Amazon Riverboat Exploration
The Lago Preto Conservation Concession is a 10,000 hectare block of tropical forest located in the upper Yavari River, just below the confluence of the Yavari and Yavari Miri Rivers. The Yavari River forms the border between Peru and Brazil in the western Amazon basin. This Conservation Concession adjoins the proposed Greater Yavari Protected Area which covers more than 1.5 million hectares of pristine Amazon forests.
The Lago Preto Conservation Concession is a public-private reserve, where the Peruvian government granted a 10,000 hectare block of rainforest to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in collaboration with the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) as a 40 year concession. Conservation concessions are a relatively new strategy in Peru, with the first concession granted in 2004. The goal of the current research at Lago Preto is to investigate the effectiveness of a conservation concession for Amazonian biodiversity. Results will help determine the potential of public¬-private conservation strategies as a viable protected area category, thus increasing diversity in protected area systems.
The overall project is working with the Darwin Initiative, WCS, DICE and WWF on implementing community-based resource management; the Earthwatch research focuses on the monitoring of the wildlife species at two areas, Lago Preto and Samiria, depending on the season, using a set of key wildlife species to evaluate the conservation success of the public-private partnership. The Earthwatch expeditions are based on the Ayapua, a vintage boat from the Amazon's rubber boom.
Red uakari monkeys are abundant at Lago Preto and were the flagship species behind the initial establishment of the reserve. Monitoring of the red uakari population is a primary goal in evaluating the success of the concession. Giant river otter and black caiman are being monitored as indicators of species recovery. Macaws are being used to indicate the general health of the forest ecosystem, and dolphins are being used as indicators of the health of the aquatic system. Fish populations are being evaluated to enhance sustainability of fisheries in the lakes of the concession and game animals are being surveyed to determine the impact of bush meat hunting.
The Earthwatch research is yielding fascinating and often complex results. At both the Samiria and Yavari sites the conservation-based research is resulting in real and significant improvements for the wildlife, environment, and local people. The results from the Earthwatch expedition teams have identified that populations of key wildlife species have increased at both sites. In Samiria, the woolly monkey, black caiman, manatee, and turtle populations have increased. At the Yavari site, the red uakari monkey, giant river otter, and paiche fish have likewise shown significant increases. The dolphins, macaws, and terrestrial wildlife are flourishing in both river systems. Furthermore, both sites are incorporating management recommendations as a result of the insights gained through the Earthwatch expeditions.
The research has clearly shown that conservation actions are more complex than originally thought. The success in conserving key species is actually impacting other species. For example, increases in black caiman result in decreases in the common caiman; increases in the red uakari monkey result in decreases in woolly and howler monkeys; and increases in woolly monkeys result in decreases in howler monkeys. These species interactions need to be considered in the management of the protected areas, since it is now clear that not all species can be at their maximum population at the same time, but fluctuate depending on the populations of competing species. While this is not a new concept for ecology, it is a new concept for managing protected areas in the Amazon, and other tropical forests of the world.
Thanks to the help from volunteers, we can now better evaluate the protected areas and devise management systems that incorporate species interactions. It is also clear that management of the protected areas requires active participation of local indigenous communities, who play an important role as stewards of the rainforest. In the coming years Earthwatch scientists will work closely with the reserve administrations, local people, students and fellow researchers to advance the conservation of the Amazon forests, using Samiria and Yavari as our case study sites.
Find out more about Amazon Riverboat Exploration.
For 2010, all teams will travel to the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, via the Ucayali, Maranon, and Samiria Rivers. Volunteers should be aware that the threatened uakari monkey, studied on previous expeditions to the Yavari River, does not inhabit this National Reserve. Other species of monkey however, such as the capuchin monkey and spider monkey, may be encountered.