25 Jun 2013

Unknown value of PNG's threatened biodiversity

1:39 pm on 25 June 2013

A biologist studying weevils from Papua and Papua New Guinea says it is critical to save as much biodiversity as possible as farming and development take over the landscape.

Alexander Riedel says species of flightless insects like weevils are often found in only one location so scientists are working hard to make their taxonomy or species description available online for conservationists and others to use.

He says although removing primary rainforest can bring economic benefit to local people, the biodiversity it protects could hold the key to new medicines or biotechnology.

"I mean, if you had asked somebody a thousand years ago on the value of penicillium fungi for example, nobody would have thought of the possibility that these fungi may produce some medicines that can save the lives of millions of people - and the situation now is similar."

Alexander Riedel says extinction of species in Papua and Papua New Guinea is occurring at about one thousand times the natural rate.