The time I spent in the remote wilderness of the Manu reserve in the Madre de Dios made me realise how important the rainforest is. The everyday things people take for granted have an impact that is detrimental to the rainforest and local people who live there. Our addiction to electricity dependant devices pushes carbon emissions to such a level that the whole ecosystem of the Amazon is being effected. The increasing use of Palm oil in food products results in destruction of the rainforest for palm plantations, while a diet centred around meat protein leads to thousands of acres of rainforest being cut down for pasture land.
The Manu Biosphere reserve in the South Eastern Peruvian Amazon is the most biodiverse area in the world, because this reserve covers both high and low altitude rainforest. The crees foundation is in an isolated location and the journey to reach it is an experience in itself. You set out from Cusco and take a stunningly beautiful 8 hour drive over the Andes before dropping down through the Cloud forest into the tropical lowland Amazon. Finally you take a boat down the Madre de Dios river for about an hour to reach the crees site.
The underlying basis of the research here is to understand the ecology of regenerating rainforest – rainforest that was at one point cleared or in some way reduced/damaged and is now regenerating, as this ecosystem can be as productive as pristine rainforest, which is becoming few and far between. As the Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in the world and is essential for the maintenance the global water cycle and critically important for absorbing carbon dioxide that can have a major impact on climate change. As well as understanding regenerating rainforest and studying how diversity of life can return to these regenerating areas, Crees also collaborates with local communities in providing a choice of practicing sustainable livelihoods that provide both economic security and reduce destructive practices.
My time at the foundation was as a volunteer research assistant, in which I spent my days collecting data on various projects. Most of the projects were based around indicator species, such as butterflies, herptiles and orchid bees. Indicator species such as these help to identify the impacts on every level of the canopy, in a way that can’t be replicated by humans. These species effortlessly reach these heights and can provide understanding to us without increasing the human disturbance to the rainforest.
Everyday was an adventure and an opportunity to experience a new part of the jungle. The thrill of not knowing what was going to be seen each day was incredible. Waking up and spending everyday on a different research program was so beneficial, it widened my knowledge and opened my eyes to the numerous possibilities of what research can hold and what can be accomplished.