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The Living Amazon: New Digital Log Of Every Brazilian Rain Forest Species

Researchers in the northern state of Pará want to use the Internet to track the thousands of plant and animal species in the Brazilian rain forest. It's part of an even more ambitious global project.

Yellow-ridged Toucan rescued by the Palmari Reserve in Brazil (Alexander Torrenegra)
Yellow-ridged Toucan rescued by the Palmari Reserve in Brazil (Alexander Torrenegra)
Reinaldo José Lopes

Researchers from Brazilian museum Emílio Goeldi, in the northern state of Pará, have launched an ambitious project: making each of the thousands of animal and plants species that inhabit the Amazon forest available on the Internet.

At the moment, the Center of Biodiversity (which can be accessed here) has a list of some 3,000 species of animals, from mammals to spiders, all of which are native to Pará.

In the new list, researchers want to include images and sounds of each species. The Amazon forest project is intended to eventually be expanded to include other Brazilian states, as well as neighboring countries, like Peru and Colombia.

Even in groups which have been broadly studied, such as mammals and birds, about 10% of Amazonian species are still unknown. "And there are lots more if you think of reptiles and amphibians," says biologist Ulisses Galatti, one of the project's coordinators. "We plan to cover all the Brazilian Amazon by the end of the year."

The project will be connected to other online tools in Brazil and abroad whose goal is to count how many living species exist across the whole planet — an ambitious task.

Without such basic data, it is difficult to protect areas threatened by human activity, or to study evolution in plants and animals. However, some problems must be overcome, such as the lack of professionals on Systematics, the discipline of Biology that classifies living beings.

Helping other scientists

Right now, the user only has access to scientific names and conservation statuses (if a species is endangered, for example) of species living in Pará.

In the future, any individual species will be listed along with the museum to which their reference models belong, and which served as the original base that researchers used. This is very important information for other scientists, who will be able to say if a similar species is the same as the reference or a different one.

Together with the website, the Goeldi Museum will publish a book named "Species of the Millenium," which tallies the 130 new discoveries made by the museum researchers between 2000 and 2011.

Read more from Folha de S. Paulo.

Photo - Alexander Torrenegra

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