Amphibians are a highly diverse class, with species specialising across all habitats (terrestrial, aquatic, arboreal and fossorial). The Pacaya-Samiria Reserve is primarily composed of seasonally flooded forests which create a number of unique habitats for amphibians resulting in very interesting species assemblages and high abundances of specialist species within the area. Climate change has been having a huge impact on the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve in recent years, resulting in extreme periods of flooding and drought. This in turn is affecting habitat availability for certain specialist species of amphibians present. Data is collected across the two main macrohabitats (terrestrial and floating meadows) using visual encounter surveys via transects on the terrestrial habitat and quadrats from a boat on the floating meadows. One project could look into how species assemblages differ across the macrohabitats and try to determine specialist and generalist species. Another project could examine niche separation within each macrohabitat. Climate change could also be linked into a project to determine whether changing habitat availabilities are having an effect on species presence or habitat choices.
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 can be both a terrestrial and boat based project so you will be in the forest for parts of the surveys. There are no hills and you will be on the marked transect but the terrain can be muddy and quite uneven. The boat based aspect is not physically demanding. For this project you can expect to be on survey until quite late in the evening.
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.