Why did you join the Alliance and what are you doing to help protect amphibians?
crees joined the Alliance because we are determined to conserve the amazing diversity of amphibians in our reserve, the Manu Learning Centre, which is located in Southeast Peru, in the buffer zone of the Manu National Park, the most biodiverse place on earth in terms of herpetofauna.
Our species list is continually growing and we currently have more than 64 species of amphibian on our species list including 5 potentially new species to science. Our research includes amphibian pitfall traps, visual encounter surveys, a wetland restoration project, and herpetological expeditions to the Piñi Piñi mountain range behind our reserve. We have also hosted a number of independent researchers who have conducted amphibian research including a project on changes in amphibian assemblages along an elevational gradient and a project on Ameerega sp1, a potentially new dendrobatid species to science.
Amphibians the world over are facing probably the world’s most serious extinction crisis. What are your thoughts on the future prospects for amphibian conservation and preventing further extinctions?
Amphibian population declines are continuing with more than 31% of amphibians threatened. The leading threat to amphibians is habitat loss. The Global Forest Resources Assessment found that -primary forests have decreased by more than 40 million hectares since 2000 and make up around 36% of global forest cover whilst secondary and regenerating forests constitute 57%. Despite the increasingly dominant role of degraded and regenerating habitats within tropical landscapes, there is little consensus regarding the extent of their conservation value. Our aim is to understand the conservation and biodiversity value of regenerating forest for amphibians and other taxa. The aim of our research is to answer two key questions: how much could regenerating rainforest contribute to sustaining and conserving rainforest life in all its diversity? And what is needed to maximise the contribution of regenerating rainforest to sustainable futures for tropical forests in both in the Amazon and globally? To answer these questions and understand the value of regenerating forest we conduct multitaxa surveys to create a longterm data set and compare species richness and abundance in areas with differing levels of anthropogenic disturbance.
We strongly believe that regenerating rainforest has the capacity to hold a high level of richness and diversity of fauna and flora if allowed time to regenerate. The forest in our reserve has been regenerating for 30-40 years. Our Scientific Coordinator Andy Whitworth has used the data collected from our research to compare the amphibian species richness of our reserve with nearby primary sites. This comparison has demonstrated that our reserve has 73%-95% of the amphibian species richness of nearby primary sites. We have also predicted what would have existed at our reserve prior to anthropogenic disturbance and our prediction is that 74 Amphibian species would have been present at the MLC prior to anthropogenic disturbance. This means we have 81% of the predicted richness of amphibian species. Regenerating rainforest is a reservoir of high amphibian richness and diversity and conserving it is crucial to the future of amphibians.
What can the average person, as well as the private sector, do in order to tangibly and actively participate in amphibian conservation?
crees offers ordinary people the opportunity to actively participate in the conservation of amphibians and other tropical fauna through our tours, volunteer and internship programmes. We firmly believe that everyone, provided with the right tools, is capable of making a positive impact. Our programmes provide real skills and an understanding of conservation and community issues whilst providing an unforgettable experience. Most importantly, volunteers leave behind a real positive impact on the forest, its biodiversity and the local community.