The expedition will run for a total of 7 weeks in the field where we will carry out data collection at the Manu Learning Centre, a research station built and owned by the CREES foundation, a non profit NGO striving towards a more sustainable Amazon (http://www.crees-manu.org/). Our area of work will take place in a 650 hectare piece of land situated next to the Madre de Dios river. The area has been privately owned for 40 years and allowed to regenerate from differing levels of past human disturbance via logging. Within the area past land use varies from completely cleared, selectively logged and undisturbed forest. This allows a fantastic opportunity to study the effects of human disturbance on biodiversity and ecosystems as a whole.
Our expedition aims to expand on previous work studying the effects of human disturbance in terrestrial forest through looking into the effects disturbance has on the biodiversity and ecosystem health of tributary river systems and adjacent land. River systems are an extremely important resource to life in the rain forest, and river banks are known to be used for logging vehicle transport within the area. As a result, this work could prove to show important results on the effects of human disturbance on these vitally important rivers.
Find more details on the specific projects we will carry out below.
Peru has been listed as an amphibian biodiversity hotspot by the IUCN, however Peru is also known to be particularly poorly sampled and the scope to discover new species is extremely high. So, it is vital to conduct baseline surveys in order to assess diversity of areas and changes in populations. This study will provide valuable data, with all findings passed onto the Global Amphibian Assessment. We will use visual encounter surveys, which will be completed at dusk when amphibians are most active, and we’ll also monitor environmental factors in order to record seasonal patterns which are known to affect amphibian populations (such as rainfall, temperature and humidity).
Populations of terrestrial mammals will be studied using line transects to compare the species richness as the rivers pass through the selectively logged, partially cleared and completely cleared forest types. We will note down any first hand encounters as well as identifying any tracks and scats that mammals leave around the rivers. Binoculars and sound recording equipment will be used to help identify species, cross referencing our findings with visual and audio guides back at base-camp. We will also set up camera traps which are triggered to record when animals move past them. These will give us an insight into which mammals use the rivers when we are not present.
This project studying bird populations will use similar methods to the mammal project. In order compare the bird species richness as the rivers pass through the selectively logged, partially cleared and completely cleared forest types we will complete walking transects. We’ll use binoculars for visual identification, and sound recording equipment to help identify especially difficult individuals by cross referencing our findings with audio guides back at base-camp.
River Mapping and Habitat Survey
We aim to accurately map four small tributary rivers of the Madre de Dios, while compiling habitat surveys showing adjacent forest and river composition along their. This will give us a greater understanding of relatively unstudied small Amazonian rivers, showing us how the habitat changes between different forest types and human disturbance levels. This, in turn, can be compared with the wildlife diversity and abundance found throughout the rivers, showing us the correlation between habitat quality and the wildlife found in these areas. For this, we will use GPS mapping and River Habitat Surveys.
The biodiversity of butterflies will be monitored along each of the four tributaries passing through the differing forest types, using sweep nets and butterfly traps. We will use sweep nets in each forest type: selectively logged, partially cleared and completely cleared forest with two surveyors walking down either side of the river sweeping for butterflies. Butterfly traps baited with banana and rotting fish will be placed along the river terrestrially. These will be checked daily and any butterflies captured will be photographed, identified and released.
Although it is known that the Amazon basin contributes 31×10^12gC/yr to the oceans per annum, little is known about the contribution that small tropical rivers have to this total. Consequently, our project will expand on previous research that has been carried out to determine the carbon budget of the tributaries in order to give us a greater understanding of the role of these rivers within the ecosystem. Flow meter reading will be taken as well as water samples, which will be filtered and analysed for carbon back in the lab. we will also set netting system across each of the rivers to study the movement of carbon as organic ‘debris’. Through monitoring carbon exported within each forest type, we can compare the effects of disruption.