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Biodiversity: Latin America and the Caribbean

The region contains a wide variety of ecosystem types. Tropical moist and dry broadleaf forests cover 43 per cent of the territory; grasslands and savannas 40.5 per cent; deserts and scrub 11 per cent; temperate forests and tropical and sub-tropical coniferous forests 5 per cent; and mangroves the remaining 0.5 per cent (Dinerstein and others 1995). The region's rivers and lake ecosystems and the marine ecosystems of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts are also productive habitats with high diversity of species. The Caribbean contains 7 per cent of the world's coral reefs (about 20 000 km2) with a great array of marine biodiversity (UNEP 2001).

Seven of the world's 25 biologically richest terrestrial ecoregions are found in the region, containing between them more than 46 000 vascular plant, 1 597 amphibian, 1 208 reptile, 1 267 bird and 575 mammal species (Mittermeier, Myers and Mittermeier 1999, Myers and others 2000).