Peer-reviewed Publications - Lepidoptera

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Nakahara, S., Piovesan, M., Baine, Q., MacKenzie, E.C., Gallice, G., Barbosa, E.P., & K. Kleckner. (2023 - Trop Lep Res)

Abstract: Here, we describe and name a new nymphalid butterfly species in the subtribe Euptychiina. Caeruleuptychia thaliana Nakahara & Piovesan, n. sp. is proposed by incorporating three independent sources of evidence: adult external morphology, DNA sequence data, and early stage biology. Caeruleuptychia thaliana n. sp. is known from two sites in the Amazon basin, in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, and another site situated in Madre de Dios department, Peru. A single egg of C. thaliana n. sp. was obtained while conducting field work at the latter locality, and subsequently observations were made of the larva passing through four larval stages until reaching the adult stage. The natural host plant for C. thaliana n. sp. was identified as a species of grass, Lasiacis ligulata Hitchcock & Chase (Poaceae: Panicoideae: Paniceae).

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Corahua-Espinoza, T., Nakahara, S., Shellman, B., Baine, Q., Tejeira, R., Ccahuana, R., & G. Gallice (2022 - Trop Lep Res)

Abstract: The immature stages of two euptychiine butterflies (Nymphalidae: Satyrinae), Paryphthimoides terrestris (Butler, 1867) and Magneuptychia iris (C. Felder & R. Felder, 1867), are described herein and their natural host plants are documented. Notes on the immature stages of these two species were included previously in an unpublished dissertation, although our work is the first to provide satisfactory illustrations of the immature stages of these two taxa. Based on the population found and studied in Madre de Dios, Peru, both species utilize plant species in the family Poaceae. We provide illustrations of immatures, head capsules, and host plants for both species.

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Nakahara, S., Rodríguez-Melgarejo, M., Kleckner, K., Corahua-Espinoza, T., Tejeira, R., Espeland, M., Casagrande, M.M., Barbosa, E.P., See, J., Gallice, G., Lamas, G., & K.R. Willmott (2022 - Insect Systematics & Diversity)

Abstract: We here establish a new genus in the nymphalid butterfly subtribe Euptychiina, Cisandina Nakahara & Espeland, n. gen. to harbor five species hitherto placed within two polyphyletic genera, namely Magneuptychia Forster, 1964 and Euptychoides Forster, 1964. We compiled data from over 350 specimens in 17 public and private col- lections, as well as DNA sequence data for all relevant species, to revise the species-level classification of this new genus. According to our multi-locus molecular phylogeny estimated with the maximum likelihood ap- proach, Cisandina lea n. comb., Cisandina philippa n. comb. & reinst. stat., Cisandina fida n. comb., Cisandina sanmarcos n. comb., and Cisandina trinitensis n. comb. are proposed as new taxonomic combinations, since these species are distantly related to the type species of Magneuptychia and Euptychoides and cannot reasonably be accommodated in any other genus. Lectotypes are designated for Papilio lea Cramer, 1777, Papilio junia Cramer, 1780, Euptychia philippa Butler, 1867, and Eupytchia fida Weymer, 1911. Two new species of Cisandina n. gen. are named and described herein, C. esmeralda Nakahara & Barbosa, n. sp. and C. castanya Lamas & Nakahara, n. sp., increasing the described species diversity of the genus to seven. The immature stages of C. castanya n. sp. and C. philippa n. comb. & reinst. stat. are documented along with their natural hostplants, representing the first two species of the genus with known life history information. We describe a new sub-species, Cisandina fida directa Nakahara & Willmott, n. ssp., based on a limited number of specimens from southern Ecuador and central Peru. We were unable to obtain genetic data for the nominate race of C. fida n. comb., and thus, this taxonomic hypothesis is currently based solely on phenotypic characters.

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Ccahuana, R., Tejeira, R., Hurtado, T., Nakahara, S., Rodríguez-Melgarejo, M., Gott, R.J., See, J., & G. Gallice (2021 - J Trop Lep Res)

Abstract: We here report for the first time the complete immature life cycle of a Neotropical skipper butterfly, Ebusus ebusus ebusus (Cramer, 1780), with a report of a new natural hostplant based on a single individual reared at Finca Las Piedras (Madre de Dios, Peru). An egg obtained in nature passed through four larval instars and reached the adult stage, feeding on a palm species identified as Mauritia flexuosa L.f. (Arecaceae: Calamoideae). We provide images of each life stage including illustrations of head capsules and larval shelter structures, as well as information on the duration of the stages.

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Tejeira, R., Ccahuana, R., Hurtado, T., Nakahara, S., See, J., Rodríguez-Melgarejo, M., Corahua-Espinoza, T., & G. Gallice (2021 - J Trop Lep Res)

Abstract: We here describe the immature stages of a rare Neotropical satyrine butterfly, Chloreuptychia marica (Weymer, 1911), with a report of its natural hostplant based on two individuals reared in southwestern Amazonia (Madre de Dios, Peru). Two eggs obtained in nature passed through four larval instars and reached the adult stage, and the hostplant was identified as Pariana lunata Nees (Poaceae: Bambusoideae: Olyreae), a species of herbaceous bamboo. Images of each stage, as well as their duration, are provided herein, and we also illustrate the head capsules of the first and third instars.

Immature stages and new host record of Taygetis rufomarginata Staudinger, 1888 (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Satyrinae)


Quin Baine, Gabriela Polo, Shinichi Nakahara, & Geoff Gallice (2019 - J Trop Lep Res)

Abstract: In the present study, the immature stages of the Neotropical euptychiine butterfly Taygetis rufomarginata Staudinger, 1888 are described and illustrated in detail for the first time, from specimens collected in Madre de Dios department, Peru. The morphology of all four instars, the egg and pupa, are described and the duration of each stage is recorded. General immature morphology is similar to that of Taygetis virgilia (Cramer, 1776), and T. acuta Weymer, 1910. The life history of studied specimens is compared to that of T. rufomarginata in Brazil and Costa Rica. In addition, we report a species of grass, Lasiacis ligulata Hitchcock & Chase (Poaceae), as a new host plant for this species.

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Duerr, N., Corahua-Espinoza, T., Baine, Q., Tejeira, R., Ccahuana, R., del Castillo Espinoza, M.M., Perlett, E., Cervantes-Martínez, J.N., Santillana, A.L., See, J., Soto-Quispe, Y.S., Wood, H., Escalante Arteaga, Z., & G. Gallice (2022 - Zootaxa)

Abstract: We describe here for the first time the complete immature life cycles and shelter structures of two Neotropical skipper butterflies in the subtribe Moncina, Troyus phyllides (Röber, 1925) and Thoon ponka Evans 1955, along with new natural host plant records for these species at Finca Las Piedras, Madre de Dios, Peru. Four eggs and a preantepenultimate larva of T. phyllides, as well as three eggs of Thoon ponka were collected in nature and each passed through five larval instars to adulthood. Troyus phyllides fed on a herbaceous species, Lasiacis ligulata Hitchcock & Chase (Poaceae: Panicoideae: Paniceae), while T. ponka fed on two congeneric herbaceous bamboo species, Pariana lunata Nees and Pariana sp. (Poaceae: Bambusoideae: Olyreae). We present photos of all immature stages and host plants, as well as illustrations of the shelter structures and the head capsules for each of these two species.

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Corahua-Espinoza, T., Nakahara, S., Kabir, J., Shellman, B., Tejeira, R., Ccahuana, R., & G. Gallice (2022 - Zootaxa)

Abstract: We here document the immature stages of three euptychiine butterflies, Nhambikuara mima (Butler, 1867), Splendeuptychia furina (Hewitson, 1862), and Paryphthimoides brixius (Godart, [1824]), all found feeding on a species of herbaceous bamboo, Taquara micrantha (Kunth) I.L.C. Oliveira & R.P. Oliveira (Poaceae: Bambusoideae: Olyreae) in Madre de Dios, Peru. This study is the first to report the life history of these three taxa with their natural host plant. We provide illustrations of immatures, head capsules, and the host plant for each of these three species. The immature morphology of these taxa supports recent generic arrangements of these three species in comparison with their close relatives, namely Splendeuptychia furina to Nhambikuara mima and Paryphthimoides brixius to Paryphthimoides terrestris (Butler, 1867), a species documented in our successive study. Thus, the present study includes taxonomic implications based on immature stages by discovering putative synapomorphic characters of larvae and pupae. These pairs of closely related species occur in micro-sympatry at the study site in southeastern Peru, and our observations possibly suggest niche partitioning between sibling species. Additionally, we report two herbaceous bamboo species, Olyra latifolia L. and Taquara micrantha (Kunth) I.L.C. Oliveira & R.P. Oliveira as the first known natural host plants for Magneuptychia harpyia (C. Felder & R. Felder, 1867).

