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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

Tropical montane forests and climate change in the Peruvian Andes: Micro-environmental, biotic and human impacts at tree line

PI: Norma Salinas (, Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru
U.S. Partner: Miles Silman, Wake Forest University
Project Dates: October 2015 - September 2020

Project Overview

Q4 2016 SalinasPatch of cloud forest of mixed species composition at 3500 m
Patch of cloud forest of mixed species at 3500 m in the Tres area  

Cloud forest environments respond strongly even to small changes in temperature and a large fraction of the species assessed is vulnerable to extinction due to climate change. Species distributions can be strongly influenced by many factors, one is geographic and another is the existence of potential ecological barriers to forces driving altitudinal migrations of tree species. Dr. Salinas and her team contend that there are several important human actions that can have a significant impact on species migration along the treeline. A better understanding of the factors involved should greatly improve our ability to predict if, and also where and how, species will migrate. This project aims to contribute to current knowledge of the complex dynamics of treeline ecotones by reevaluating the question of tree species migration into highland grasslands in light of microenvironmental and microbiotic information. The researchers on this PEER project propose that it is possible to control and manage the factors, both environmental and human, that inhibit species migration through activities similar to those undertaken in other, less extreme, environments such as Central American or Afromontane forests (Strobl et al., 2011).

There have been few studies that have evaluated the importance of human impact in the tree line migrations into grassland. A better understanding of how species distribution and survival are likely to be affected can provide better guidance to conservation strategies and their integration into socially effective programs in the face of climate change. The project will be conducted in areas located at the border of the Cuzco and Madre de Dios regions in southeastern Peru, within and surrounding the Manu National Park. Planned project activities are designed to help strengthen environmental governance through a mitigation-oriented management program of the treeline in the park in collaboration with park personnel and local communities. The project team will work with NGOs currently involved in forest management initiatives in the area to help local communities develop forestry-based alternative revenue sources along the treeline. The goal is reducing the pressure of livestock grazing within park boundaries through alternative stakeholder revenue-earning strategies for communities that presently use national park land for their livestock. Overall, the project should help preserve biodiversity, ecological services, and food and water security for the Kosñipata basin.

4-116 Salinas_Location of vegetation inventory plots, along the elevation grad4-116_Q42016
Location of vegetation inventory plots, along the elevation gradient  Regeneration zone of monospecific forest (Clusia sp.) in area ​​Cocha Zondor  

Potential Development Impacts:

The PI reports, that in the course of the project it has become evident that effective management of the upper Manu conservation area needs to balance the need for range-land for communal stakeholders while at the same time allowing for ecosystem recovery that will allow successional processes triggered by climate change to take place. The project has proven, model for mechanisms involved is still in development, that range-land above the timberline recovers quickly and allows forest to replace grassland and for native large fauna to repopulate the area. Effective management requires assigning clear economic value to range-land and compensation strategies for communal stakeholders. A large majority of communities have accepted the deal proposed by the FZS to pay for the removal of cattle, except one, Pilco Grande. Achieving this objective has provided the basis for the successful development of the project, and has allowed us to prove our hypothesis regarding succession at the timberline. The project team are now working in a private conservation are from this community that actually is used for grazing. The objective is to prove to the community that effective management requires to reduce significantly the impact of grazing. Even a minor amount of grazing by cattle clearly reduces forest regeneration. The team consider this by now proven beyond doubt and it is the basis for information they pass on to NGOs working in the area and to the Peruvian Park Service.

4-116_Q2 2017 Salinas 24-116_Q2 2017 Salinas 1
Field assistants and PI transplanting tree seedlings in the upper Manu National Park 
4-116 Data Collection4-116 HumidityTemp Sensor
A team member collects environmental data  A modified PET plastic water bottle is used as hood for temperature/relative humidity sensors  

 Peer-reviewed Publications and Proceedings:

