REDD+ Brazil nut concessions: protecting the biodiversity of our Brazil nut forests

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Peru ranks fourth among the 12 megadiverse countries and is home to 70% of the world’s biodiversity.

Within this wonderful territory, the Madre de Dios region, also called the “Capital of Biodiversity of Peru”, is internationally recognized as one of the areas with the greatest variety of wildlife on the planet. Its forests are home to a surprising variety of plant and animal species, including those in danger of extinction such as the giant river wolf, the jaguar, the black caiman, the tapir or sachavaca, the harpy eagle, the giant anthill and macaws of various species. It’s in the heart of this extraordinary region that our REDD+ Brazil nut concessions conservation project is located.

 

Generating knowledge about the importance of Amazonian forests is essential to contribute to the conservation and respect for their biodiversity. As part of our commitment to protect the value of our forests and with views to achieve the most prestigious international quality standards for our projects, in May of this year we carried out a new study of biodiversity. On this occasion, a group of researchers specialized in different branches of biology –herpetologists, mammalogists, botanists and ornithologists– headed towards Madre de Dios to enter the Brazil nut forests protected by REDD+ Brazil nut concessions project. The objective was to conduct an assessment of the health of the forests where the Brazil nut grows to determine their composition and richness, estimating the diversity of flora and fauna and identifying the main species according to their conservation status.

During 6 days the experts toured the Brazil nut concessions of Mavila, Alert and Alegría, located on high terraced forests in the provinces of Tambopata and Tahuamanu, near Puerto Maldonado. Applying a different methodology for each specialty, the researchers began by analyzing the number of mammalian species in the area. In this category, 35 species of major and minor mammals were recorded: 28 in Mavila, 23 in Alert and 24 in Alegría. Regarding flying mammals, 3 different species of bats were found in the three study areas. The registered species are included in 9 orders and 21 families. The family with the most registered species is Cebidae, with 5 species of monkeys belonging to the Order Primates.

Hidden cameras during the evaluation

For the study of the birds, the researchers went deep into the forest just before sunrise. The team selected different sampling points to record all the birds through observation and song recording. Once the count points were established, the forest within a 30 meter radius was carefully evaluated. In this category there were 574 records, mostly indirect due to the tropical density of the forests, and they were specified depending on each study area. Of these, 209 corresponded to visual records and 365 were recorded audibly. The birds were distributed in 17 orders, 38 families, 156 genera and 224 species. The specific richness determined for zone 1 was 156 species; 128 species for zone 2 and 109 species for zone 3. To do this, the evaluator had to move between the points as quickly as possible.

Observador de aves en uno de los puntos de conteo
Photography by Walter H. Wust

An interesting result was the determination of Pionites leucogaster, known as the white-bellied parrot or chirriclés, as the species with the highest relative abundance in the area; that is, the species with the highest number of individuals with respect to the total number of individuals in the community (Magurran, 2004).

In addition, 31 species were registered with some type of threat category, such as illegal wildlife trafficking and habitat loss due to deforestation from cattle ranching, migratory agriculture, illegal timber extraction and gold mining. The white-bellied parrot lives in forests with large trees, which is why it is considered a good indicator of the quality of primary forest. This poses a challenge for all of us and reaffirms our commitment to continue conserving the forests where the Brazil nut grows.

On the other hand, for the study of amphibians and reptiles, the method of visual records in transects was used. For this, 6 transects of 50 m long by 4 m wide were established for each sampling area, separated from each other by approximately 100 m. Each transect was evaluated for an average time of 30 minutes in order to standardize the sampling effort. Perpendicular routes were established and 5 meters away from the main track, to avoid obtaining distorted data with negative or positive influence. As a complementary methodology, unrestricted samplings were carried out to detect diurnal species, as well as the search for reproduction ponds and other environments with the possible presence of amphibians and reptiles located outside the transects. The results recorded 31 different individuals, of which 18 were amphibians and 11 reptiles. The most abundant was the Pristimantis reichlei frog with 7 records.

La rana Pristimantis reichlei; el anfibio más abundante
Pristimantis reichlei

Lastly, all the forest flora was analyzed using the Gentry plot method, which consists of surveying, in an area of 1,000 m² (0.1 ha), all the trees whose stem has a diameter at breast height (DBH) greater. or equal to 10 cm. For this, 10 transects of 50 m x 2 m were drawn for each zone, distributed randomly, without overlapping and spaced 20 m apart. The evaluation was carried out on alluvial high terraces forests where a diversity of 175 individuals was recorded, with 82 species, 69 genera and 31 families. The flora present in the Brazil nut concessions determines that it is an intervened primary forest that presents, for the most part, juvenile trees. The most abundant juvenile species were donkey ear, isiga and chimicua.

Especialistas analizando la flora
Photography by Walter H. Wust

After the expedition, the specialists were very satisfied with the results. They communicated to the REDD+ Brazil nut concessions team that the Brazil nut forests within the project area are well preserved. The study carried out provides scientific evidence that confirms the excellent condition of the forests, which in turn reflects the impact of the project to conserve the most diverse forests of Madre de Dios and the great commitment of the concession partners for the protection of these areas.

The extensive knowledge acquired after the present investigations allows us to generate greater awareness about the importance of conserving our forests.

Likewise, it allows us to continue obtaining the highest standards in the international carbon market for REDD+ Brazil nut concessions: in addition to the VCS standard (climate), to achieve the CCB standard (Climate, Community and Biodiversity), which measures the impact of the project on the 3 mentioned axes, giving an additional quality boost to the project.

Biodiversity monitoring studies are carried out permanently, with the aim of measuring and quantifying the variety of species and the dynamics of the forest over time. In this way, we are able to assure and control the sustainable impact of our efforts in the long term. During the next expeditions, our specialists will visit concessions that have forests of different characteristics (low terrace areas, flooded areas and bamboo forests) in order to obtain a representative sample of the biodiversity in our project.

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