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Hurtado, T., Nakahara, S., Rodríguez-Malgarejo, Tejeira, R., See, J., Ccahuana, R., & G. Gallice (2021 - J Trop Lep Res)

Abstract: Here we document the complete life cycle of the Neotropical nymphalid butterfly Taygetis cleopatra (C. Felder & R. Felder, 1862) based on two individuals collected and reared in Madre de Dios, Peru, including the morphology and duration of each life stage. We also report this species’ natural hostplant at the study site, a species of herbaceous bamboo, Olyra latifolia L. (Poaceae: Bambusoideae: Olyreae). Our study confirms existing information regarding the partial life history of this species in Ecuador, as well as its use of O. latifolia as a hostplant in southeastern Peru, while adding new information regarding its immature biology.

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Ccahuana, R., Corahua-Espinoza, T., Nakahara, S., Tejeira, R., Rodríguez-Melgarejo, M., & G. Gallice (2021 - J Trop Lep Res)

Abstract: We report for the first time the complete immature stages of the Neotropical riodinid butterfly Leucochimona hyphea (Cramer, 1776), based on individuals reared in Madre de Dios, Peru. We illustrate all five larval instars, in addition to the pupa and the egg, and provide the duration of each stage. We also provide evidence for the presence of ant organs on A8 of the larvae and pupa of L. hyphea, and report its natural host plant at the study site, Spermacoce latifolia Aubl. (Rubioideae: Rubiaceae), which
represents a new host record for this species.


Shinichi Nakahara, Fjella Hoffman, Fabia Hoffman, & Geoff Gallice (2020 - J Trop Lep Res)

Abstract: We here report for the first time the complete life history of Magneuptychia harpyia (C. Felder & R. felder, 1867) (Satyrinae: Euptychiina), based on an individual from Madre de Dios, Peru. An egg obtained from a single female was reared on Lasiacis ligulata Hitchcock & Chase (Poaceae: Panicoideae) and the larva passed through five instars. Images of the egg, all larval instars, and the pupa are provided herein, in addition to illustrations of the head capsule and information on the duration of each stage. The host plant in nature is unknown.

Immature stages of Splendeuptychia quadrina (Butler, 1869) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Satyrinae)

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Joseph See, Shinichi Nakahara, & Geoff Gallice (2018 - J Trop Lep Res)

Abstract: The immature stages of the Neotropical nymphalid butterfly Splendeuptychia quadrina (Butler, 1869) are documented herein based on a population found in Madre de Dios, Peru. Larval morphology is illustrated for the first time for the genus. The host plant is a species of bamboo, identified as Rhipidocladum racemiflorum (Steud.) McClure (Poaceae: Bambusoideae).

Other Peer-reviewed Publications

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Nigel Pitman, Riley Fortier, et al. (2022 - PhytoKeys)

Abstract: We report the rediscovery of the Critically Endangered cloud forest herb Gasteranthus extinctus, not seen since 1985. In 2019 and 2021, G. extinctus was recorded at five sites in the western foothills of the Ecuadorian Andes, 4–25 km from the type locality at the celebrated Centinela ridge. We describe the species’ distribution, abundance, habitat and conservation status and offer recommendations for further research and conservation efforts focused on G. extinctus and the small, disjunct forest remnants it occupies.

Neotropical Melyroidea group cockroaches reveal various degrees of (eu)sociality

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Jan Hinkelman, Geoff Gallice, et al. (2020 - The Science of Nature)

Abstract: Eusociality in its various degrees represents an animal social system characterised by cooperative brood care, differentiation into castes and generational overlap. The fossil record indicates that eusociality is likely to have originated in hymenopterans and blattodeans during the Cretaceous. In this study, we present findings from surveys in Peruvian (Villa Carmen) and Ecuadorian (Rio Bigal, El Reventador) cloud forests revealing the first extant cockroach species living in complex, structured groups (n = 90–200 individuals, ˃ 20 adults). We observed and described behaviours that suggest the existence of cooperative care, nest guarding, nest chamber preparation within hardwood Casearia sp. (Salicaceae) and bamboo (Bambusoideae), multiple overlapping generations (‘different stages of’ instars), colony translocation, possibly a sole reproductive female (1.25 times larger white ‘queen’, but no potential ‘king’ observed), and morphologically diversified immature stages. In order to define the lineage where this type of sociality originated and occurs, the forms of Melyroidea magnifica Shelford, 1912, M. ecuadoriana sp. n., M. mimetica Shelford, 1912 and an undescribed species from Peru are also described in a separate section of this study. Blattoid morphological characteristics such as typical styli suggest categorisation within distinct Oulopterygidae (Rehn, 1951), outside Corydiidae Saussure 1864. Transitional advanced sociality or semisociality in related Aclavoidea socialis gen. et sp. n. is documented in a rotting stump (n = 80 individuals, few adults). Close phylogenetic relation between the genera, conserved morphology of numerous characters and their diverse feeding strategies generally lacking specialisation suggests a rather recent origin of a social way of life in this group. Eusociality in invertebrates and vertebrates can thus originate in various phylogenetical and ecological trajectories including predation, parasitism, care for herbs and the new one, documented through diet shift from detritivory to fungivory and algaevory. Interdisciplinary approaches reveal the low degree of knowledge of rainforest ecosystems, with fundamental groups remaining still systematically and also behaviourally undescribed.

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D.H. Klinges & B.R. Scheffers (2021 - The American Naturalist)

Abstract: An extension of the climate variability hypothesis is that relatively stable climate, such as that of the tropics, induces distinct thermal bands across elevation that render dispersal over tropical moun- tains difficult compared with temperate mountains. Yet ecosystems are not thermally static in space-time, especially at small scales, which might render some mountains greater thermal isolators than others. Here we provide an extensive investigation of temperature drivers from fine to coarse scales, and we demonstrate that the degree of sim- ilarity in temperatures at high and low elevations on mountains is driven by more than just absolute mountain height and latitude. We compiled a database of 29 mountains spanning six continents to char- acterize thermal overlap by vertically stratified microhabitats and bi- omes and owing to seasonal changes in foliage, demonstrating via mixed effects modeling that micro- and mesogeography more strongly in- fluence thermal overlap than macrogeography. Impressively, an in- crease of 1 m of vertical microhabitat height generates an increase in overlap equivalent to a 5.267 change in latitude. In addition, forested mountains have reduced thermal overlap—149% lower—relative to nonforested mountains. We provide evidence in support of a climate hypothesis that emphasizes microgeography as a determinant of dis- persal, demographics, and behavior, thereby refining the classical the- ory of macroclimate variability as a prominent driver of biogeography.

Herbarium-based measurements reliably estimate three
functional traits

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Tim Perez et al. (2020 - Functional Ecology)

Abstract: PREMISE: The use of functional traits has surged in recent decades, providing new
insights ranging from individual plant fitness to ecosystem processes. Global plant trait databases have advanced our understanding of plant functional diversity, but they remain incomplete because of geographic and taxonomic biases. Herbarium specimens may help fill these gaps by providing trait information across space and time. We tested whether
herbarium specimen-derived measurements are reliable estimates of three important, commonly measured functional traits—specific leaf area (SLA), branch wood specific gravity, and leaf thickness.
METHODS: Leaves and branches were collected from species cultivated at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and Florida International University in Miami, FL, USA. Fresh components of SLA (area), branch wood specific gravity (volume), and leaf thickness were measured
following standard trait measurement protocols. We compared these trait values to corresponding measurements using plant tissues dried in a plant press following standard herbarium plant collecting protocols.
RESULTS: Herbarium-derived trait measurements (dried tissues) were highly correlated with those measured using fresh tissues following standard protocols (SLA: R2 = 0.72–0.97, p < 0.01; wood specific gravity: R2 = 0.74–0.75, p < 0.01; leaf thickness: R2 = 0.96, p < 0.01). However, except for leaf thickness, linear model slope or intercept coefficients differed from 1, indicating herbarium-derived trait measurements may provide biased estimates of fresh traits without the use of correction factors.
CONCLUSIONS: Herbarium-derived traits cannot always be used interchangeably with those measured from fresh tissues because of tissue shrinkage. However, herbarium-derived trait data still have the potential to drastically expand the temporal, geographic, and taxonomic scope of global trait databases.

The threat of road expansion in the Peruvian Amazon

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Geoff Gallice, Gustavo Larrea-Gallegos, & Ian Vázquez-Rowe (2019 - Oryx)

Abstract: The construction of roads and other large-scale infrastructure projects, and the secondary impacts they pre- cipitate, are among the key drivers of change in tropical for- ests. The proposed expansion of a road in the buffer zones of Peru’s Manu National Park and Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, in the country’s Amazon region, threatens bio- diversity and indigenous communities in one of the world’s most species-rich and environmentally sensitive rainforest areas. In particular, road expansion is likely to result in un- controlled colonization, deforestation, and the illicit extrac- tion of timber and other natural resources, as well as an increase in social conflict between resource extractors and indigenous communities. Furthermore, the development of infrastructure in the Manu region puts at risk Peru’s international commitments regarding climate change by promoting, rather than avoiding, forest loss. A number of viable alternatives to further road expansion are available to achieve economic development and improved mobility in Manu, including agricultural intensification, improved land-use planning, and a less invasive transportation infra- structure. Given the growth in the global road network ex- pected in the coming decades, as well as the common factors underlying the expansion of such infrastructure across tropical, developing countries, the issues surrounding road expansion in Manu and the compromise solutions that we propose are broadly applicable to efforts to achieve sustainable development in other remote, tropical regions.

