunities to: ● Photograph, identify and/or catalog species ● Document how changing landscapes due to human activities impact areas with highly endemic and endangered species of fish, birds and mammals ● Highlight to the Explorers Club and the public the importance of conserving this corridor and the importance of having a corridor across a continent, protecting native ecosystems and protecting threatened and endangered species This expedition spans from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast, beginning in the west through the Atacama Desert. The Atacama Desert is one of the driest regions in the world due to distinct weather patterns and is ecologically important due to its high plant diversity, low levels of human encroachment and harsh climatic conditions. Species that live here are found nowhere else on the planet and have adapted to the extremely difficult natural conditions. For instance, 4 over 550 species of plants with a high level of endemism can be found here.1 Examples of these species include Eulychnia iquiquensis (Copao)2 , Ephedra breana (Sea grape)3 and Nolana tocopillensis4 . Additionally, a variety fauna are endemic to the Atacama Desert such as Pseudalopex griseus (South American gray fox)5, Phoenicopterus chilensis (Chilean flamingo)6 and Upucerthia albigula (White-throated Earthcreeper)7 . Following the Atacama Desert, the Altiplano rises in elevation to an elevation over 3,600 meters above sea level and is the second largest high plateau in the world after Tibet8. Similar to the Atacama Desert, the Altiplano is fairly inhospitable and the species here are highly adapted to the rough environment. There are over 50 ‘salars’, or wet salt lakes, in this region. Some of these salt lakes are over 100 kilometers in diameter.9 Examples of plants and animals found here include Vicugna vicugna (vicuna)10, Lama glama (llama)11, Felis concolor (puma)12, Vultur gryphus (Andean condor)13, Festuca orthophylla (hiro grass)14 and Histiotus montanus (Small big-eared brown bat)15. There are also many endemic species such as Rhea pennata (Lesser Rhea)16, Cinclodes aricomae (Royal cinclodes)17, Chalcostima olivaceum (Olivaceous thornbill)18 and Diglosa carbonaria (Gray-bellied flowerpiercer)19. Roughly two thirds of this expedition will take place within the drainage basin of the Rio de la Plata, one of the largest drainage basins in the world.20 Using a raft, traveling down the Bermejo and Parana Rivers will demonstrate how aquatic ecosystems shape our world and feed our planet. The Bermejo River has a high level of biodiversity and sediment discharge, with its upper river basin being the most biodiverse region in all of Argentina.21 Flowing over 1,000 kilometers, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Alfredo Grau and Alejandro Diego Brown "Development Threats to Biodiversity and Opportunities for Conservation in the Mountain Ranges of the Upper Bermejo River Basin, NW Argentina and SW Bolivia," AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 29(7), 445-450, (1 November 2000). 29.7.445 5 the Bermejo River is known for its high levels of reddish sediment and meandering nature.22,23 Charismatic species present in the Bermejo River basin and Paraguay River include Bathytoshia brevicaudata (Short-tailed river stingray)24, Ajaia ajaja (Roseate spoonbill)25, Nasua nasua (South American coati)26, Ceiba chodatii (floss silk tree)27, Rhea americana (Great Rhea)28 and Clelia clelia (Black Mussurana)29. With dramatic cliffs in the Atlantic Forest (an area characterized by high biodiversity and endemism)30 less than 50 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean, this expedition will finish on the coast of Brazil. Just over one quarter of the Atlantic Forest remains in its native vegetative state but still shows the power of this ecosystem. With 40% of the plants and 60% of the vertebrates found in this area nowhere else on the planet, this expedition will bring attention to this important region as well as all the other areas beginning at the Pacific Ocean. The Atlantic Forest is home to 8,000 endemic plant species, over 100 endemic bird species, 70 endemic mammal species, 95 endemic reptile species, over 200 endemic amphibian species and over 130 endemic freshwater fish species.31 There are many species of flora impacted by human activities such as Baccharis genistelloides (carqueja),32, Aristida pallens (Goat’s Beard or “barba de bode”)33, Senecio brasiliensis (Mariamole or Flower of souls)34, Achyrocline satureioides (Macela),35 Cedrela angustifolia (Cedro)36, Schinus terebinthifolia (Aroeira)37, Eugenia stipitata (Araza)38, Araucaria angustifolia (pinheiro or Parana pine)39, Cordia salicifolia (Cha De Bugre)40, Dicksonia sellowiana (xaxim)41, trees in the Myrtaceae family (Guamirim)42, Bromelia argentina (Caraguata)43, Scutia buxifolia 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 -bromelia-pinguin.html 6 (Coronilho)44and Piper auritum (Mexican pepperleaf or yerba santa)45. Additionally, species such as Furnarius rufus (red ovenbird or rufous hornero)46, Polypodium decumanum (Samambaia)47, Isoptera (cupim or termite),48 Aratinga auricapillus (Golden-capped Parakeet)49, Psidium amplexicaule (Goiba de serra or mountain guava)50 and Rollinia sylvatica (Ariticum)51 can be found in this region. Examples of endemic species and/or charismatic fauna include Paratecoma peroba (Peroba)52, Amazona brasiliensis (Red-tailed Amazon)53, Eretmochelys imbricata (Hawksbill sea turtle)54 and Brachycephalidae (Robber frogs)55.