Conservation & Research
Advancing scientific knowledge in the Amazon

Research carried out by Crees scientists was published in three different journals last month, contributing to the understanding of tropical forests and their conservation.

 

Every day, researchers here at the Crees Foundation are out in the field, collecting data through their numerous scientific surveys.

 

Our plight is to advance conservation knowledge in this area of Amazon rainforest, in the Manu region of south eastern Peru.

 

Publishing papers ensures that our work in this small corner of South America is contributing to the global conservation effort to save habitats and wildlife worldwide.

 

Discover our recent research published in March:

 

What’s the biodiversity value of regenerating rainforest?

 

With effective conservation management, high levels of biodiversity can return to heavily disturbed tropical forest ecosystems. Photo: Bethan John

 

Only 37% of forest worldwide is considered to be primary, meaning the rest has been impacted by people – logged for its valuable hard wood, cleared to make way for agriculture and cattle ranching, destroyed for mining of gold, oil or gas.

 

Despite this destruction, there is still hope.

 

The potential biodiversity and conservation value of regenerating forests is debated by scientists, but a new paper produced by Andrew Whitworth (former research manager at Crees) and colleagues shows that high levels of diversity can return to a forest.

 

His team’s research was carried out here at the Manu Learning Centre (MLC), a protected area that sits within the Manu Biosphere Reserve. They chose this site because of the length of time the forest has been regenerating, from 30 to 50 years, and the fact that it has been protected from logging, hunting and other human disturbance.

 

They found that biodiversity of MLC’s regenerating forest was higher than might have been expected, reaching 87% of primary forest alpha diversity and an average of 83% of species estimated to have occurred in the region before disturbance.

 

The paper, titled How much potential biodiversity and conservation value can a regenerating rainforest provide? A ‘best-case scenario’ approach from the Peruvian Amazon, states that the forest here at MLC contains 37 species of special conservation concern, representing 88% of species of highest conservation importance predicted to exist in primary forest from the region.

 

There is no doubt that preserving primary forest is essential. But with such a high percentage of forests in a state of regeneration, it is great news that these results suggest that under a best-case scenario of effective conservation management, high levels of biodiversity can return to heavily disturbed tropical forest ecosystems.

 

Human impact: from forest floor to canopy

 

Assessing the value of regenerating forest from the floor to the canopy. Photo: Bethan John

 

The diversity and complexity of life in the rainforest differs hugely from forest floor to the high canopy. Despite this, there is a lack of knowledge about how human disturbance may affect biodiversity across vertical strata of tropical forests.

 

A newly published paper, titled Past human disturbance effects upon biodiversity are greatest in the canopy; a case study on rainforest butterflies, addresses this gap in knowledge and was again published by Andy and colleagues, with the research being carried out at MLC.

 

It is the first time that a study has directly assessed how current biodiversity varies between three vertical strata within a single forest, subject to three different types of historic human disturbance.

 

The study stresses that understanding biodiversity patterns for a variety of taxa, across a number of vertical strata, will be important for effective conservation decision making about the value of regenerating rainforest.

 

Never before recorded predation

 

The coral pipe snake (Anilius scytale) is rarely found due to their secretive lifestyles, so there is a lack of information about them.

 

A paper published by Jaime Villacamp, titled Predation of Oscaecilia bassleri (Gymnophiona: Caecilidae) by Anilius scytale (Serpentes: Aniliidae) in southeast Peru, reveals more about the little-known feeding habitats of the species.

 

The article describes how researchers found a coral pipe snake passing across one of the trails here at the MLC. A rare find, they caught it and took it back to the project work area to be measured and photographed.

 

What the snake did next was unexpected.

 

During the measurements, the snake started to open and close its mouth and began to regurgitate a caecilian (Oscaecilia bassleri). The caecilian was ingested head first and therefore the head and anterior end of the body was in the initial process of digestion, while the rest of the body was intact.

 

Although coral pipe snakes have been known to prey upon other caecilian species, no predation events have ever been documented for O. bassleri. This discovery helps to fill in missing information about two poorly known species.

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