PMJ has been working in the Médio Juruá region since 2007, with our research focussing on the sustainable use and management of game, fisheries and other forest products by rural communities. We use household interviews to record extractive levels for timber, all non-timber forest products (NTFPs), hunting, and fishing, in addition to an assessment of agricultural activities. We also conduct surveys to assess game and fish abundance, forest productivity and the distribution of key NTFP resources, as well as research into the potential impacts of extractive activities on the community ecology of várzea and terra firme forests and on social conditions for both reserve residents and surrounding populations.
See the full list of our project publications.
Community-based conservation and sustainable resource management
We currently have two main project components focussed on community-based conservation and sustainable resource management. PMJ has worked with local organisations to design a zoning strategy for fisheries in ox-bow lakes, with lakes classified as protected, for subsistence use, or as open-access. We have then supported village communities in the protection of their local lakes, and the subsequent management of fish stocks. Protected lakes have seen dramatic increases in abundance for many important fish species, including the commercially valuable pirarucu (Arapaima gigas). Following careful monitoring, a sustainable annual harvest of pirarucu can provide substantial financial support to remote communities with few other sources of income, providing a potential win-win situation for conservation and development.
PMJ has also been worked closely with local partners on the protection and monitoring of freshwater turtle (Podocnemis spp.) nesting grounds on fluvial beaches along the Rio Juruá. As for the protected lakes, we have supported the training of reserve residents to conduct population monitoring and beach protection. In both cases, we have also worked to improve conflict resolution between neighbouring communities and with professional fishermen from outside the reserves.
An additional aspect of our research has been into the cascading benefits of lake and beach protection for other taxonomic groups. We have conducted surveys for bird, caiman, and dolphin species in both protected and unprotected lakes and along protected and unprotected beaches. Our early results show clear knock-on effects of this protection for the conservation of the wider ecological community.
Livelihoods and social development
Throughout our work, we work in close co-operation with local government and non-governmental organizations and with community associations to support the livelihoods and social development of reserve residents. This action includes workshops to train local people in ecological survey and monitoring techniques, as well as support for community-based conservation and management initiatives. We also participate in environmental education projects and encourage the empowerment of women. All data collected during our work are shared with our local partners to inform the nascent reserve management plans.
NTFP and timber harvests
In addition to household interviews monitoring the extraction of timber and NTFPs, we have recorded the abundance and mapped the distribution across the reserves of key NTFP species, including palms and copaíba trees (Copaifera spp.). We also conducted an experimental harvest of copaíba oleoresin and explored the potential for its commercial extraction.
Another project component has focussed on community-wide plant phenology patterns in both várzea and terra firme forests, and subsequent fruit productivity. Certain fruits are of direct economic and subsistence importance to reserve residents, with others more indirectly relevant through their importance to frugivorous animals, including birds, mammals and fish.
Surveys in an extensive network of small forest plots across our study landscape demonstrated how forest structure and composition varies within and between the flooded and non-flooded forest types. A subset of these plots were used to document the extent of knowledge of useful tree species by local people. Finally, detailed flood mapping combined with aboveground biomass assessments allowed us to estimate the current forest carbon stocks in the reserves.
Agriculture, fishing and hunting
Through the help of trained reserve residents, we have documented the various subsistence and commercial activities of reserve residents throughout the year. Household interviews helped us calculate the relative value of each activity to local communities in terms of their diet and potential sales. We have mapped the sphere of influence of each community in terms of hunting and fishing, as well as the extent of arable land or pasture, and how farming practices are influenced by local REDD+ initiatives.
A comprehensive record of fish and game animals consumed has been recorded in village communities, and an extensive network of line-transect and camera-trap surveys were used to assess the abundance and distribution of vertebrates in both flooded várzea forests and unflooded terra firme forests. We have mapped hunting effort by training hunters in the use of GPS receivers and fitting GPS collars to hunting dogs, with a similar initiative being introduced to track fishing trips by commercial fishing boats based in Carauari. These project components are key to helping us inform reserve management in relation to the introduction of zoning systems for both hunting and fishing.
Overhunting or overfishing may have serious consequences for important ecosystem services such as seed dispersal, with a large proportion of plant species reliant on vertebrate frugivores. The unseen impacts of hunting have been further explored by using dung-beetles as indicators of trophic cascade-effects. The effect of hunting on game animals has been shown to extend to dung-beetles, which could lead to subsequent indirect impacts on key detrital processes.
Ecology and conservation of key species
In addition to a community-wide approach to broad-scale ecology and conservation programmes, PMJ also focusses attention on focal species of interest. For example, we are conducting surveys of the Near-threatened Orinoco goose (Neochen jubata), including radio-tracking their migration patterns. We are also conducting radio-telemetry to enable a long-term study of the reproductive and foraging ecology of the Endangered Wattled curassow (Crax globulosa). Other focal species include the Data-deficient pirarucu (Arapaima gigas), which is currently the subject of a telemetry and mark-recapture programme, in combination with a population genetics study.