Collective involvement brings record results to the Amazon

Good news for biodiversity conservation: Amazonian turtle population is growing! According to research published in the journal Nature Sustainability, today there are nine times more turtles being born in the Amazonian beaches than in 1977.

The survey was based on 15 protected beaches on the Juruá River, one of the great tributaries of the Amazon River and based on the Mid Juruá Territory Program, coordinated by SITAWI. We talked with João Vitor Campos e Silva, one of the responsibles for the research and the Study of the Hydrologic Regime of the Mid Juruá Basin, to understand how conservation actions in the region, the participation of riverside communities and the incentives of targeted projects impact on this growth. Check the interview:

 1) According to research published in Nature Sustainability, today there are nine times more turtles born on the beaches of the Amazon than in 1977. How is the involvement of local populations in the development of sustainable productive chains?

Amazonian chelonians have secular cultural importance for indigenous and non-indigenous riverside communities. Due to the high exploitation, the populations suffered a dramatic decline, being extinct in many locations.  The community protection of spawning beaches has been the main responsible for the population recovery of the chelonians. On protected beaches, the human predation of eggs and females is only 2%. In unprotected beaches, predation reaches 99%.  It is worth noting that it is not only the chelonians that benefit from the protection but a diverse group that makes up Amazonian biodiversity, including alligators, large catfish, iguanas, migratory birds, and even invertebrates.  The importance of community protection is a pattern that is repeated for virtually all management activities. Community protagonism is really central to the ecological sustainability of production chains.

 2) What is the impact of this baby boom for the conservation of Amazonian species?

The impact of the high production of puppies is the chance to recover the populations. The important thing is that the entry of young in the adult population is always greater than the output of adults, slaughtered by consumption.

3) The Mid Juruá Territory Program has supported the conservation of chelonians through the formation of Voluntary Environmental Agents and actions to support beach surveillance. What is the importance of such institutional support for the development of productive chains in the region?

Local organizations and rural communities have worked hard to ensure the continuity of the program every year. Therefore, support of this nature is fundamental, since they guarantee the maintenance of the activity. But it is also important to emphasize that we need more perennial sources of financing that can actually increase the financial reward of this program. A good outlook is in this puppet management experiment, which can really cement a long-term income opportunity.

 4) The Mid Juruá Territory Program also comprises Studies on the Hydrological Regime of the Mid Juruá Basin for the next 22 months. How can this study contribute to the conservation of chelonians?

In this work, we will have the opportunity to evaluate the impact of extreme events on the reproduction of the chelonians. What happens when the river dries too fast? What is the importance of big floods? These are fundamental questions for the conservation of the chelonians that will be approached in this work. In addition, we will try to estimate the mortality of the offspring in the face of the rapid and unexpected rise of the rivers. This will be fundamental in developing adaptive strategies that mitigate the effects of global change on this very important resource.

5) In 2018, you received the 1st place in the Master and Doctor category of the Young Scientist award, with work on the sustainable management of Pirarucu. How can sustainable value chains conserve biodiversity and promote social development in the region?

The only way we can actually advance the conservation of the Amazon is by creating sustainable paths where the rural communities are protagonists of the process. Rural communities are key to protecting forests and productive chains of socio-biodiversity are the best strategy we have for aligning conservation with rural development.

The management of chelonians is part of a broad framework for the sustainable development of the Mid Juruá region, which includes successful production chains such as pirarucu, oleaginous and açaí management. Community arrangements, where the riverside people lead development, have been used successfully in the Amazon region, providing positive and long-lasting results. Get to know one of the actions of the Mid Juruá Territory Program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvhSpJ-ycFE

Check out the main results of the research, conducted and published in the journal Nature Sustainability, at https://youtu.be/q0Th6O39qUo. The article can be accessed at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-018-0170-5