Think of the Amazon, and you probably think of jaguars, monkeys, or parrots. But many of the rainforest’s secrets can be found hidden in its watery depths, from the fish swimming around its rivers and lakes And because these animals live in a river network that spans the South American continent, studying them helps conservationists understand why connected ecosystems are healthy ecosystems. Scientists from the Field Museum investigated fish populations in the South American country of Guyana, which helped to show why aquatic corridors matter in conservation. Their study, which they published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, makes an important case that protecting one tiny corner of the Guiana Shield can help protect rivers and biodiversity across the Amazon.

“I want to make a case for why this area should be protected, and I can tell that story using fish,” says Dr. Lesley de Souza, conservation ecologist at the Field Museum. “We found over 450 species of fish in an area smaller than Connecticut. The entire Mississippi River basin has fewer than 200 species. We’re talking about a pretty small area that has a ton of diversity.”

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