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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 3 (2014 Deadline)

Biodiversity and climate change in the "Arc of Deforestation" of Brazilian Amazon

PI: Guarino Colli (, Universidade de Brasília, with co-PIs Ben Hur Marimon Junior, Universidade do Estado de Mato Grosso (UEMG), and Fernanda de Pinho Werneck, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA)
U.S. Partner: Barry Raymond Sinervo, University of California, Santa Cruz
Project Dates: September 2014 to May 2018
3-121  Rubber tree with flowing latex
A native rubber tree with latex flowing from its trunk (photo courtesy of Dr. Colli).
The expansion of agriculture poses serious threats to natural landscapes across the globe, and tropical forests are among the most affected ecosystems. They have declined to about 65% of their original cover worldwide and are expected to continue to dwindle this century. Biodiversity is concentrated in tropical forests, and the combined effects of habitat loss and climate change are presumably the primary drivers of the global biodiversity crisis. To reduce extinction threats due to climate change and expansion of agricultural frontiers, studies that quantify the extinction risk of populations/species must be a high priority. This research project focuses on the integrative approach to investigate the ecology, evolution, and conservation of the Amazon-Cerrado transition (ecotone) in Brazil, one of the most critical areas in the "Arc of Deforestation." This region provides a unique model system to investigate the origins and maintenance of high Neotropical biodiversity and the combined effects of climate change and habitat loss on the biota. In this collaborative project, the research team will characterize the herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) and assess its vulnerability to climate change and habitat loss. The goals of the project are: (1) to assess whether the biota of the Amazon-Cerrado ecotone is simply a filtered blend of species from the two neighbor biomes, or whether it also harbors unique (endemic) species; (2) to determine the importance of differentiation along this ecotone during evolutionary time and climatic cycles as a source of biodiversity; (3) to predict and test for contemporary extinctions arising from the combined impacts of habitat loss and climate change using ecophysiological models; (4) to identify evolved traits that enhance the extinction risk induced by habitat loss and climate change; and (5) to assess the role of indigenous land management practices, which resulted in "black earth" (Terra Preta), upon biodiversity levels and extinction risk. 

The project will be led by an interdisciplinary team of Brazilian and U.S. researchers. The Brazilian team will conduct fieldwork at the selected sites to obtain biodiversity data, including species composition and abundances, ecological traits, tissue samples and ecophysiological data. In the lab, the researchers will obtain additional ecophysiological data and molecular data for phylogeographic and phylogenetic analyses. Ultimately, the goal is to develop the critical knowledge for scientists, policy makers, and the public to make informed decisions about how human activities are and will influence the biota and biosphere processes. The results of this research project are expected to increase public awareness of the combined impacts of climate warming and habitat loss on biodiversity at the "Arc of Deforestation" and forest-savanna ecotones and aid policy makers and landowners to make informed decisions about the creation and operation of reserves in the region. A webpage will be developed to integrate the results from several projects coordinated by the PI. Web-based tools will also be created, allowing conservation biologists to upload georeferenced data and obtain extinction forecasts for their species, based on validated extinction models. Data collected during this project will also facilitate a more precise calibration of existing global extinction models in under-sampled regions of the world that are at a high risk of biodiversity loss.