Life cycle assessment of the construction of an unpaved road
in an undisturbed tropical rainforest area in the vicinity of Manu National Park, Peru

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Gustavo Larrea-Gallegos, Ian Vázquez-Rowe, & Geoff Gallice (2017 - Int J Life Cycle Assess)


Purpose The main goal of this study is to provide a thorough environmental sustainability analysis of the construction, traf- fic, and maintenance of a 45.6-km section of the ‘Manu Road’, an unpaved tropical road that is currently being built in the vicinity of Manu National Park, in the region of Madre de Dios, Peru.

Methods Life cycle assessment (LCA) using a set of 18 dif- ferent impact categories was selected to conduct the environ- mental analysis. Modelling of machinery and vehicle emis- sions, as well as dust emissions, was performed to account for site-specific characteristics in terms of road construction and traffic. Similarly, direct land use changes were modelled with a particular emphasis on the decay of deforested biomass during construction. A set of different scenarios for the pro- duction system were considered to account for uncertainty regarding vehicle transit, amount of deforested biomass, and emission standards.

Results and discussion Construction, maintenance, and traffic of the Manu Road varied considerably depending on methodo- logical assumptions. Deforestation due to direct land use changes appears to be the main environmental hotspot in terms of climate change, whereas in the remaining impact categories, traffic was the main carrier of environmental burdens. Conclusions To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first LCA that focuses on the construction, maintenance, and traffic in a tropical rainforest environment. Despite the low requirements in terms of materials and technology to build this road, its derived environmental impacts are relevant in terms of climate change and particulate matter formation due to deforestation and dust emissions, respectively. Unpaved roads represent a relevant proportion of the entire road net- work worldwide, especially in developing tropical countries, playing a crucial role in the transportation of raw materials. Furthermore, road infrastructure is expected to expand explo- sively in the decades to come. Therefore, we suggest that LCA studies can and should improve the planning of road infra- structure in terms of life cycle inventories.

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Riley Fortier & S. Joseph Wright (2021 - Ecology)

Abstract: Nutrient addition experiments indicate that nitrogen and phosphorus limit plant processes in many tropical forests. However, the long-term consequences for forest structure and species composition remain unexplored. We are positioned to evaluate potential long-term consequences of nutrient addition in central Panama where we have maintained a factorial nitrogen–phosphorus–potassium fertilization experiment for 21 yr and an independent study quantified the species-specific nutrient requirements of 550 local tree species. Here, we ask whether nutrients limit reproduction at the species and community levels. We also ask whether species-specific reproductive responses to nutrient addition are stronger among species associ- ated with naturally fertile soils, which could contribute to a shift in species composition. We quantified species-level reproductive responses for 38 focal species in the 21st year of the exper- iment and community-level reproductive litter production for the first 20 yr. Species-level reproductive responses to nitrogen and potassium addition were weak, inconsistent across spe- cies, and insignificant across the 38 focal species. In contrast, species-level responses to phos- phorus addition were consistently and significantly positive across the 38 focal species but were unrelated to species-specific phosphorus requirements documented independently for the same species. Community-level reproductive litter production was unaffected by nutrient addition, possibly because spatial and temporal variation is large. We conclude that phosphorus limits reproduction by trees in our experiment but find no evidence that reproductive responses to phosphorus addition favor species associated with naturally phosphorus-rich soils.

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Erik Iverson et al. (2020 - Integrative & Comparative Biology)

Abstract: Temperature is one of the most important environmental factors driving the genome-to-phenome relation- ship. Metabolic rates and related biological processes are predicted to increase with temperature due to the biophysical laws of chemical reactions. However, selection can also act on these processes across scales of biological organization, from individual enzymes to whole organisms. Although some studies have examined thermal responses across multiple scales, there is no general consensus on how these responses vary depending on the level of organization, or whether rates actually follow predicted theoretical patterns such as Arrhenius-like exponential responses or thermal performance curves (TPCs) that show peak responses. Here, we performed a meta-analysis on studies of ectotherms where biological rates were measured across the same set of temperatures, but at multiple levels of biological organization: enzyme activities, mitochondrial respiration, and/or whole-animal metabolic rates. Our final dataset consisted of 235 pairwise comparisons between levels of organization from 13 publications. Thermal responses differed drastically across levels of biological organization, sometimes showing completely opposite patterns. We developed a new effect size metric, “organizational disagreement” (OD) to quantify the difference in responses among levels of biological organization. Overall, rates at higher levels of biological organization (e.g., whole animal metabolic rates) increased more quickly with temperature than rates at lower levels, contrary to our predictions. Responses may differ across levels due to differing consequences of biochemical laws with increasing organization or due to selection for different responses. However, taxa and tissues examined generally did not affect OD...

Photosynthetic heat tolerances and extreme leaf temperatures

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Tim Perez & Ken Feeley (2020)

1. Photosynthetic heat tolerances (PHTs) have several potential applications including predicting which species will be most vulnerable to climate change. Given that plants exhibit unique thermoregulatory traits that influence leaf temperatures and decouple them from ambient air temperatures, we hypothesized that PHTs should be correlated with extreme leaf temperatures as opposed to air temperatures.
2. We measured leaf thermoregulatory traits, maximum leaf temperatures (TMO) and two metrics of PHT (Tcrit and T50) quantified using the quantum yield of photosystem II for 19 plant species growing in Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (Coral Gables, FL, USA). Thermoregulatory traits measured at the Garden and microenvironmental variables were used to parameterize a leaf energy balance model that estimated maximum in situ leaf temperatures (TMIS) across the geographic distributions of 13 species.
3. TMO and TMIS were positively correlated with T50 but were not correlated with Tcrit. The breadth of species' thermal safety margins (the difference between T50 and TMO) was negatively correlated with T50.
4. Our results provide observational and theoretical support based on a first principles
approach for the hypothesis that PHTs may be adaptations to extreme leaf temperature, but refute the assumption that species with higher PHTs are less susceptible to thermal damage. Our study also introduces a novel method for studying plant ecophysiology by incorporating biophysical and species distribution models,
and highlights how the use of air temperature versus leaf temperature can lead to conflicting conclusions about species vulnerability to thermal damage.

Botanic gardens are an untapped resource for studying the functional ecology of tropical plants

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Tim Perez et al. (2018 - Philosophical Transactions B)

Abstract: Functional traits are increasingly used to understand the ecology of plants and to predict their responses to global changes. Unfortunately, trait data are unavailable for the majority of plant species. The lack of trait data is especially prevalent for hard-to-measure traits and for tropical plant species, potentially owing to the many inherent difficulties of working with species in remote, hyperdiverse rainforest systems. The living collections of botanic gardens provide convenient access to large numbers of tropical plant species and can potentially be used to quickly augment trait databases and advance our understanding of species’ responses to climate change. In this review, we quantitatively assess the availability of trait data for tropical versus temperate species, the diversity of species available for sampling in several exemplar tro- pical botanic gardens and the validity of garden-based leaf and root trait measurements. Our analyses support the contention that the living collec- tions of botanic gardens are a valuable scientific resource that can contribute significantly to research on plant functional ecology and conservation.

The changing nature of collaboration in tropical ecology and conservation

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Tim Perez & J. Aaron Hogan (2018 - Biotropica)

Abstract: Collaboration can improve conservation initiatives through increases in article impact and by building scientific understating required for conservation practice. We investigated temporal trends in collaboration in the tropical ecology and conservation literature by examining patterns of authorship for 2271 articles published from 2000 to 2016 in Biotropica and the Journal of Tropical Ecology. Consistent with trends in other studies and scientific disciplines, we found that the number of authors per article increased from 2.6 in 2000 to 4.2 in
2015 using a generalized linear model (glm). We modeled changes in multinational collaboration in articles using a glm and found that the mean number of author-affiliated countries increased from 1.3 (0.6 SD) to 1.7 (0.8 SD) over time and that increases were best explained by the number of authors per article. The proportion of authors based in tropical countries increased, but the probability of tropical–extratropical collaboration did not and was best explained solely by the number of authors per article. Overall, our analyses suggest that only certain types of collaboration are increasing and that these increases coincide with a general increase in the number of authors per article. Such changes in author numbers and collaboration could be the result of increased data sharing, changes in the scope of research questions, changes in authorship criteria, or scientific migration. We encourage tropical conservation scientists continue to build collaborative ties, particularly with researchers based in underrepresented tropical countries, to ensure that tropical ecology and conservation remains inclusive and effective.

