The expedition will run for a total of 7 weeks in the field where we will be based for 1 week 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/). We will then move to Shintuya and study the effects of a human community of the areas biodiversity. 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. As a result, this work could prove to show important results on the effects of human disturbance on these vitally important areas of the Amazon.
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 in areas of increasing distance away from the human community. 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 mammal abundance around a human rainforest community.
This project studying bird populations will use similar methods to the mammal project. In order compare the bird species richness as the distance from the community increases, 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.
Soil Quality Study
We aim to investigate the soil quality in different areas of Shintuya, where the majority of the expedition will be based. Analysis on soil quality will include the measuring of the chemical and physical properties of the soil. This will comprise of pH measurements, the weight of earthworms found and water retention. Soil samples will be taken, to measure the compaction of the footfall. To measure the water retention and infiltration in the soil samples a single ring infiltrometer will be used and thus see if increased footfall has an impact on this.
Leaf-cutter Ant Study
The Leaf-cutter Ant study will involve the mapping of their trails, with increasing distance from the human community. We will also be studying their defense response in different locations of the area, this involves beating areas surrounding the colony or the blowing of Carbon Dioxide into colony entrances. This behavior will be documented by camera, and leaf matter entering the colony will also be recorded. This may provide information on the success of colonies further from human communities.
Similarly to the soil quality survey, it is important to study the vegetation and its cover, in areas surrounding the human community. A quadrat will be used to measure the vegetation cover in increasing distances from the village. In these quadrats leaf litter depth will be assessed. It will allow the expedition to see if there is a correlation between the amount of leaf litter and soil nutrient quality in the Shintuya area