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January 20, 2015
A rapid biological inventory conducted in the Peruvian Amazon by the Chicago Field Museum resulted in the discovery of eleven species potentially new to science confirming the region’s biological importance.
The purpose of the study, which took place in the Tapiche-Blanco watershed of Peru’s Loreto Department, was to create a detailed inventory – for the first time – of the flora and fauna found within the proposed White Sands National Reserve.
The creation of the 740,000-acre White Sands National Reserve is part of a major conservation project by the Center for the Development of an Indigenous Amazon (CEDIA) with Rainforest Trust’s support. Upon establishment, the reserve will consolidate a 10-million-acre wildlife corridor by connecting the Sierra del Divisor Reserved Zone to the Matsés Reserve.
The proposed reserve contains large expanses of wetlands, peatland forests, white-sand forests, and hyperdiverse upland forests. Recent imagery has also demonstrated that the area possesses the largest above ground carbon stocks in Peru.
Despite a history of unregulated logging, hunting, and fishing, forests in the Tapiche-Blanco watershed remain intact with high conservation value. The watershed is considered a conservation priority not only by Peru’s park system (SERNANP) but also national and regional governments.
The region hosts a diverse primate community
© Aaron Martin
|The project site maintains a high conservation value
© Rainforest Trust
The region is located within the global epicenter of biological diversity, a fact reflected in the study’s results. Its findings confirm the presence of:
• 55 mammals, including a diverse primate community of 13 species. It is estimated that 204 species inhabit the region.
• 151 species of fish, including four species potentially new to science. It is estimated that 400 different species – accounting for 40% of Peru’s total fish species – live in the region.
• 64 amphibian and 48 reptile species, including four frog species that may be new to science. It is estimated that the region has a herpetofauna containing at least 124 amphibians and 100 reptiles.
• 394 bird species. Regional avifauna is believed to include a total of 550 species.
• 1,000 plant species, including three palm species potentially new to science. It is believed that the regional flora includes 2,500–3,000 vascular plants.
In total, the area provides habitat for eleven threatened species, including nine mammals and two reptiles.
“This study is of great benefit for our protection efforts. We now have a wealth of evidence about the biological importance of the region and can make an even stronger case as to the merits of its conservation,” said Christine Hodgdon, International Conservation Manager for Rainforest Trust. “At the same time, the extent of what we stand to lose and the urgent necessity of preserving it has never been clearer.”
The results of the recent survey have already been presented to local authorities and inhabitants. It will also be offered to regional and national policy-makers.
Despite its impressive biodiversity, the Tapiche-Blanco area remains vulnerable to destruction by extractive industries. In addition to logging, the area is threatened by road building and oil drilling. By supporting the creation of the White Sands National Reserve, Rainforest Trust is helping to prevent destruction of the unique and fragile ecosystems found in the Tapiche-Blanco watershed.
Since 1999, The Chicago Field Museum has coordinated rapid biological inventories in close partnership with host country organizations. The goal of these surveys, which usually last a month, is to identify important biological communities in the region of interest and determine whether these communities are of outstanding significance in a global context.
Learn more about Rainforest Trust’s project to protect the Tapiche-Blanco watershed.