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Erik Iverson & Jordan Karubian (2017 - The Auk)


Avian plumage has captivated scientists and the public alike for generations and has been a fundamental study system for research into signal evolution. By contrast, relatively little attention has been paid to avian bare parts such as exposed skin, bills, feet, and combs, despite considerable variation in structure and coloration within and between species. To better understand the potential signaling role of bare parts, we conducted a comprehensive literature search that returned 321 published studies. In reviewing these studies, we found that (1) bare-part color is widely distributed taxonomically and is produced by diverse mechanisms; (2) many bare parts are likely to be dynamic, honest signals of current condition or status and can also reflect genetic makeup and early developmental conditions; and (3) bare parts can function as pluripotent social signals, mediating interactions between competitors, mates, and kin. Differences between bare parts and plumage in phenology and information content support a multiple-messages interpretation of their respective signaling roles, in that bare parts may contain information that is complementary to, but distinctive from, information conveyed by plumage-based signals. We consider it likely that a great deal of bare- part variation is ‘‘hidden in plain sight,’’ in that meaningful variation may not be recorded by many current studies. We urge more careful and extensive characterization of bare-part coloration in a wider range of species because of its potential to advance our understanding of signal function and constraints, with particular reference to the role of dynamic color signals and the evolution of multiple ornamentation.

Articles by Visiting Researchers & Students

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Nicolas Hazzi & Gustavo Hormiga (2021)

Abstract: The species of the genus Phoneutria (Ctenidae), also called banana spiders, are considered amongst the most venomous spiders in the world. In this study we revalidate P. depilata (Strand, 1909), which had been synonymized with P. boliviensisis (F.O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1897), using morphological and nucleotide sequence data (COI and ITS-2) together with species delimitation methods. We synonymized Ctenus peregrinoides, Strand, 1910 and Phoneutria colombiana Schmidt, 1956 with P. depilata. Furthermore, we designated Ctenus signativenter Strand, 1910 as a nomen dubium because the exact identity of this species cannot be ascertained with immature specimens, but we note that the type locality suggests that the C. signativenter syntypes belong to P. depilata. We also provide species distribution models for both species of Phoneutria and test hypotheses of niche conservatism under an allopatric speciation model. Our phylogenetic analyses support the monophyly of the genus Phoneutria and recover P. boliviensis and P. depilata as sister species, although with low nodal support. In addition, the tree-based species delimitation methods also supported the separate identities of these two species. Phoneutria boliviensis and P. depilata present allopatric distributions separated by the Andean mountain system. Species distribution models indicate lowland tropical rain forest ecosystems as the most suitable habitat for these two Phoneutria species. In addition, we demonstrate the value of citizen science platforms like iNaturalist in improving species distribution knowledge based on occurrence records. Phoneutria depilata and P. boliviensis present niche conservatism following the expected neutral model of allopatric speciation. The compiled occurrence records and distribution maps for these two species, together with the morphological diagnosis of both species, will help to identify risk areas of accidental bites and assist health professionals to determine the identity of the species involved in bites, especially for P. depilata.

Ultrafast launch of slingshot spiders using conical silk webs

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Symone Alexander & Saad Bhamla (2020)

Abstract: In the Theridiosomatidae spider family, at least three genera (Epeirotypus, Naatlo and Theridiosoma) use their three-dimensional cone-shaped webs as ultrafast slingshots that catapult both the spider and the web towards prey. Also known as slingshot spiders, theridiosomatids build three-dimensional conical webs with a tension line directly attached to the center of the web. In 1932, Hingston hypothesized that the slingshot spider releases the tension line using its front legs, while holding the web with its rear legs. Coddington [2] detailed how female spiders meticulously build their webs line-by-line. But lacking to date has been quantifi cation of spider
kinematics, such as displacement, velocity and acceleration. Here we report the first quantification of theridiosomatid motion, revealing that slingshot spiders generate the fastest arachnid full body motion through use of their webs for external latch-mediated spring actuation.

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Luis Gonzalo Gómez Galdos (2021 - thesis)

Abstract: Amphibians are one of the most diverse groups of vertebrates in the Amazon region and have crucial roles in the functionality of the ecosystem. Likewise, these species are mainly affected by the loss or deterioration of the forests in the region, generating a decrease in diversity and an increase in the coverage of regenerating forests. Due to this, the management of secondary forests represents an alternative for the conservation of species biodiversity, as this are potential reservoirs for various species that are displaced and threatened by different factors. In this study, carried out in 2019, we compared the amphibian communities present in a primary and secondary forest in the Amazon lowland forest, located in the Madre de Dios region, in order to identify the factors that could influence the presence or absence of amphibian species in a secondary forest, which had suffered selective logging events. Transects were used to sample amphibians, in addition to recording the main variables that described the abiotic and biotic characteristics of the habitats. 60 transects were sample in each forest, registering a total of 150 individuals belonging to 22 species. Likewise, when comparing the forests, structural differences were found in relation to environmental temperature, relative humidity, abundance of trees and canopy cover. Despite this, comparative analysis showed that amphibian communities were similar across forests in relative abundance, richness, and species diversity. However, differences were found when analyzing the species of the genus Pristimantis, which had the highest representativeness in the sampling (120 individuals) and could have favor a higher relative humidity in the primary forest. The results obtained show that secondary forests can support a community of amphibians similar to that of a primary forest, despite the differences in their biotic and abiotic structure. These differences between forests may not be reflected at the amphibian community level, but could be influential on some of its components, particularly for the species of the genus Pristimantis. This study provides evidence on the potential of secondary forests for amphibian conservation in Peru and the need to identify those factors that favor or limit their biodiversity.

Posters & Presentations

Monitoreo de largo plazo de las respuestas fenológicas al cambio climático en Madre de Dios, Perú

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Ryan Smith, Erik Iverson, & Geoff Gallice

VII Simposio de Investigación y Monitoreo Biológico en ANP – AIDER, Puerto Maldonado, Peru (2018)

Creando colecciones de insectos poco conocidos usando 'captura acompañante' de trampas en Finca Las Piedras, Perú

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Quinlyn Baine

VII Simposio de Investigación y Monitoreo Biológico en ANP – AIDER, Puerto Maldonado, Peru (2018)

Inventario fotográfico de especímenes vivos de arañas en la estación biológica Finca Las Piedras (Madre de Dios-Perú)

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Gabriela Polo Espinoza

VII Simposio de Investigación y Monitoreo Biológico en ANP – AIDER, Puerto Maldonado, Peru (2018)

Incorporation over deforestation: Cacao (Theobroma cacao) agroforestry as an alternative to papaya (Carica papaya) monocrop in Madre de Dios, Peru

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David Klinges & Geoff Gallice

2018 Conference – International Society of Tropical Foresters (2018)

Field Guides

Terra Firme Stream Fish - Finca Las Piedras, Madre de Dios, Peru

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Joseph See, Geoff Gallice, & Quincy Knowlton (2020)

Leaf-footed bugs (Hemiptera: Coreidae) - Finca Las Piedras, Madre de Dios, Peru

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Quinlyn Baine & Harry Brailovsky (2018)

Clearwing butterflies (Nymphalidae: Ithomiini) - Los Amigos Biological Station (250 masl), Madre de Dios, Peru

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Geoff Gallice (2016)

Fungi - Finca Las Piedras, Madre de Dios, Peru


Monica Liedtke & Geoff Gallice (2019)

Mammals - Finca Las Piedras, Madre de Dios, Peru

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Barbara Hendus (2018)

Intern Research Reports - 2021

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Lauren Apollaro (2021)

Abstract: Brazil nuts harvesting in the Peruvian Amazon has the potential to serve as a near perfect model of sustainable development. The creation of a concession system in the early 2000s by the Peruvian government led to the protection of the large Brazil nut tree as a valuable tool for both ecological conservation and economic prosperity. However, overharvesting of Brazil nut trees could lead to a decrease in young trees, leading to dramatically lowered nut harvests and potentially harming both conservation efforts and socioeconomic conditions in the region. To assess the sustainability of current Brazil nut harvest practices, an exhaustive Brazil nut sapling inventory was performed at Finca Las Piedras, a biological station located in a non-protected area of Madre de Dios, Peru. Additionally, local Brazil nut concessionaries were interviewed to expand our understanding of the environmental, economic, and social aspects of harvesting. The results suggest that Brazil nut trees in a forest with patterns of previous intensive harvest, like Finca Las Piedras, showed insufficient recruitment of young trees to maintain population levels. This is evidence that, in the long-term, overharvesting of Brazil nut trees by concessionaires could lead to a decrease in young, viable trees, potentially leading to a demographic crash of nut harvests. However, interviews with local Brazil nut harvesters also brought to light aspects of price volatility and variability of production which have the potential to undermine the economic sustainability of Brazil nut harvest in the immediate future. Although the communication of sustainable harvest practices is important for long-term ecosystem health, addressing the concerns of local stakeholders must be prioritized to ensure the sustainability and continuance of the Brazil nut harvest in the future.

