DURHAM, N.C., Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Hundreds of rare species in the Central Andes remain unprotected and are increasingly under threat from development and climate change, a U.S. study found.
The study by Duke University researchers identified and mapped the geographic ranges of hundreds of species of plants and animals, including mammals, birds and amphibians, found nowhere in the world outside the Andes-Amazon basin in Peru and Bolivia.
"These species require unique ecological conditions and are particularly vulnerable to changes in the environment or climate. Yet our analysis shows that region-wide, about 80 percent of the areas with high numbers of these species lack any protection," Jennifer Swenson at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment said.
Oil and gold mining, infrastructure projects, agriculture and other human activities encroach farther into the region's biologically rich landscapes every year and threaten species, she said.
"This is one of Earth's most rapidly changing areas," she said.
In coming decades some species may literally be running out of ground, she said.
"Conservation strategies across the Andes urgently need revising," she said. "There is already evidence of species migrating upslope to keep up with climate change. We hope our data will help protect this incredibly unique region."