Summary of Recent Activities

3-121 Caxiuana National Forest
A view of one of the study areas, Caxiuanã National Forest (photo courtesy of Dr. Colli).
Following are updates as of the end of 2017 from each of the Brazilian institutions involved in this project. The project is continuing under a no-cost extension through May 2018 as the project teams complete their fieldwork and analyze their data.
The PI Dr. Guarino Colli is currently a visiting scholar at Brigham Young University sponsored by Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior - CAPES. He has been working on several manuscripts and a special issue of Biodiversity and Conservation on the Cerrado. Meanwhile, his students back in Brazil collected and analyzed lizard ecophysiological and demographic data from Cerrado and transitional areas. Leandro Godinho, a doctorate student from UNEMAT supervised by Colli, visited U.S. partner Dr. Barry Sinervo’s lab to conduct data analyses (also sponsored by CAPES).
Dr. Collis and his group are collaborating with the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications (Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovações e Comunicações - MCTIC) and Ministry of Environment, Water Resources, and Legal Amazonia (Ministério do Meio Ambiente, dos Recursos Hídricos e da Amazônia Legal - MMA) to (1) implement a program aimed at defining priority areas and ecosystems for ecological restoration in Brazil, along with reference systems for different ecosystems and parameters to assess restoration success, and (2) to review and relaunch a program (Programa de Pesquisa em Biodiversidade - PPBio) aimed at promoting the development of research, training and capacity building of human resources and institutional strengthening in the area of research and development of biological diversity, in accordance with the National Biodiversity Policy Guidelines.
The team led by co-PI Dr. Ben Hur Marimon Junior concluded a field experiment evaluating the performance of dominant tree species of the Amazonian Dark Earth (ADE) and non-ADE sites at Amazonia-Cerrado transition with PhD, MSc, and graduate students. The main results comparing tree species in both sites will form part of the PhD thesis of Edmar Almeida de Oliveira. The team also finished testing growth performance and ecophysiological plant-response to PyC, with the main results processed by MSc student Eder C. das Neves and PhD student Halina Jancoski. The collection of a new dataset of functional traits of anatomic characteristics of the xylem vessels has been completed by PhD student Norberto G. Ribeiro Junior and will be incorporated into the thermal performance and drought resistance experiment to be conducted on ADE and non-ADE species. Dr. Marimon Junior and Dr. Beatriz Marimon made a technical visit to the University of California-Santa Cruz (UCSC) in late September 2017 for a workshop with their project collaborators. They met with Dr. Sinervo and his staff, including PhD and MSc students, including Leandro Godinho, who was there on a three-month visit as part of his PhD research efforts. As of the end of the year, Dr. Marimon Junior and Dr. Marimon had worked on seven manuscripts: three in preparation, one under review, and three already accepted by the journals Forest Ecology and Management, Brazilian Journal of Botany and Biodiversity and Conservation.
On the outreach side, Dr. Marimon Junior and Dr. Marimon worked to integrate this project into the international Amazon Tree Diversity Network (ATDN) coordinated by Hans ter Steege (Naturalis Biodiversity Center) in order to share results and improve public policies involving the Amazonian countries. The same effort was made to integrate the project into the RAINFOR / ForestPlots Amazon Forest Inventory Network, coordinated by Professor Oliver Phillips (University of Leeds). The shared results are being used to publicize the need for conservation of the ADEs as relevant natural heritage, not only due to the natural condition of a rare and threatened ecosystem, but also as an archaeological site of great value and possible World Heritage site interest. This information will be shared with the Brazilian government for the formulation of public policies for the conservation of nature and land use across de Arc of Deforestation of Amazon Forest.
Co-PI Dr. Fernanda Werneck’s graduate students, whose research projects and activities are related to the PEER project, passed their qualifying exams in October 2017. October 16-27, Dr. Werneck and other invited professors taught an intense two-week workshop on spatial and species distribution modeling data analysis. October 20 through November 13, her team (one technician and two graduate students) traveled by boat to conduct fieldwork at five sampling points along the Solimões River, collecting ecological data, as well as specimens and tissue samples from 316 individuals representing 56 species of amphibians and reptiles. From November 7 through December 7, another team led by Dr. Werneck and including some of her graduate students and some of Dr. Colli’s conducted fieldwork at two national parks in Rondônia and Amazonas states. They collected specimens and tissue samples from 412 individuals representing at least 60 species of amphibians and reptiles. All the specimens and tissue samples collected by Dr. Werneck’s teams in these two expeditions are being curated and deposited at the Scientific Collections of INPA. In addition, Dr. Werneck worked on manuscripts and projects with her U.S. and Brazilian partners. She has four recent paper acceptances and six more in review.
Dr. Werneck was the subject of recent interviews in journals (e.g., Valor Econômico and FAPEAM) during which she highlighted the project results and the need for considering intraspecific variation of vulnerabilities and potentials at the Amazon-Cerrado ecotone/Arc of Deforestation in conservation initiatives. She has also initiated collaborations with researchers from the University of Gothenburg (Dr. Antonelli), University of Michigan (Dr. Knowles), and Harvard University (Dr. Edwards) on themes related to the PEER project, in particular diversification and adaptation to climate change in transitional regions.

Recent media coverage for the project is available through the following links:

BBC News:
Planeta: and


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