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Henry Danner (2021)

Abstract: The interactions of fungi and insects in tropical forests are complex and fundamental for the soil, plants, and the whole ecosystem health, however little is known about their diversity and the strength of the interactions. Sometimes, fungi and insects work together in symbiotic relationships to help each other survive. Insects benefit from fungi by being provided nourishment, a home, and a place to lay eggs. In return the fungi are given a stronger way to reproduce. All of these things are extremely necessary to survive in the Amazon rainforest. This study explores the relevance of insect-fungi interactions and attempt to describe the exact nature of the interactions during dry season at Finca Las Piedras. Observations were conducted on two separate trails in the old growth forest. Every Basidiomycota that was seen within two meters of the trails was recorded. For each fungi, their fruiting body have been thoroughly observed to see if there are any insects located on them. Then, descriptions of each interaction were made. In this study, we showed that there are in fact many insect and fungi symbiotic relationships taking place in the Amazon Rainforest. The observations are showing many more interactions than anticipated. Out of the 55 fungi found, 20% had an insect living, consuming, or interacting in a way. One of the most charismatic findings was about beetles laying eggs in the fungi lamella which entice ants to crawl into to eat the larva. By studying fungi-insect interactions, we improve our understanding on how certain species work together to support a healthy ecosystem in a Neotropical region.

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Assata Golash (2021)

Abstract: Aguajales are peatland palm swamps dominated by Mauritia flexuosa (Aguaje palm) and are considered important carbon storages in the Neotropics. Aguajales are important Amazonian ecosystems because they are a carbon sink, a habitat for many plants and animals, and are economically important since the Aguaje fruit is commonly sold in regional markets. These peatlands are also valuable to researchers for palaeoecological records because of the peat formation process. Lianas and vines are very common throughout many tropical regions but have often been considered a pest from research and logging perspectives. Previous literature has only characterized lianas as being harmful to trees, as they limit growth and light access. However, a recent study found that lianas are quite beneficial to forested areas especially after natural or anthropogenic disturbances because they protect the dominant species while they are regenerating. In this study, I surveyed for lines and vines in Aguaje palms located in the edge of a disturbed forest with the objective to know their diversity, as well as their distribution related to the edge. I found a relationship between the distance an Aguaje palm is from the disturbed edge and the number of climbers that will be growing on it, where the highest number of climbers were mostly located in the intermediate zone. These findings suggest that climbers might have a protective purpose within the Aguajal.  Additionally, thanks to the inventory conducted, a field guide of fourteen morphospecies of climbers growing on the Aguaje palms was created. Classifying species in the Aguajal is one of the first steps in understanding the “liana threshold” in which lianas are beneficial or detrimental to a forested area. This is a preliminary study for the understanding of the importance of lianas and vines, particularly in Aguajal biological communities of Southern Peru.

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Gabriela Jeliazkov (2021)

Abstract: The diversity of plants in tropical forests is a complex ecological phenomenon that is inextricably linked to the recruitment rates and life history traits of plant species. The Janzen Connell (J-C) hypothesis is one of the most prominent ecological hypotheses relating to the survivorship of seedlings. It posits that the survival rates of seeds and saplings increase as the distance from a conspecific, reproductive adult increases because seeds and saplings may be able to escape the impact of any specialized pathogens and herbivores which plague the parent plant. This model is particularly applicable to rare species, which have a greater sensitivity to species-specific pathogens. This study, however, explores the extent to which two common species of trees in the southwest Peruvian Amazon -- Galipea trifoliata Aubl. (Rutaceae) and Pausandra trianae (Müll.Arg.) Baill. (Euphorbiaceae) – provide empirical evidence for the J-C hypothesis in a disturbed forest. Samplings were conducted at Finca Las Piedras, a field station located on the edge of a terra-firme forest in an area that was selectively logged 25 years ago - logging and fragmentation throughout the Amazon in the last decades have changed forest dynamics due to the creation of edge effects and light gaps following the removal of large trees. The density of adults and the spatial distribution of saplings were measured. Here we show that the J-C hypothesis may be selectively applied to certain common species; P. trianae supported the veracity of the J-C model; results for G. trifoliata indicated the opposite - that sapling distribution does not follow any such pattern. These results contradict the expectation that common species, unlike rare species, do not often manifest specific distribution patterns in relation to their parent plants. Both study species are early successional species crucial to reestablishing forest cover. By studying the ecology of prevalent flora, this paper will shed light on the community dynamics of a regenerating forest.

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Caroline Kovacs (2021)

Abstract: Deforestation in the Madre de Dios region has increased drastically in the last decades due to an increase in gold mining and agriculture activities, both accounting for the most important exports of the region. Until local communities have better ways to support their lives, extractive-based deforestation on local ecosystems can provide insights into biodiversity resilience and how we can promote diversity to persist in the thralls of habitat degradation. This project will use butterflies as the study group as they are very diverse within insects and regulate plant communities. They are also ideal due to the ease at which they can be collected and monitored.  The objective of the study is to quantify the effects of deforestation, specifically the forest edge, on butterfly diversity and species richness using data collected at Finca Las Piedras, Madre de Dios. Butterflies were collected using baited ground traps located in the forest edge and interior. For each treatment, number of species, abundances, and diversity indexes were calculated, as well as non-metric multidimensional scaling plot was produced to compare species composition. While the diversity indices showed that the population of butterflies was more diverse within the forest interior, a t test concluded that these results were not significant. While the diversity index results were not found to be significant, I hypothesize that future studies with more traps for prolonged study periods will produce significant results. This study represents one of the few studies exploring forest edge effects at Finca Las Piedras.

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Carol Lin (2021)

Abstract: Tropical forest soils are unexpectedly nutrient poor, lacking nitrogen-based nutrients such as ammonia which are commonly limiting growth factors for plants growth. Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) through legume-rhizobia symbiosis is amongst the most important and most efficient routes of soil nitrogen incorporation. Flora capable of BNF therefore could have added advantages in biomass buildup in nutrient poor soils. However, little is known regarding the influence of soil-nitrogen levels on the biodiversity of nitrogen fixers across mature and regenerating terra firme forests. Here, using Inga spp. as indicators of nitrogen fixing plants, we show that nitrogen fixer biodiversity is generally greater in mature forest than regenerating forests. We found that measures of simple species richness, relative abundance per species, and relative abundance per 100 m2 pointed towards higher biodiversity in mature forests. Indices of the species richness, however, reveled a lack of differentiation of species richness between mature and regenerating forests. Growth variables (diameter and height) also did not point to significant differences between mature and regenerating forests.

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Madeline Meade & Holly Rooper (2021)

Abstract: This study provides the first inventory of terrestrial mammal presence and abundance at Finca Las Piedras, a biological station located in the Madre de Dios Department, Southeastern Perú, through camera trap monitoring of human and mammal pathways. Finca Las Piedras is located on the edge of a continuous forest that stretches toward the Bolivian border, composed mainly of Brazil nut concessions and selectively logged forest on one side, and agricultural fields and cattle pasture on the other. Ongoing threats of deforestation and fragmentation in the area represents an ecological pressure on faunal community that may lead to population decline or local extinction. Documenting the use of human and mammal-made trials provides insight into mammalian diversity, abundance, and distribution levels in Finca Las Piedras, and with further monitoring will help document the faunal recovery of the disturbed forest. Through our study we recorded 137 videos of terrestrial mammals belonging to 14 species, 13 families, and 7 orders. Upon review of the station’s camera trap records an additional 7 species and 2 families were added, bringing the total to 21 species, 15 families, and 7 orders. This data will further conservation efforts by helping us monitor mammal diversity in areas with human disturbances such as deforestation and highway construction, and in a broader scope help to promote effective wildlife management.

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Norbert Nguyen (2021)

Abstract: This study explores the diversity of insects that uses various organic matter in decomposition through time-lapse recorded in the leaflitter at Finca Las Piedras, biological station in Southeastern Peru.

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Rayna Shamah (2021)

Abstract: In the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, soil is an indispensable resource. Local farmers' knowledge of the soil is crucial for the long-term sustainability of the rainforest because they directly impact soil health and depend on this resource economically. Knowledge and information about how soil is treated can be correlated to how soil is used as a resource leading to a more comprehensive view of agriculture in the region. This study focuses on local farmers' perception of soil health in relation to the long-term sustainability of the forest and agriculture in Madre de Dios, Peru. Through firsthand interviews with farmers, inferences about sustainability were drawn, and a more qualitative and quantitative understanding of soil was gained. Most farmers did not directly state that soil health was an important factor in farming, but their actions directly correlated to proactive behavior in relation to protecting their soil. Soil perception in the region shows that soil is viewed as valuable and that the land must be preserved for following generations, yet scientific knowledge of soil is lacking.

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Arianna Swick (2021)

Abstract: Deforestation in the region of Madre de Dios outweighs the active reforestation efforts. A large part of this is due to unsustainable farming and lack of technical education. The Native food forest is an example of self-sustaining agroforestry developed by the Alliance for a Sustainable Amazon (ASA) at Finca Las Piedras, Madre de Dios. This study highlights the impacts of shade created by existing saplings on cacao and copoazu trees planted in 2017. The growth index was calculated considering the height and circumference of the trunk and was analyzed in comparison to light availability for each tree. A greater proportion of the variation in cacao trees growth is explained by the amount of light and such relationship was statistically significant. Slightly similar pattern is found in copoazu trees, but more sampling would be required. The results suggest that existing saplings might negatively impact cacao and copoazu growth by preventing light. Our findings are discussed in hopes of recommending farming practices that are more cost and labor efficient. Adopting self-sustainable farming techniques can mitigate deforestation and instead promote reforestation when conducted with right planning.

