New species of orchids discovered in Papua New Guinea
mongabay.com
November 17, 2006




Last month, environmental group WWF announced the discovery of eight orchid species previously unknown to science in the tropical forests of Papua New Guinea (PNG). PNG, which covers roughly half the island of New Guinea, has the more species of orchid than any country in the world.

Over the course of three orchid surveys in PNG's Kikori region between 1998 and 2006, WWF collected some 300 species of orchids, including eight which have been confirmed as new the science, and 20 that may be undescribed species.

"The island of New Guinea is an incredible goldmine of orchids," said Wayne Harris, a botanist from Queensland Herbarium in Australia and one of the world's leading authorities on orchids. "There are over 3,000 known species found here with countless varieties undoubtedly yet to be discovered."


One of eight new orchid species (Cadetia Kutubu) recently discovered in Papua New Guinea. © WWF / Wayne Harris

"The discovery of such a large number of new orchid species is incredibly exciting," said WWF Forest Ecologist Olo Gebia. "The sad reality is that many of these plants, including those which may contain cures to some of the world's most deadly diseases, may become extinct before they have even been discovered. This gives even greater urgency to ensuring the long-term conservation of this remarkable region."

WWF is working with the Kutubu Joint Venture Partnership, a consortium of companies managing oil and gas fields in the Kikori Basin, to conserve the Kikori region. WWF says that its engagement with energy firms "demonstrate[s] best practice in the oil and gas operations in the area." The partnership has been active since 1996.

Orchids: Globally there are some 25,000 described species of orchid, though another 800 are added every year. There are more than 100,000 hybrids and cultivars that have been produced by horticulturists.

Papua New Guinea: Papua New Guinea is famous for its dense rainforests and unmatched cultural diversity -- more than 800 languages are spoken in the country. While PNG was spared much of the forest destruction of its neighbors, in recent years, legal and illegal logging has increased. Forest clearing for agriculture is also a significant source of deforestation. Primary forest loss is estimated at 250,000 hectares per year according to the United Nations.

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This article uses quotes from a WWF news release.



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CITATION:
mongabay.com (November 17, 2006).

New species of orchids discovered in Papua New Guinea.

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