The forest of the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve is awash with a diversity of bright and colourful butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera), notably including species of the beautiful blue morpho. Lepidoptera make excellent indicators of environmental change due to their variety of life-history strategies and their rapid life cycles. The Lepidoptera of the Pacaya-Samiria are monitored using baited catch-and-release traps containing fermenting fruit, sugar water or salt water, each attracting a different suite of species. This allows a number of research questions to be examined. Projects could investigate the niche-partitioning of butterflies and moths according to food source and food availability within forest types; alternatively the diversity and community composition changes along the natural environmental gradients from forest edge to centre could be studied; temporal niche-partitioning between butterflies and moths and whether the response to forest edges differs between day and night is also of interest; additionally, there is an opportunity to study the vertical stratification of the Lepidoptera community between the understorey and the mid-canopy. Permission is not granted to collect specimens, but as a diverse and abundant study group, the Lepidoptera project can be tailored to address any number of environmental questions, whilst also contributing to the long-term climate change dataset.
The Amazonian forests of Loreto, Peru are situated in the western Amazon basin and harbour some of the greatest mammalian, avian, floral and fish diversity on Earth. Operation Wallacea is joining a series of projects in this area that have been running since 1984 organised by FundAmazonia and various conservation groups, universities and government agencies. The vision of these projects is to set up long-term biodiversity conservation using a combination of community-based and protected area strategies. The research and conservation activities use an interdisciplinary approach to find a balance between the needs of the indigenous people and the conservation of the animals and plants.
The project is based in the 50,000 km2 Samiria-Yavari landscape as defined by the Wildlife Conservation Society and includes the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, the Yarapa river, theTamshiyacu-Tahuayo Community Reserve, the Yavari-Miri river and the Lago Preto Conservation Concession – see https://peru.wcs.org/en-us/Wild-Places/Mara%C3%B1%C3%B3n-Ucayali.aspx.
Our partners are working in all these areas and are establishing long term data sets on annual changes in key taxa from the Pacaya-Samiria reserve, Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Community Reserve and the Lago Preto Concession. In 2019 our partners would like the Opwall teams to establish a new long term data set but this time concentrating on the Yarapa river site, and will continue with the annual monitoring in previous locations. As a result of this development, long term biodiversity data from 4 separate varzea and terra firma areas across the landscape will be available to compare how biodiversity is changing across the whole region.
The Yarapa study site will be on the landmass that connects the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve and the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Community Reserve. These two protected areas almost touch each other, and the flooded forest habitat at the Yarapa site consists of varzea habitat with riverine, open understory, levee, liana, palm swamp and tree falls. These are high nutrient ecosystems with heavy sediment water flowing through the understory during the high-water season.
The flooded forests (várzea) of this landscape are particularly susceptible to global climate change which appears to be increasing the frequency of extreme flooding events and low water periods. During the height of the annual floods, much of the varzea area is flooded, but this can be as high as 98% in extreme flooding events, confining land-based mammals (agouti, deer, peccaries, armadillos and tapir) to small areas of land and thereby significantly impacting their population levels. In times of extreme low water, fish populations and their associated predators (dolphins, river birds and caimans) are under stress. The datasets managed by Fund Amazonia for this landscape, which is based on the annual surveys completed by the Opwall teams and others, are the most extensive in any of the Peruvian reserves and is showing the impact of global climate change on a range of taxa and on the livelihoods of indigenous people. This information is being used to make management decisions for the reserves and policy decisions for conserving the Peruvian Amazon including hunting quotas for the indigenous communities (see https://fundamazonia.org/peccary-pelt-certification.html).
The temperature varies very little in the area where we are based in Peru. It averages between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius (70 and 90 Fahrenheit). The humidity will usually always be over 75%, which can make it feel quite hot and sticky. During the evenings, the temperature drops and it can feel much cooler but still usually stays around 20 degrees.
Fitness level required
Low. This is terrestrial based project so you will be in the forest for your surveys. There are no hills and you will be on the marked transect but the terrain can be muddy and quite uneven.
Facilities in Peru are on a research boat where you will sleep in bunk beds in a shared cabin. The bathroom is also shared and you can expect hand flushed toilets and cold showers. You will have no cell phone signal or wifi.