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Spencer Butterflield (2021)

Abstract: As developing countries continue to make progress within the ever-connected modern world, one of the benchmark necessities to a prospering nation is a stable supply of electricity. While the obvious option is to simply expand the reach of a country’s national electricity grid, this is often not feasible. Peru is a perfect example of a developing nation that has unavoidable barriers such as topography, population density, and economic deficiencies that slow or even prevent the progress of establishing a national electricity grid. In an attempt to overcome these challenges, rural electrification programs have been implemented in recent decades that utilize household solar photovoltaic systems to provide electricity to rural citizens. Here we show that the most successful rural PV electrification plan the Peruvian Government can implement is one that is installed at the local or regional level, establishes a sustainable use of government-funded subsidies, and takes into consideration the cultural values of the impacted community prior to program installation. While past rural electrification government programs have been implemented within Peru that take into account a few of these aspects, they have never been applied in tandem at the state level. They are proven to work, however, as other non-government Peruvian organizations have utilized this same framework for rural PV electrification implementation with success. While these results are not a playbook for successful policy implementation, they do offer reassurance to a tested structure that has previously seen success within Peru. These results demonstrate that as nations become less dependent on fossil fuel-based electricity and turn towards other, more renewable forms such as PV panels, the state-run entities of developing nations can utilize a similar framework to the one suggested to ensure a just representation of all rural citizens in need of a stable electrical supply.

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Lucy Edmunds (2021)

Abstract: Brazil nut harvesting in the Madre de Dios region, Southeastern Peru, is an encouraging prospect not only for local communities, but also for the future of the Amazonian Forest. In recent years there has been a growing issue around low trade prices for Brazil nuts, which has resulted in increased levels of illegal logging and gold mining, for a more profitable trade. To help combat this, certification programs have been introduced to reduce the exploitation of harvesters by providing them with socioeconomic benefits, which also has a positive impact on the environment by protecting the forests. Here we show, through the combination of socioeconomic analysis combined with a case study company, Candela, that the use of certification programs is advancing the sustainability of Brazil nut harvesting. We use Elinor Ostrom’s ‘Theory of Collective Action’ and her eight design principles to assess the sustainability of the company Candela, and the certification programs it uses. Specifically, we look at the Fairtrade and Organic certification programs. For the company Candela, we show that many of Ostrom’s design principles are fulfilled, but in some of the design principles, there is a lack of depth. Our results demonstrate that the certification programs Fairtrade and Organic used by Candela are providing a move towards sustainability in terms of rules and regulations, but the actual monitoring and sanctioning of violations is less well-implemented, providing a definite area for future expansion in order to achieve a fully sustainable model.

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Anushka Iyer (2021)

Abstract: For the past few decades, cacao has grown to be a highly valuable export for Latin American countries. Used to make chocolate, offer medicinal properties, and allow economic security for both local communities and countries, cacao has developed an impressive reputation worldwide. In the Madre de Dios region, Southeastern Peru, cacao plantations have an incredible potential to become an internationally competitive crop and it is being implemented just yet for agroforestry, bringing sustainable agriculture to local communities as a better example to use their land. Every year, a fair portion of cacao yields are inedible due to two main fungi: Crinipellis perniciosa (witches’ broom) and Phytophthora sp. (black pod). This study is built to examine the effects of light on the severity of fungal attacks on cacao pods between farmed cacao plants and wild ones in an agroforestry experimental plot at Finca las Piedras, Madre de Dios. It is important to investigate these factors to prevent major fungal issues and mitigate large scale effects. Additionally, understanding plant-pathogen interactions in an experimental plot can improve our farming technique and lead the example of sustainable agriculture in the region.

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Katherine Kadoun (2021)

Abstract: Invasive plants are a threat to ecosystem biodiversity and native habitat conservation and restoration. Traditional strategies of invasive plant control face trade-offs in terms of time, monetary, and environmental costs, leaving the need for improvements in invasive plant control methods. Biological control methods are one possible strategy with great potential for exploration. Previously, local herbivorous insect species have been documented adapting to and consuming invasive plants and have been used as biological control methods. Additionally, comparing the biological characteristics of insect communities across invasive and native plant habitats in a region can be used to learn about the effects of invasive plant presence in that ecosystem. In a region of the Southeastern Peruvian Amazon, comparing insect communities’ compositions in invasive and native plant habitats depicts the adaption and reaction of local insect communities to invasive Brachiaria spp. and kudzu. These findings reaffirm past observations of herbivorous insects quickly adapting to invasive plants and being promising candidates for use as biological control agents, as well as invasive plant presence having negative effects on ecosystem biodiversity. The results of this study provide further knowledge on the characteristics of insect communities in invasive and native habitats in the Southeastern Peruvian Amazon and identify herbivorous insects that consume invasive Brachiaria spp. and kudzu. The results demonstrate how local insect communities respond to invasive plants and implicates the potential of local herbivorous insects as biological control agents of invasive plants.

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Malte Kurreck (2021)

Abstract: In this study, I examine ant-diversity in two habitats trying to find clues of how ants adept to forests effected by features of global change, particularly deforestation and raising temperatures. To archive this, I compare diversity in light gap-, and forest plots using the Shannon-Index. Although light gaps occur naturally, they resemble some key conditions found in forests suffering from human influences. Although temperature measurements confirm alternating conditions, data analysis found no significant difference in ant-diversity between both habitats. These results suggest a potentially good temperature resistance in ants, although data is not sufficient to draw final conclusions.

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Abby McDowell (2021)

Abstract: Bats are essential to neotropical forests because of the many ecological roles they play. Not only do they keep insect populations in check, provide vital nutrients to soil through the high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in guano, and they also are pioneers in seed dispersal. However, selective logging in previously untouched forests is increasing the risk of many preferred diurnal roosts to be destroyed. In the recent decades, deforestation and fragmentation has dramatically changed the natural landscape throughout the region of Madre de Dios, Southeastern Peru. Therefore, the concentration of colonies in these forests might have the potential to decrease, affecting seed dispersal, propagation, and forest dynamics in consequence. This study aims to understand the diurnal roost preferences of neotropical bats to better inform about the construction and implementation of artificial roosts in conservation projects. Internal and external characteristics of roosts were analyzed. This data spurred the construction of an artificial roost, which was constructed in the field using local wood. The purpose of this construction was to replicate natural roosts to encourage bats to continue to roost in selectively logged forests for future conservation projects.

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Norbert Nguyen (2021)

Abstract: Insects are by far the most diverse and abundant animals in tropical forests. And yet, only 2 million species have been identified off of the 5 to 10 million species that might exists on Earth. Insects’ inventories are always needed to stablish the baseline of the abundance, taxonomy, systematics, distribution, and natural history of this incredible group of animals. This study explores the diversity of a vastly unexplored group of insects: the order Hemiptera at Finca Las Piedras, Madre de Dios, Southeastern Peru. Observations were conducted while walking on trails with a total of 13 days of casual encounter surveys. Out of the 190 individuals found, an estimated 120 distinct species were recorded. By studying Hemiptera insects, this preliminary inventory set the foundation for anyone else interested in studying these remarkable creatures in this biodiversity hotspot. Emerging from the dense foliage and particularly enjoying the light gaps and forest edges during a light shower, these leafhoppers, treehoppers, planthoppers and many others are one to look out for.

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Lina Petermann (2021)

Abstract: The Amazon Rainforest is known as one of the world’s most diverse places for birds. Although bird diversity is well documented throughout the region, little is known about their habits and living requirements. A crucial aspect of their life is to procreate and raise a new generation to ensure the continuous existence of their species. With the current threats to the forest such as deforestation and habitat degradation, reporting detailed information of nesting behavior is key to understand how these changes might affect the avian community as a hole. This is an observation of three nesting attempts of a Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant couple at Finca Las Piedras, a field site for biological research in the Peruvian rainforest. Three nests have been found, all located at the edge between the selectively logged forest and a more open area, suggesting a possible preference for more open areas. Although all three nests were not successful, information about the nest construction and incubation period could be gathered. The enclosed, hanging nest was built by the female only, which also took care of the eggs during the incubation. This is a new report of an Amazonian bird species behavior.

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Christa Stoll (2021)

Abstract: The Madre de Dios region of Peru is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, and avian diversity is no exception. However, basic information of the natural history of many species in the region such as nesting habits and habitats is lacking. There is a need to better the understanding of avian nesting patterns, particularly under the current threat of deforestation and habitat degradation and their possible detrimental effects on bird populations throughout Amazonia. In order to contribute to this field, nesting surveys were methodically undertaken at Finca Las Piedras biological station, located at the edge of a disturbed forest. Data collected from this study will contribute to effective avian biodiversity conservation, as understanding nesting habitats and habits will allow informed decisions to be made in regard to which habitats are a conservation priority for various avian species.

