Biodiversity of Venezuela

Biodiversity of Venezuela

By Jaime E. Péfaur

Natural riches make countries lucky. Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, among Latin American countries, are also megadiverse.

Natural riches make countries lucky. Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, among Latin American countries, are also megadiverse.

Given the geographic location of Venezuela in the north of South America, where the influence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea is received, and with the existence of large mountain ranges along our coast, in the east (in the area of ​​the tepuis), and in the west (on the border with Colombia), there is a variety of landscapes or life zones, where all species of wildlife and Venezuelan flora are housed.

At the same time, these life zones are crossed by streams and rivers, and contain lakes and swamps, which make the country a true freshwater factory, one that is precisely so scarce in other regions of the planet, making it suitable for development. of jungles, of forests, of pastures, of crops.

And in this land of grace, the variety of life develops. There are approximately 15,500 different species of plants; that is, we are very rich in ferns, orchids, bamboos, grasses, and trees. The wealth also extends to wild animals, where there are approximately 1,200 species of fish, about 300 species of amphibians and the same number of reptiles, about 1,300 species of birds and about 350 species of mammals. Insects are also very numerous, probably with more than 150,000 species! Other animals also abound.

But the richness in biodiversity must be managed for it to manifest itself. On the one hand, many species have been exploited for agriculture and hunting and fishing. Cocoa, tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco, cotton, corn, avocado, guavas, guanábanas and anones, palm hearts and mereyes, have been products of this region and traditionally used by the initial ethnic groups of this country, as well as by the inhabitants who they continue to occupy these lands. Added to this is the permanent consumption of deer, limpets, picures, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, chigüires, and babas, among other game animals, and of all the unimaginable fish, through fishing, that have provided the meat of mount where the protein that many of the Venezuelan indigenous and peasants consume goes.

On the other hand, in the face of this agricultural and hunting and fishing use, biodiversity seeks to take advantage of all species in the future and with a sustainable sense. With the technological advance it is expected to obtain the active principles of many plants and animals, producing drugs to be used in different diseases. Each plant, each animal, could provide us with very special substances that we would take advantage of in the future, increasing our health, that of domestic animals, as well as that of the environment. As examples of this, nightshade plants (tomatoes and tomatillos) are known to have substances that act as insect repellants; from snake venom, substances are obtained that act as cardiac activators. This is the reason why large pharmaceutical and agro-industrial companies are the most interested in knowing and taking advantage of biodiversity.

Warned of this wealth, the Venezuelan state has taken measures to preserve, protect and conserve biodiversity values. An Organic Law has been drawn up, which in some way regulates all activities around biodiversity. A National Office of Biological Diversity has been created in the Ministry of the Environment, which handles the problems of fauna, flora and their environments. As a complement, the network of national parks and other areas with administrative protection are used to preserve and protect the biological wealth of the country. In order to study and learn more about the components of our biodiversity, the Venezuelan state, through the former CONICIT, prepared, convened and financed an Agenda on biological diversity.

Additionally, universities, some NGOs and institutions dedicated to research in ecology, throughout the last decades have been in charge of carrying out scientific research, which has produced abundant products derived from the knowledge, management and conservation of biodiversity resources.

Whether Venezuela remains a megadiverse country depends on government - community interaction to preserve and protect all plant and animal resources. The fact that our country is able to take advantage of its resources in a sustainable sense depends on the interaction between the government and universities, to develop knowledge and management of biodiversity. Article published in the weekly "Despertar Universitario", Mérida, Year 0, Nº 98, from May 18-22, 2003.

* Jaime E. Péfaur
Animal Ecology Group
Faculty of Sciences, University of Los Andes, Mérida.
E-mail: [email protected]

Video: Biodiversity in coralline bottoms of the Archipiélago Los Roques National Park ALRNP, Venezuela (September 2021).