A Journalist’s Article
Earlier, I talked about the four 2.5 km transects that Christian and Elio are teaming up and conquering. Here, I am going to talk about some of the things that threaten the rare dry forest habitat and in particular the one I was studying with them at Las Norias.
The dry forest has limited uses for the locals. Usually it’s only sustainable use is cow, sheep, goat, and horse ranching. A not so sustainable use is cutting down a common shrub (of which I am forgetting the name) and using it to make charcoal. Charcoal is an important resource in Peru, especially for Lima’s large roasted chicken industry.
The location of the 4 transects that I “helped” with is subject to both of these land uses, but in one year will be completely wiped out and replaced with rice and sugarcane fields. One certain construction company is currently building a canal in the middle of this valley to transport water to a desert where large corporate farming companies will farm 38,000 hectares of land.
To pay the town of Las Norias for the use of their land to transport water, they will give the peasant farming community enough water to farm 5,000 hectares for themselves which will take place in the very forest we were studying. This will be split among each household. Everyone gets a plot.
There’s a catch for this little town. They can only grow crops for export with the water provided by these large companies. They cannot grow food for themselves. Christian wonders if they will have to manage the exporting or if they’ll have to sell their crops for less to an exporting company who will sell thr crops for more.
What does this mean for the endangered dry forest habitat that hosts many endemic species to this habitat and some endemic to only Peru?
Peru has one protected area for this habitat near the city of Chiclayo called Bosque de Pomac. This is where I went birding and saw the large pyramids! There are a couple pending department or district protected areas, but they are not large scale.
Let’s focus on one species that is endemic to Peru and this habitat called the Rufous Flycatcher. Christian is studying this one closely. We saw 4 in total during our 4 transects.
As we learn in biology class, if populations or pockets of species get isolated from their kin, their genetic diversity will decrease because they cannot mate across a large range like they used to. One disease event or natural/unnatural climate change could more easily wipe out birds like the Rufous Flycatcher population because they have smaller diversity (genetic) to combat changes. One “storm” could kill an entire population because they aren’t spread out. (This is a generalization, storm could be defined by any detrimental event)
Las Norias is not the only town or area that is experiencing large scale construction. Christian says most the sites he has visited have some sort activity that threatens the site for elimination in the next 5 years.
I wasn’t joking when I said Christian is the first and the last to study these areas.
It kind of makes sense in some ways. You have seen photos. The dry forest is dry. It is desert like. If locals or corporations had an opportunity to exploit the space for profit, why wouldn’t they. There is no current value.
But people like Christian and Elio have found value. Birders have found value! So it is the job of science to find value, report it, and protect it.
When we saw the condors we were all excited! I was excited. Last year I paid money to go see the condors. But this time it felt natural! Christian was excited to see the condors for a different reason. He marked their location on his GPS.
This could be a new population of condors that is unknown to science (the locals knew, but maybe not science). If he talks to the right people, this new pocket of condors could mean protection for the hills at least.
How does a protected area affect the locals though? Isn’t it just stealing the land that they have been farming for decades or even hundreds of years?
No! This land is usually owned by the department and is leased (maybe even provided for) to the farming communities. By establishing it as a protected area, the locals could still use it for ranching and other non intrusive uses (which they are practicing currently). It will help them by giving them official ownership of the land says Christian.
Let me point one big bad finger at the construction company. They are digging through a mountain to reach the 38,000 hectare desert for the corporation farmers instead of going around it. I don’t know much about canal building, but my gut tells me it would probably be cheaper to go around the mountain. I don’t know anything really though. Christian says though that it is common for that company to pick more expensive methods so they can make more. He said the last president was involved in a lot corruption with this company. (Once again, I don’t know anything about canal building).
Some people forget about conserving other areas of Peru because the jungle gets so much attention. Christian and Elio haven’t. And now in a years time the valley will be green, productive, and full of cattle egrets feeding in the marshy shoots of the canal. But no Rufous Flycatcher.
This sign says: “Making the environment better one step at a time”
You can see how the canal cuts this valley in half!