Intern Research Reports - 2019

Analysis of the Peruvian wildlife pet trade phenomenon, according to Social Learning Theory

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Francesca Mannucci (2019)

Abstract: Observation plays a fundamental role in our learning process (Bandura, 1969). As Bandura argues in the Social Learning Theory, the repetitive exposure to the same condition can enhance the likelihood for the observer to replicate the condition in the future (Bandura, 1969). Although the illegal wildlife pet trade (IWPT) was banned in the 1973, it is still nowadays very common in Peru (Daut, Brightsmith, Peterson, 2015; Ricordi, 1974; Shanee, 2012). This experiment was intended to investigate if the Social Learning theory conditions were applicable to the Peruvian IWPT, enabling further researches build upon it and have a deeper understanding of the phenomenon. Acknowledging the observation paradigm, it was conceived that Peruvians were frequently exposed to IWPT, and thus, more likely to imitate it in the future. This was a qualitative research meant to measure the extent of the participants’ exposure to the IWPT and their consequent inclination towards it. All the participants were elementary school students who were tested using a drawing representing IWPT and two following questions on the topic. The results met the hypothesis encouraging further researches to create quantitative analysis that would guarantee a more precise understanding of the phenomena.

An analysis of constraints and opportunities for sustainable inclusion of Madre de Dios farmers in cacao value chains

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Mitch Theisen (2019)

Abstract: The rainforests of southeastern Peru are some of the most biodiverse regions on earth. Unfortunately, this biodiversity is under threat by a variety of human activities, such as agricultural expansion. In an aim to conserve biodiversity in the Madre de Dios region, cacao has been proposed as a sustainable and efficient method to reforest degraded lands and promote socio-economic wellbeing of local producers. Production of this crop, however, is relatively new to local farmers and not yet well adopted. This research identifies the constraints and opportunities for sustainable inclusion of Madre de Dios producers in cacao value chains.

Ichtyofauna survey in Amazonian terra firme streams in Finca Las Piedras, Madre de Dios, Peru

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Quincy Knowlton (2019)

Abstract: The aim of this study is to create an inventory, and expand the field guide of Finca las Piedras’ ichthyofauna, which is the field site for Alliance for a Sustainable Amazon. The first step in preserving Neotropical aquatic ecosystems is to figure out what species inhabit said ecosystems. Knowing this will allow for further research and monitoring to take place. Because Finca Las Piedras is a research station, understanding the ecosystem within palm swamps and streams that are on the property will encourage further research to take place so we can understand how this ecosystem could be changing as well as demonstrate the value of sites outside protected areas such as this one. Is this study, two sites will be sampled. It is predicted that because the two sites are significantly different in terms of depth, width, flow, surrounding vegetation, and the fact that they geographically isolated, there will be different fish species assemblages within the two sites. It is also predicted that because site two has never been sampled previously, it is more likely that species that have not previously been found at Finca Las Piedras will be found in it.

Herpetofaunal abundance and diversity in terra-firme forest and edge habitat

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Jonah Cruz (2019)

Abstract: Madre de Dios is in the southwest border of the Amazon basin and borders Brazil and Bolivia. This area is a hotspot for biodiversity in herptofauna but the landscape is changing due to humans. Human interaction with the environment is harming many animals and insects, and especially for herptofuana. Herptofauna are extremely susceptible to being affected by changing environments, so it is important to record and document these amphibians and reptiles. Using drift fence pitfall traps and visual encounter surveys this study collected and recorded amphibians and reptiles within Finca las Piedras in the Madre de Dios region of Peru.

Comparison of bird species abundance during waking and roosting periods in regenerating agroforest

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Alessandra Wilcox (2019)

Abstract: Agroforestry is one of the most important tropical agricultural systems, covering over 6.4 mil km2 (13%) of agricultural land. These ecosystems can be designed to optimize both biodiversity and crop production benefits without adding pressure to convert natural habitat to farm land due to the vegetation structure which can both mimic natural forest habitat and promote natural regrowth. The purpose of the study is to document what bird species are using the agroforestry ecosystem at Finca Las Piedras as it develops and to determine whether it is more beneficial to monitor in the morning, during the dawn chorus, or the evening, when the birds return to roost. Birds can be excellent indicators of wider environmental health particularly when assessments use summarized data from a wide range of species as some species can be more sensitive to changes in abiotic factors or habitat, while some species can be generalists.

Preliminary assessment of the Orthoptera composition of different tropical habitats within the Madre de Dios department of Peru

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Kees Mulder (2019)

Abstract: Orthoptera occupy an important link in food chains and are important biological indicators for ecosystem health. Knowledge about Orthoptera taxonomy and distribution within Peru is limited to brief field guides of common species in certain regions within the country. In this study, an assessment was made of the Orthoptera species richness and diversity of three tropical habitats, characteristic of the Madre de Dios department of Peru. These habitats include Terra firme, Aguajal and Regenerating forest. The habitats were surveyed by running 15 meters transects. During the period of July 30 to August 23 a total of 120 transects were run (40 per habitat). On these transects a total of 275 adult specimens were recorded. These were divided into 66 morphospecies, compromising 24 species of the suborder Caelifera and 42 for Ensifera. Terra firme was found to have the highest totals species richness with 33 species, followed by Aguajal and Regenerating forest with 26 species each. The amount of unique species per habitat was 17 for Terra firme (54.8% of total), 22 for Regenerating forest (84.6% of total) and 10 for Aguajal (38.7% of total). Average species richness was highest in Regenerating forest with 3 species per transect, followed by Aguajal (1.1 per transect) and Terra firme (1.275). Shannon indexes were calculated for each habitat and it was found that Terra firme had the highest diversity value (H = 3.21), followed by Aguajal (H = 3.08) and Regenerating forest (H = 2.61). Further studies could focus their attention on actual species identification, as most specimens in this study were not identified beyond the Family level. A study focusing on environmental variables could better examine their importance when specifically seeking for varying conditions within habitats, which was not done in the current study. A study performed over a longer time period could also capture the effects of seasonality on Orthoptera assemblages.

Effect of biochar and organic fertilizer on papaya tree quality

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Naeem El Choufy (2019)

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to see the effect of chicken manure and biochar on the fruit mass, abundance of fruits per tree, fruit length and width, and stem girth of papaya. The experimental design was a randomized complete block model with 60 plants in total and 15 per treatment. The four treatments included control, 1kg biochar, 1kg chicken manure, and 0.5kg biochar and 0.5kg chicken manure. Expected results are that the “combination of biochar and chicken manure” treatment will grant the highest quality trees followed by “purely chicken manure” then “purely biochar” followed by the control. Reasons for this include the variability of nutrients and organic material present in the combo treatment. Some studies have shown that biochar does not affect papaya yield which is why pure chicken manure may produce better tree quality, and the control treatment will likely produce the least yield due to a lack of supplements being added.

Possible human impact on mosquito oviposition in Brazil nut shells

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Jorge Rivera-Gonzalez & Clara Zheng (2019)

Abstract: Brazil nut tree concessions in the Madre de Dios region provides protection to the intact forest and substantial income to the local community. However, the stacked piles of harvested Brazil nut shells may store rainwater and act as a potential habitat for aquatic insects such as mosquito and mayfly larvae. As mosquitoes often act as a vector for disease transmission, these temporary bodies of water may be contributing to the dispersal of tropical diseases such as dengue and zika. In addition, overexploitation and piling Brazil nut shells close to the tree may also decrease the regeneration rate of the Brazil nut, which can only be observed in the long term. We investigated the abundance and variety of mosquito larvae in Brazil nut shells in two different locations, on piles and alone. The distance of the shells to the adult tree and the volume of water within the shell were measured and collected to take back to the lab. At the lab, the contents of the Brazil nut shells were divided and divided into morphospecies. This study shows that Brazil nut shells stacked in piles are closer and contain more larvae compared to those alone. Thus, harvesting Brazil nut may be contributing to the outbreak of diseases within a region; for this reason, humans should try to minimize the stand-still water sites aiding to the dispersal of different vector-borne tropical diseases.

Intern Research Reports - 2018

A case study of arboreal termite (Insecta: Isoptera) tree selection at Finca Las Piedras, Madre de Dios, Peru

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Declan Cronin (2018)

Abstract: Knowledge associated with the processes responsible for termite tree selection for gallery sites remains limited. While tree diameter and chemical properties seem to be important factors influencing tree choice, results of previous studies are not coherent, which is the reason why more research is required. In this study, I predicted termites would select trees based on their size, condition, and chemical defenses associated with the tree. Here I show that termite tree selection is dependent on diameter at breast height (DBH), chemical defense of the tree and the condition of the tree. The research concludes that termites are aware of resource quality and appear not to choose locations randomly but are selective of location.

