6th September, Oxford - Earthwatch-supported scientists report at the annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation.
Brazil's Pantanal, the largest freshwater wetland in the world, is subject to extreme environmental pressures including intensive agriculture, pollution and large-scale dredging and damming schemes. Very little information is available about the Pantanal's ecology and biodiversity, in contrast with the surrounding areas, such as the Amazon rainforest, cerrado, and Atlantic rainforest.
Earthwatch has been supporting research projects that address these environmental concerns for five years and has been instrumental in building the capacity of educators, ranch-hands, guides, and property owners in science and resource management.
This month Earthwatch scientists highlighted their long-term research and the pioneering use of volunteer participation at the annual general meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) in Uberlândia, Brazil.
Dr. Erich Fischer* reported on his study of bat populations and ecology including the sampling of more than 1,000 bats in 26 species and 5 families. "Bats are a special group as they have a wide range of food habits and use all available types of resources in a given site," says Fischer. "By monitoring their activities we can understand their conservation status at different sites. In addition, several bats are unique pollinators or seed dispersers of important plant species in the Pantanal."
"Volunteers are ‘the hands' that execute our field work", adds Fischer, "they contribute significantly with positive criticism about procedures and insights into field questions while also having the opportunity to learn about life in the Pantanal and the global importance of conservation."
Don Eaton** shared his findings on the impact of irrigation systems on aquatic habitat diversity, highlighting the severe negative impact of hydrologic alterations. And Dr. Alexine Keuroghlian***reported on the ecological impacts of the changing cattle industry, integrating findings from volunteer supported research on peccary and feral pig, birds, and aquatic biodiversity.
"Since 2000, more than 600 people have contributed labour and funding to nine different Earthwatch-supported research projects in the Pantanal," says Dr Roger Mitchell, Head of Research and Education at Earthwatch (Europe). "We support these projects because they address research needs that will help the sustainable management of the Pantanal. Many of the results reported at this meeting exemplify the urgent need for this multi-discipline approach and the power of participant-supported research."
Find out more about joining an Earthwatch project in Brazil's Pantanal.
Photo credits: © Melinda Nye, © Jennifer Fry