S6.4 Natural History Collections in Latin America: a central piece in the puzzle of the discovery and conservation of global biodiversity
1Instituto de Investigacion de Recursos Biologicos Alexander von Humboldt, Villa De Leyva, Colombia
Curiosity of human kind and its natural tendency to collect, treasure and describe the unknown, are powerful reasons that explain why nowadays our world has one of the most important resources to document biodiversity: natural history collections. They constitute the physical repository of the natural world and are invaluable treasures thanks to which we are able to discover new species, reconstruct their evolutionary history and patterns of distribution, track changes in species composition and morphology over time, prioritize areas and taxonomic groups for conservation, and lead education programs, just to name a few of their uses. In other words, biological collections are crucial to discover and understand the natural world. Latin America is a vast area that runs from Mexico to Argentina and includes six of the ten most biodiverse countries in the world (Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, PerÃº, Ecuador, and Venezuela) and six biogeographic regions identified as Biodiversity Hotspots because of accelerated habitat destruction: MesoamÃ©rica, Atlantic Forest (Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina), Cerrado (Brazil), Valdivian temperate rain forests (Chile, Argentina), Tumbes-ChocÃ³-Magdalena (PanamÃ¡, Colombia, Ecuador, PerÃº), and Tropical Andes (Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, PerÃº, Bolivia). This means that in Latin America, species are being discovered at a higher rate than in other regions of the world, and at the same time it requires urgent efforts of conservation to prevent extinction in such biodiverse part of the planet. Natural history collections in the region are key in the achievement of this goal and persist in their mission, some of them even facing isolation, political and economic challenges. With this symposium we want to provide an overview of the current state of natural history collections in Latin America, their contributions to the knowledge of biodiversity and world change, challenges, and opportunities to connect and collaborate with collections and researchers around the world.