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Timor-Leste - Country Profile

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Status and Trends of Biodiversity

Overview

East Timor is situated in a transition region between Australia and Asia known as Wallacea. Geographically, all of Wallacea lies in the area where the Eurasian, Indian-Australian, and Pacific-Philippine plates collide. Biologically, Wallacea is a hotspot of biodiversity where species from Asia and Australia mingle. Located on the southeastern boundary of Wallacea , East Timor literally sits on the continental margin of Australia. Among the major Wallacean islands not sharing a continental shelf with Australia, Timor is closest to the continent. As a bioregion, Wallacea is far better known for the high distinctiveness of its fauna. Both the richness in species and the level of endemism seem much lower in its flora. The southern islands of Sumba, Flores, and Timor are especially poor in plants. However, it is worth mentioning that there has never been any full botanical account of Timor and neighboring Roti since 1885. Apparently all the past botanical documentations were performed before the degradation of Timor's primary rain forest in the mid 1950s. Those efforts were also focused on trees and woody plants. East Timor's forest patches offer the last few natural stands of Eucalyptus urophylla and Santalum album (sandalwood). Currently, the original habitats in Timor consist of highly isolated fragments. Of some 20 habitats under protection, most are less than 100 square miles in size. Only one large block of forest remains on Timor . Such advanced habitat fragmentation poses serious threat to the biodiversity of the ecoregion. On the other hand, the isolated and shrinking habitats also provide the unique opportunity to study the survival/extinction of species.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme