PE152 Tropical butterfly diversity and environmental gradients
The forest of the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve is awash with a diversity of bright and colourful butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera), notably including species of the beautiful blue morpho. Lepidoptera make excellent indicators of environmental change due to their variety of life-history strategies and their rapid life cycles. The Lepidoptera of the Pacaya-Samiria are monitored using baited catch-andrelease traps containing fermenting fruit, sugar water or salt water, each attracting a different suite of species. This allows a number of research questions to be examined. Projects could investigate the niche-partitioning of butterflies and moths according to food source and food availability within forest types; alternatively the diversity and community composition changes along the natural environmental gradients from forest edge to centre could be studied; temporal niche-partitioning between butterflies and moths and whether the response to forest edges differs between day and night is also of interest; additionally, there is an opportunity to study the vertical stratification of the Lepidoptera community between the understorey and the mid-canopy. Permission is not granted to collect specimens, but as a diverse and abundant study group, the Lepidoptera project can be tailored to address any number of environmental questions, whilst also contributing to the long-term climate change data set.
PE153 Potential impacts of climate change on sustainable fishing resources for the Cocama indigenous people
The fish populations of the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve are a vital resource for the local Cocama people, making up to 70% of the protein in their diet. Fund Amazonia and Opwall have been monitoring the fish populations of the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve for eight years and have seen dramatic fluctuations in abundance and diversity in response to changing water levels. This means there is huge potential for continuing climate fluctuations to affect the fish community and hence the people who depend on them for their livelihood. This project could combine studying the fish abundance and diversity responses to climate change using the long-term datasets, coupled with the sociological impact of these changes on the local indigenous people. Fish sampling is carried out using 30m x 3m gill nets with 3 inch mesh and fished for as close to one hour as possible. The fishing locations are chosen by our local guides to imitate the genuine fishing conditions of local people. Sociological data regarding how the changing fish populations are affecting the type of fish eaten, the amount of time spent fishing and the fishing methods being used could be collected by interviewing local guides and by organised visits to nearby Cocama villages.
PE154 Species assemblages and niche separation of amphibians within the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve
Amphibians are a highly diverse class, with species specialising across all habitats (terrestrial, aquatic, arboreal and fossorial). The Pacaya-Samiria Reserve is primarily composed of seasonally flooded forests which create a number of unique habitats for amphibians resulting in very interesting species assemblages and high abundances of specialist species within the area. Climate change has been having a huge impact on the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve in recent years, resulting in extreme periods of flooding and drought. This in turn is affecting habitat availability for certain specialist species of amphibians present. Data is collected across the two main macrohabitats (terrestrial and floating meadows) using visual encounter surveys via transects on the terrestrial habitat and quadrats from a boat on the floating meadows. One project could look into how species assemblages differ across the macrohabitats and try to determine specialist and generalist species. Another project could examine niche separation within each macrohabitat. Climate change could also be linked into a project to determine whether changing habitat availabilities are having an effect on species presence or habitat choices.
PE155 Niche separation in caiman species
There are three caiman species (common, black and smooth-fronted) found in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. This topic could examine the habitat usage and feeding ecology of the three species to identify how they separate their niches. Spotlight surveys are completed along the edges of the main river and in a series of oxbow lakes within the forest, some of which are still connected to the main river while others are totally separated during the dry season. The species, estimated size and habitat usage of each of the caimans observed during these surveys are recorded. Animals smaller than 2m would be captured by noose wherever possible and more detailed measurements (e.g. length, weight, sex) recorded from these captured animals. Diet of the captured caimans can be examined by flushing out the contents of the stomach, filtering the regurgitated food and classifying the main constituents. The high abundance of these species and the length of the survey season should ensure a good number of data points for this study, with the average number of stomach samples around 15. In addition there are long datasets available from previous annual surveys of the caiman against which changes in abundance of the various species could be assessed.
PE156 Population structure and abundance of understorey birds
The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve is host to over 500 bird species, representing 64% of all the bird species found in Peru. More than 135 understorey bird species have been recorded within the reserve. On this project mist netting will be used to collect data on the tropical understorey bird assemblages within the reserve, offering valuable information on the lower and mid-storey birds not recorded by any other method. Mist nets are set for 5 days in each location and riverine habitat, open understorey flooded forests, levee forests and palm swamps are surveyed within the flooded forest. The number of repeats on each habitat type is largely influenced by the water levels experienced each year. A series of morphological measurements are recorded for each captured bird and birds are ringed before their release. The project could focus on a variety of topics and utilise the long term datasets. One project could identify the abundance of species found in different habitat types and their response to different water levels.
