Highliths - Summary of results to date

The INCT-MPEG draws upon participation from 30 universities and research centres, both nationally and internationally, including some 95 researchers and 9 educationalists involved in the supervision of 66 postgraduate students. During the first year of the project collaborators on the INCT-MPEG produced a total of 161 publications in national and international journals, and gave 52 presentations in national and international conferences. Publications are presented by subproject although many are cover multiple themes within the broad scope of the INCT-MPEG, such as the dynamics of biodiversity in response to land-use change. An example of this integration is the effective combination of sub-projects 2 and 4 - on the analyses of the environmental and development costs and benefits of land-use change and the impacts of fire on Amazonian ecosystems respectively. The large-scale multi-disciplinary research being implemented by these two allied initiatives is only possible by exploiting economies of scale in resources and expertise among project teams. Financial resources from CNPq-MCT-INCT have been used to develop and leverage significant support from external project partners, including Embrapa Amazonia Oriental, CNPq Universal, Natural Environmental Research Council (United Kingdom), Royal Society (United Kingdom), and The Nature Conservancy.

Members of the INCT-MPEG have organized a large number of workshops and symposia since 2009, including the International Symposium on Recent Advances and Perspectives in Neotropical Avian Phylogeography during the XVIII Brazilian Congress of Zoology.

Different subprojects are currently in different phases of development. Regarding biodiversity modeling, preliminary results confirm that severe climate change in the Pleistocene affected the distribution and genetic diversity of Amazonian vertebrates. However, past changes in climate were not sufficient to have precipitated high rates of extinction, suggesting that Amazonian fauna has exhibited a certain degree of resilience to past climate change. This information needs to be incorporated into models predicting the impacts of global warming on Amazonian biota.

Projects 2 and 4 have a very strong fieldwork component, and have already established approximately 400 study transects in the regions of Santarém-Belterra, and Paragominas (Pará). These sample locations are distributed across 20 micro watersheds in each region. Each micro-watershed is around 5000 ha in size, and includes a wide variety of land-uses ranging from cattle ranching, plantations, mechanized agriculture, small-scale agriculture, fruticulture, silviculture, managed forests and forest reserves. Data has already been collected on patterns of biodiversity and key ecological functions across the Santarém-Belterra region and some 35 researchers and students are engaged in other fieldwork components at the time of writing. A socio-economic team is currently applying a detailed socio-economic survey to a network of more than 400 rural property owners and producers in each of the main study regions. Data has also been collected on the impacts of wildfires on forest biodiversity in four regions of Amazonia, including Acre (RESEX Chico Mendes), Mato Grosso (Querencia), Roraima (Ilha de Maracá) and Pará (RESEX Tapajós-Arapiuns). Four taxa were sampled – ants, beetles, birds and trees. Results are currently being analysed, but initial results have been published on the fire history of the Ilha de Maracá in Roraima, and on habitat use by avifauna in Acre. Ongoing work on silviculture indicates that cultivation of trees creates conditions favorable for the management of degraded areas and the maintenance of good soil conditions. Work in eastern Pará has pointed to the urgent need for greater attention and more research on biodiesel plantations which are driving dramatic patterns of landscape change in areas that were once dominated by annual crops and subsistence farming.