Monitoring and Understanding the State of Wild Nature and the Drivers of Change

Understanding the complicated dynamics of wildlife populations across lowland and highland areas of the Peruvian Amazon and how species respond to human activities

A Red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), a species in recovery in some areas after years of over-hunting (Photo: Naun Amable Silva)
A Red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), a species in recovery in some areas after years of over-hunting (Photo: Naun Amable Silva)
A Red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), a species in recovery in some areas after years of over-hunting (Photo: Naun Amable Silva)

Monitoring of wildlife species, their populations and the community assemblages they make up, is required if an informed decision-making process is required before land-use changes or conservation actions are taken, as well as to evaluate the success or failure of such decisions, especially if environmental impacts are to be minimized and benefits maximised. Monitoring data can also be useful in modelling future trends in wildlife and some ecosystem processes, and thus has predictive value if methods are robust and time scales extensive.

Since 1997, Fauna Forever’s founders have been leading wildlife research and environmental monitoring teams across large parts of the Amazon rainforest in southeastern Peru, with the aim of understanding the diversity, abundance, community assemblage, and spatial distribution of four vertebrate groups (birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles); two insect groups (butterflies and beetles); and many species of rainforest tree. The number of monitoring sites has grown from an original six (in 1997) to todays’ 60 sites, most of which are concentrated in the Peruvian region of Madre de Dios, with the rest distributed between Puno and Cusco (see Map). The distribution of sites purposely includes a broad array of land-use classes, including State-managed national parks and reserves; timber concessions, ecotourism concessions, Brazil nut concessions, forests used for bush meat hunting, community forests, forest patches within agricultural landscapes, gold mining areas, and forest close to permanent human settlements. In order to understand the changes in wildlife that we observe over time, this project also collects data on climate variables and the intensity of human activities in and around each site, such as hunting pressure. Our datasets and maps on wild species, climate, and socio-economic factors are used to establish baselines or benchmarks from which it is possible to monitor future changes in wildlife; to understand the conditions that generate high levels of species diversity and animal abundance; to identify indicator species sensitive to certain types of human activities. Our data has been used assist conservation decision making, including agreements on limits of acceptable change in ecotourism development planning, and the management of Brazil-nut and logging concessions. This project is particularly keen on learning how land-use and biodiversity conservation policies in Peru have affected wildlife, and what actions are most effective at maintaining healthy ecosystems in this part of the world.

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