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A Q&A with Expert Francisco Dallmeier

By | April 5, 2014
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Q: What are some of the distinguishing characteristics of the terra firma forest that Smithsonian travelers will be exploring?

A: Travelers will have the opportunity to visit a terra firma forest that has a canopy over 30 meters high with a high diversity of tree species. The forest, which is poor in nutrients, is situated on well drained terrain that is not flooded during the rainy season. Under these conditions, this terra firma forest does not receive nutrients by regular river floods and the plants and soil organisms are very effective in decomposing organic material such as dead trees and leaves and recycling it back into the forest. We will have the opportunity to see the complex root system of the vegetation in this forest to capture the scarce nutrients. The forest trees provide the fruits and leaves that the mammals and birds depend on as the major food sources. We will be able to see or hear species of animals unique to this type of forest, such as the evasive tinamous, ant eater birds, and poison arrow frogs known for the beautiful colors that are used to warn predators that they are poisonous. This forest, when protected, can support a larger number of species of Amazon monkeys and other game species such as peccary, tapir, and forest deer.

Q: How does plant life in the igapó, the seasonally flooded forest that Smithsonian travelers will be exploring in the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, differ from what is seen along the main course of the Amazon?

A: The Pacaya-Samiria Reserve has a mixture of flooded forest, wetlands, and lagoons and most of the area will be flooded during this time of the year. Pink and silver dolphins will be a frequent sight, feeding in the flooded wetlands of the Reserve, especially in areas where the rivers converge. We will observe numerous birds associated with wetlands, such as egrets, three species of king fishers, cormorants, hawks, several species of parrots, jacanas, and many more. The Reserve is a good place to spot families of howler monkeys and other monkey species, as well as sloths. We will have the opportunity to learn about the river flood cycles and the livelihood of some of the local people that fish in the area. At the park ranger station, we will learn about conservation issues related to the challenges of managing and protecting such a large area.

Q: What can Smithsonian travelers look forward to discovering on the night field trip in the rain forest?

A: Night in the rain forest and along the river will bring another amazing experience for travelers. The nocturnal creatures are most active early in the evening and at dusk. The great and common Potoos and nightjards are frequently observed perching on branches or flying. Many species of bats that specialize in different sources of food such as fruits, insects, frogs, and fishes are common masters of the night. Hundreds of frogs sing along the wetlands and millions of insects are fully active. Caimans' red eyes can be spotted easily and occasional elusive potos can be observed eating fruits from a tall tree. 

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Francisco Dallmeier

Smithsonian Study Leader Francisco Dallmeier has been a conservation biologist with the Smithsonian Institution for the past 24 years. Dr. Dallmeier is the director of Smithsonian’s Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability (CCES), part of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). CCES provides research and conservation approaches for sustainable development and world-class professional and academic programs for conservation practitioners.

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