Changing Planet

Amazon Biodiversity Monitoring in Ducke Reserve

Monitoring of biodiversity is a challenge, but visiting Ducke reserve in the Amazon I am able to see one of the gold standards for long-term biodiversity research. Satellite images reveal an oddly square 10 x 10 km forest block just to the north-east of Manaus. Here lies the Ducke scientific reserve owned by the National Institute of Amazon Research (INPA). My Brazilian colleague Carlos Abrahão undertook his early postgraduate research here and is keen to show me the reserve.

Amazon forest in Ducke scientific reserve, Brazil (Photo by James Russell)

Our hike in to the central camp of the reserve is exhausting. Lying on the equator in the humid forest one only has to walk a few minutes before being drenched in sweat. As we navigate the linear track system turning at right angles appropriately, an afternoon thunderstorm threatens in the distance. As we nimbly traverse the last tree fall bridge of a stream we come upon the forest camp, and only minutes later the storm hits.

Central camp in Ducke scientific reserve, Brazil
Central camp in Ducke scientific reserve, Brazil (Photo by James Russell)

After making camp, stringing our hammocks up, darkness falls and the storm abates. Carlos takes this opportunity to eagerly search for the snakes he undertook his research upon. The best he can find is a tree snake, but for a New Zealander coming from a land without snakes, this is the perfect entry level snake for someone like me to let crawl upon themselves. Still, both I and the snake are happy when it is returned to the tree.

A tree snake agilely negotiates its favourite habitat
A tree snake agilely negotiates its favourite habitat (Photo by James Russell)

The perfectly square grid system the design of the RAPELD system imagined by INPA researcher Bill Magnusson. By dividing the scientific reserve in to consecutively larger squares, questions of importance to biodiversity managers can be appropriately matched to scale, whether it be the taxonomy of biodiversity in a tiny square, to forest dynamics across the entire reserve. Before entering the reserve Bill was generous enough to give me a copy of his book Biodiversity and Integrated Environmental Monitoring. It is a must-read for those interested in long-term biodiversity monitoring, especially as one lies in their hammock in the centre of the very reserve it focuses upon, listening to the cacophony of amphibians.

A frog is pleased by its choice of camouflage
A frog is pleased by its choice of camouflage (Photo by James Russell)

Read All Posts by James Russell

Conservation biologist Dr. James Russell works throughout the world on remote islands and other sites to provide conservation solutions by applying a combination of scientific methods. Follow James on National Geographic voices for regular updates on his own work or other exciting developments in island conservation.
  • CJ

    Your started so well and then a puff of air you were done. I may be the only human on Earth who was suddenly massively curious as to survival rate of other better known Amazonian denizens, sloths tapirs, capa baras, how many species of snakes. I didn’t expect the survival of many large carnivores, but you had me stupidly expecting much much more. I’d already opened up an image on large 10k by 10k in American measurements is Now maybe I’ll look for an article on it.

  • I really wish I could have learnt and said more myself, but I only had the briefest of a day and night in the reserve myself. Thanks for your interest though and I hope you find more information from some of the real experts who have been working in this reserve for decades.

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