Peer-reviewed publications: Lepidoptera

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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)

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 reason- ably 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)

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.


Shinichi Nakahara, Fjella Hoffman, Fabia Hoffman, & Geoff Gallice (2020)

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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See, J., Nakahara, S., & G. Gallice (2018)

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).

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

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

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)

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.

Other peer-reviewed publications

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

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Jan Hinkelman et al. (2020)

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.

Herbarium-based measurements reliably estimate three
functional traits

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Tim Perez et al. (2020)

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)

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)


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.

Photosynthetic heat tolerances and extreme leaf temperatures

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Tim Perez & Ken Feeley (2020)

Abstract: Abstract
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. (2019)

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)

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.

Articles by visiting researchers & students

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.

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 - 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.