Results of wildlife monitoring surveys undertaken by FundAmazonia and its collaborators in the flooded forests of the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve have shown negative impacts on certain species after suffering the most severe drought registered in the last few decades as well as years of intensive flooding.
The Amazon River basin is experiencing severe climatic changes that are undoubtedly impacting the large expanses of tropical rainforest that it encompasses. Each year the Amazon River undergoes seasonal changes during the high water season that occurs between the months of December and June and the low water season that occurs between July and November. Particularly concerning is that these seasonal changes are becoming more intense and are undoubtedly impacting the wildlife as well as the local people.
The research is being conducted in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, which extends across an area of approximately 20,000 km² and is composed primarily of seasonally flooded forests. Results from this research show certain important consequences of the extreme high and low water seasons experienced in the last two years in the Amazon.
The droughts are affecting the dolphins, as well as the wading birds. The population of fish have been shown to be greatly affected by the drought experienced during the low water season of 2010, the consequences of which were witnessed the following year in 2011. The terrestrial ungulates, rodents and edentates are affected by high water levels that reduce the availability of dry land during the high water season. Wildlife such as the macaws, primates, arboreal edentates and carnivores inhabit the upper forest and have thus far escaped the physical affects of extreme flooding.
The local indigenous Cocama people are being affected by the large variations in water level during the last few years for a diverse number of reasons. The level of bushmeat hunting has decreased substantially reflecting the decline in the populations of ungulates and rodents, and has become more unsustainable as a result of climate change. Today, people have to depend more on fish during the high water season, which was traditionally the hunting season. However, during this season the fish are dispersed throughout the flooded forest and are therefore more difficult to catch than during the low water season, when the fish are restricted to the lakes, channels and rivers. After a while fish also become scarcer during droughts, and it is for this reason that in 2011 the individuals of many common species were significantly smaller. As a consequence of this change in size, the local people have to capture more fish to obtain the same level of protein.
Conservation strategies need to be found that help the local people overcome the impacts that climatic conditions are having on the use of traditional resources. Incentive-based conservation is one strategy that can help the local people overcome the decline in natural resources. The lessons learned from community-based conservation in the PSNR and other areas are helping to form a wider and more robust conservation strategy for the Amazon basin. The impacts of climate change are one focus of the reserve and the local people who live in the area. The new threats are more evident following each variation in water level, both in terms of extreme droughts and intensive flooding. In light of this, the reserve authorities and the local people need to combine conservation efforts, by way of co-management, as this form of collaboration is necessary in order to manage the physical impacts of climate change.