Comparing butterfly diversity in different tropical habitats

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Allison Stoiser (2018)

Abstract: Butterflies serve as indicator species of habitat health and type, with disturbance introducing more common and generalist species to an area, possibly making diversity indices unreliable in displaying effects of disturbed or agricultural practices on butterfly diversity. The region of Madre de Dios, located in southwestern Peru, has the highest butterfly diversity in the world, and faces increasing threats of habitat destruction due to monoculture and mining operations. Therefore, I compared community compositions of butterflies in aguajal, terra firme forest, and an agroforestry system in Madre de Dios to see just how different the communities are as a baseline and compare their diversity indices. Through transects carried out in July 2018, I found that the most disturbed habitat, the agroforestry system, did have the highest diversity index and butterfly abundance, but the aguajal had the most unique butterfly fauna. This study shows that in tropical forests, habitat differences do lead to different butterfly species compositions and in order to conserve butterfly diversity, different habitats should be protected, even those that seem to have the lowest diversity indices.

An Inventory of Medicinal Plants at the Finca las Piedras site

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Jagoda Wrobel (2018)

Abstract: The goal of this inventory was to begin making a list of medicinal plants present at the Finca Las Piedras site. As no inventory was yet present, the project began by reading around the subject, and collating information to create a list of possible species. Furthered by knowledge of onsite researchers and local workers, the Finca Las Piedras rainforest, food forest, plant nursery and Aguajal were scouted for the plants. The project currently has a list of onsite plants with images taken on site; and a list of other species which could possibly be found at a later date.

Surveying armadillo activity in Finca Las Piedras

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Jemima Walker & Lona Lalić (2018)

Abstract: Within the Madre de Dios region, four different species of armadillo are known to range and at least three of these species have been recorded previously within Finca las Piedras. Giant armadillos (Priodontes maximus) are one of these species frequenting the area and are currently at risk of extinction according to the IUCN. In this study we surveyed the forested area for armadillo burrows and feeding holes, as well as setting up camera traps at two Giant Armadillo burrows and one feeding hole. This allowed us a further insight into the behaviour of armadillos and of other species which benefit from the underground structures that Giant Armadillos create. Positive correlations were found between the width and heights at the entrances to armadillo burrows, feeding holes and Giant Armadillos feeding holes. Armadillo burrows and feeding holes were mainly found in open areas over termite mounds or beneath trees. Camera traps showed that rodents commonly visited and foraged through soil mounds by new Giant Armadillo burrows and feeding holes, as did Brown Agoutis and Pacas. Whilst at an old Giant Armadillo burrow, a South American Coati and a Brown Agouti were recorded entering, yet no rodents were recorded. We presume this is due to the lack of a soil mound at an old burrow in which to forage. Three bird species were also recorded investigating soil mounds at the new burrow and feeding hole, including the Blue-Crowned Motmot. Continued surveying of the property as well as long-term camera traps would allow a more thorough comprehension of the armadillo community at FLP and their importance to other species present.

Intern Research Reports - 2017

Discerning Diurnal Roost Preferences of Cavity Roosting Neotropical Bats for the Purpose of Designing Successful Artificial Bat Roosts

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Angela Brierly (2017)

Abstract: In the Neotropics bats pollinate plants, spread seeds and keep insect populations in check. However, with deforestation and selective logging, many preferred diurnal roosting sites are destroyed, which potentially lowers the concentration of colonies of certain species of bats available for pollination, propagation, and insect predation. In order to encourage and preserve the essential ecosystem services of bats, we need to understand the diurnal roosting preferences of existing bat colonies.

Herpetofaunal diversity and abundance across an anthropogenic disturbance gradient in the Peruvian Amazon


Tobias Süess ​(2017)

Abstract: The department of Madre de Dios at the southwestern corner of the Amazon basin is a biodiversity hotspot with many species of reptiles and amphibians. These species, especially frogs and toads, are among the ones that suffer most from current land use changes. The recent increase of agriculture and population growth are transforming vast expanses of rainforest into grasslands. These transformations change the landscape into a mosaic of anthropogenic and natural habitats with varying degrees of contrast. To track the effects of these changes on herpetofauna composition and structure, a combination of drift fences and visual encounter surveys (VES) in the forest, edge, and grassland were employed. Each drift fence had three 5 m long arms separated by 120° that are buried 10 cm into the soil and were 50 cm high, with four buckets to catch specimens. In total 20 individuals of five species were caught by three drift fence arrays during 15 days and nights of trapping. This included two rare species of reptiles that inhabit the soil. While the sample size was too small to conduct statistical comparisons, the Shannon-Wiener diversity index anecdotally appeared to differ among the grassland, forest edge and forest interior habitats. The edge habitat had the highest number of effective species, likely because it can be used by both grassland and forest interior species, as it is a transition habitat. On the other hand, individuals in the edge may also increase their movement to reach more suitable habitat, increasing their likelihood of capture.

Wild cacao survey and mapping in Finca Las Piedras, Madre de Dios

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Zephyr Dang (2017)

Abstract: Identifying wild cacao trees is important for domestication and gene preservation. The search was carried out in Finca las Piedras from July to August. In the end of August, there is 18 T. cacao and 3 T. bicolor. At first look, 18 T.cacao seems to be distributed in three main clumps. However, more searches should be carried out before conclusion. In the near future, phenology and agronomy trait project could be carry out with the found cacao trees.

An Estimation of Carbon in the Living Above Ground Biomass of Finca las Piedras

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Laura Coomber (2017)

Abstract: Climate change is a massive issue globally, with the implications if mitigation does not occur widespread and irreversible.  Land use changes are one of the major producers of greenhouse gasses, producing more carbon annually than the whole of the transport sector.  As such, forest conservation has the potential the play a significant role in climate change mitigation.  Research into to carbon storage therefore has the potential to provide important information.  In this study, the amount of carbon in the above ground living biomass of the forested area of Finca Las Pierdras, the research station for the NGO Alliance for a Sustainable Amazing, was estimated.  This was done using ground based forest inventory methods, with sampling carried out across 10 modified gentry plots (50 x 10m).  The average biomass per hectare was 404.02 T dry weight ha-1, with the average carbon per hectare being 189.88 T C ha-1 (see table 1).  Assuming a forested area in the property of 23 hectares, the total above ground living biomass is 9,292.23 T dry weight ha-1 and the stored carbon is 4,367.24 T C ha-1.  However, it should be noted that there was a very large variability in carbon storage across the site, with biomass ranging from 644.74 to 203.088 T dry weight ha-1, making an accurate estimate difficult.  These findings suggest a significant carbon store, highlighting the significant contribution that degraded tropical forests can play in climate change mitigation.  Forest inventories such as these also have the potential for application in REDD+ plus projects, which would bring more funding for more sustainability projects.  There is also a large scope for further similar work, such as comparison of different forest types.

An artificial nesting box built for Scarlet Macaw conservation at Finca Las Piedras, Peru

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Maddy Stauder (2017)

Abstract: A nesting box, constructed of wood, was built for scarlet macaw (Ara macao) conservation in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Scarlet macaws are important seed dispersers and are a charismatic species that stand as a poster- child for conservation. Their population is declining because deforestation affects their reproductive rate, which is already naturally low. The logging of mature canopy trees, particularly ironwood (Dipteryx micrantha), deprives macaws of the large cavities they require for nesting. The purpose of adding artificial nesting space is to help macaws reproduce and to enrich the jungle experience that ASA offers.

Agricultural practices and their sustainability around the village Monterrey in the Las Piedras District

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João Vilca Soto (2017)

Abstract: The current political climate of Peru has had significant effects on the Madre de Dios region. Many migrants have arrived in the area over the last few decades, and with the addition of the Interoceanic Highway there has been an increase in the agricultural action occuring in Madre de Dios. With efforts by the government to increase the productivity of farmland, there has been an implementation of various agricultural techniques that are detrimental to the sustainability of the environment and the economy. The goal of this research was to gain a better understanding of how farmers in the town of Monterrey, in the Las Piedras district, work their farmland, and to find out how sustainable the agricultural system currently is. I conducted 12 informal interviews with farmers and solicited information from the local outpost of the Ministry of Agriculture. Most farmers grow papayas, watermelons, or corn, using modernized techniques and relying on heavy fertilizer use. Based on my research, these practices are unsustainable for the long run and I suggest holding educational seminars for farmers to implement sustainable techniques such as crop rotation and crop diversity to create a system that will promote the economic, environmental, and social health of the community.

The promise and challenge of ecotourism as a source of funding for environmental NGOs in Peru

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Megan Nugent (2017)

Abstract: This paper is intended to answer the question of how NGOs can authentically incorporate ecotourism as a source of funding without interrupting progressive work, while also further contributing their core missions geared towards protecting the environment. The model I have used to investigate this business opportunity is comprised of different methods working hands on particularly with current NGOs, ecotourism companies, and personal communication with locals of the Madre de region in Peru. My goal for this research is to support the opportunity for individuals to participate hands on work in an environment that lacks the support from its own government to potentially gain support and inspire others to contribute to particular organizations missions and successes.

Annual reports

ASA Biannual Report 2019-2020


Read about the ASA's activities during 2019-2020. The report includes accomplishments in our research, reforestation, and education projects as well as financial information and a complete list of our team members, donors, and partners.

ASA Biannual Report 2017-2018


This report contains an overview of the ASA's activities during our inaugural first two years. Read about the establishment our projects in research, reforestation, and education projects, progress during 2017-2018, as well as financial information and a list of our team members, supporters, and partners.