| Team members discuss plans © CEDIA
| Community meeting © CEDIA
| Traveling to Amazon communities © CEDIA
May 22, 2014
With Rainforest Trust backing, Peruvian partner CEDIA (Center for the Development of an Indigenous Amazon) is working with Peru’s National Park Service (SERNANP) to create a new 740,000-acre reserve protecting fragile Amazonian ecosystems.
Traveling on Peru’s Tapiche and Blanco rivers, a conservation team composed of CEDIA employees, Peru’s National Park Service, the Chicago Field Museum, and regional authorities spent three weeks last month visiting remote Amazonian villages with the goal of meeting local people and introducing a new conservation initiative. The plan they offered will not only title community lands, but protect the threatened forests that surround them.
“We didn’t see much interest in commercial or exploitative enterprises within the local population. On the contrary, we discovered that people were interested in the possibilities conservation held for protecting their ecosystem,” said David Rivera, a CEDIA anthropologist that took part on the trip.
The new project will protect a vast stretch of rainforest habitat composed of white sand forests, known locally as varillales, through the creation of the Tapiche-Blanco White Sand National Reserve. The reserve will connect the Sierra del Divisor National Park (another CEDIA/Rainforest Trust project currently underway) with the Matsés National Reserve. It will also be a major addition to a binational biological corridor on the Peruvian-Brazilian border that will total more than ten million acres.
Due to the sandy soils they grow upon, white sand forests form a unique ecological niche in the Amazon. Although lacking adequate study, the ecosystem has already been identified as a conservation priority due to the numerous endemic species it contains. In recent years, ten new species – five birds and five plants – have been discovered in Peru’s white sand forests.
Though white sand forests are composed of smaller trees and are not highly valued by loggers, their unprotected status continues to indirectly facilitate illegal logging. Legal white sand forest concessions have been used as a screen by logging companies to mask criminal operations in larger adjacent forests. Construction of logging roads to these areas also poses a serious threat, as existing roads have proved disastrous to the area’s fragile soils.
Community titled lands will surround much of the reserve, providing an added layer of protection against illegal colonization and resource extraction. Titling these lands will provide the local population with a chance to participate in conservation efforts, and community members will work with CEDIA and SERNANP to draft management plans for the Tapiche-Blanco White Sand National Reserve. CEDIA has also signed an agreement with SERNANP to support the training of park guards, as well as teaching monitoring techniques to communities to improve reporting and detection of illegal intrusions.
To facilitate the land titling process, CEDIA is partnering with the agrarian bureau of Peru’s Loreto region, which has already been involved in the titling of more than 60 native and peasant communities in the area.
During the trip, representatives of the Chicago Field Museum met with local communities to obtain permission to conduct a rapid biological survey that is planned for later this year. The three week survey will take place in four locations, and will include biological, botanical and geologic investigations. The findings will be included in a formal reserve proposal for the Tapiche-Blanco White Sand Reserve.