PE157 Population trends and habitat preferences of pink and grey river dolphins in the Peruvian Amazon
The pink dolphin Inia geoffrensis and grey dolphin Sotalia fluviatilis are endemic to the Amazon rivers and function as indicator species for the general health of aquatic habitats. Dolphins make an excellent indicator species because they rapidly move out of polluted or degraded habitats and in turn quickly indicate changes in the condition of aquatic systems. Moreover, dolphin abundance directly relates to food supply and thus dolphins can be used to monitor the sustainability of fishing by local communities. The dolphins are also easy to count and observe since they frequently surface, are large-bodied and very distinctive. The river dolphin population in the Pacaya-Samiria has been monitored for several years using fixed-width transects along rivers, lakes and channels via small boats. During these surveys, all dolphin encounters are recorded noting the species, number of individuals, habitat in which the dolphins were seen and the dolphin behaviour. Dissertation topics could examine the health of the aquatic systems in the Peruvian Amazon by evaluating population trends of the two species of river dolphin over time, or could focus on habitat, behaviour and group size differences between the two species. Dissertations could also incorporate the longterm fish monitoring dataset to investigate changes to dolphin abundance over time in relation to changing fish stocks.
PE158 Population monitoring and habitat preferences of primates in the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve
As a result of seasonal variation in rainfall in the Andean headwaters, the rivers of the Amazon basin are subject to large fluctuations in water levels throughout the year that flood the surrounding forest. The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve is no exception, with as little as 2% of land in the reserve above water at the height of the flooded season. The forests of the National Reserve flood as the waters rise between December and June, and the onset of rainfall coincides with high fruit production that is the primary dietary component of a wide number of primate species. In recent years these normal seasonal changes in rainfall patterns have become more intense, which has been tentatively attributed to climate change. Consequently, dry and rainy seasons are more pronounced resulting in unpredictable food supply and the extent to which primate populations can adapt to these changes is not yet known. Investigation of the impact of changing rainfall patterns on the abundance, diversity and distribution of primates in the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve will involve line transect surveys across forest types that flood to varying degrees with distance sampling to calculate density of primate species. These data may be added to the long-term data set to investigate changes to primate abundance over time in relation to water levels. Forest structure and fruit availability data may be collected from a series of habitat plots spaced equidistantly along each transect. Each primate encounter can then be linked to the nearest habitat plot along the transect providing a corresponding set of habitat variables for primate record. From this, habitat preferences of each species may be calculated and the habitat variables affecting primate abundance and diversity at each plot can also be investigated.
PE159 Niche separation in tamarins, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys and other primates in the Peruvian Amazon
Multiple primate species can be found in rainforest habitats such as the Peruvian Amazon. In order to combat competition associated with several similar species living in close proximity, each species has evolved to occupy a specific niche within the habitat. These adaptations include differences in dietary requirements (frugivorous, folivorous and insectivorous primates), preference for different habitat types within the forest (e.g. seasonally flooded forest, upland forest and palm swamps) and variation in habitat use within the same forest type (e.g. occupying different heights within the forest canopy or variation in activity budgets). Twelve species of primates have been recorded in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, but four species (brown capuchins, red howler monkeys, saddleback tamarins and common squirrel monkeys) are frequently encountered along the survey transects and are therefore best suited for dissertation projects. Upon locating a troop of one of these target species, the monkeys will be followed for as long as possible, behavioural data can be collected using instantaneous scan sampling and recording troop size, position in the canopy and food preferences. Fruit samples may also be collected to investigate species preference for colour and hardness.
PE160 Behavioural changes during interspecific associations of primate groups in the Peruvian Amazon
Interspecific associations are frequently observed between the various primate species found in Pacaya-Samaria Reserve, and the most frequent of these associations is between capuchin and squirrel monkeys. Living in groups has numerous benefits for individuals, including protection from predation and access to potential mates, but also has costs such as increased competition for food resources. In species which live in groups, such as primates in the Peruvian Amazon, the benefits of group living is assumed to outweigh the costs. Whether and how these costs and benefits change when a group of primates associate with another group of primates of a different species is not well understood. This project looks at how the behaviour of capuchin and/or squirrel monkeys changes, depending on the degree of association with individuals of the other species. Various aspects of monkey behaviour can be investigated, for example, looking at whether time spent being vigilant or feeding, or the type of food consumed changes with distance from individuals of other species. Upon locating a group of either capuchin or squirrel monkeys, the monkeys will be followed for as long as possible, and behavioural data will be collected using focal samples. Additional information, such as distance to the closest individual of another species, and the direction of movement of the whole group will be recorded.