  • Hicks, L.C., Meir, P., Nottingham, A.T., Reay, D.S., Stott, A.W., Salinas, N., Whitaker, J. Carbon and nitrogen inputs differentially affect priming of soil organic matter in tropical lowland and montane soils (Open Access) Soil Biology and Biochemistry. Volume 129, February 2019, Pages 212-222.
  • Nottingham, A.T., Bååth, E., Reischke, S., Salinas, N., Meir, P. Adaptation of soil microbial growth to temperature: Using a tropical elevation gradient to predict future changes (Open Access). Global Change Biology. Volume 25, Issue 3, March 2019, Pages 827-838.
  • Fauset, S., Gloor, M., Fyllas, N., Phillips, O., Asner, G., Bake,r T., Patrick, L., Brienen, R., Christoffersen, B., del Aguila-Pasquel, J., Doughty, C., Feldpausch, T., Galbraith, D., Goodman, R., Girardin C., Honorio, E., Monteagudo, A., Salinas, N., Shenkin, A., Silva-Espejo, J., van der Heijden, G., Vasquez, R., Alvarez, Esteban., Arroyo, L., Barroso, J., Brown, F., Castro, W., Cornejo, F., Davila, N., Di Fiore, A., Erwin, T., Huamantupa, Isau., Núñez P., Neill D., Pallqui N., Parada, A., Peacock, J., Pitman, N., Prieto, A., Restrepo, Z., Rudas, A., Quesada, C., Silveira, M., Stropp, J., Terborgh, J., Vieira, S., Malhi, Y. (2019). Individual-Based Modeling of Amazon Forests Suggests That Climate Controls Productivity While Traits Control Demography. Frontiers in Earth Science, Vol. 7, Pages 83- 102. DOI=10.3389/feart.2019.00083.
  • Vicuña, E., Baker. T., Banda, K., Honorio, E., Monteagudo. A., Phillips, O., Del Castillo, D., Farfan Rios, W., Flores, G., Huaman, D., Huaman, K., Hidalgo, G., Lojas, E., Melo, J., Pickavance, G., Rios, M., Rojas, M., Salinas, N., Vasquez, R., (2019). El sumidero de carbono en los bosques primarios amazónicos es una oportunidad para lograr la sostenibilidad de su conservación. Folia Amazonica Vol. 2 1.DOI
  • Benjamin Blonder, Norma Salinas, Lisa Patrick Bentley, Alexander Shenkin, Percy Orlando Chambi Porroa, Yolvi Valdez Tejeira, Tatiana Erika Boza Espinoza, Gregory R. Goldsmith, mLucas Enrico, Roberta Martin, Gregory P. Asner, Sandra Díaz, Brian J. Enquist, Yadvinder Malhi. 2018. Structural and defensive roles of angiosperm leaf venation network reticulation across an Andes-Amazon elevation gradient. Journal of Ecology Volume 106, Issue 4.
  • Andrew T. Nottingham, Lettice C. Hicks, Adan J. Q. Ccahuana, Norma Salinas, Erland Bååth, Patrick Meir. 2018. Nutrient limitations to bacterial and fungal growth during cellulose decomposition in tropical forest soils. Biol Fertil Soils 54:219–228.
  • Christopher E. Doughty P. E. Santos-Andrade G. R. Goldsmith B. Blonder A. Shenkin L. P. Bentley C. Chavana-Bryant W. Huaraca-Huasco S. Díaz N. Salinas B. J. Enquist R. Martin G. P. Asner Y. Malhi. 2017. Can Leaf Spectroscopy Predict Leaf and Forest Traits Along a Peruvian Tropical Forest Elevation Gradient?. Journal of Geophysical Research Biogeosciences, 122: 2952-2965

Book References:
  • Forest Management and the impact on water resources: a review of 13 countries: IHP - VIII / Technical document No 37 Latin America and the Caribbean, Editors: Pablo A. Garcia-Chevesich, Daniel G. Neary, David F. Scott, Richard G. Benyon, Teresa Reyna. UNESCO 2017. Chapter 9. Forest Management and Water in Peru. ISBN 978-92-3-100216-8.
Further work:

In the coming months, the team will be going to the field to collect soil samples to complete the molecular and biochemical characterization and to measure CO2 in soil with the newly acquired LiCor soil respiration chamber.

Dr. Norma Salinas reports, that the proposal, submitted in June 2019 for Peruvian funding (CONCYTEC) to create enhanced research groups in fields that are not well developed, was successful, and Dr. Salinas is also now serving as  general coordinator of an effort with three colleagues  researchers that will receive funding for the next 28 months to hire two research associates and three postdocs to work on carbon dynamics in secondary forests in Peru. The project will help consolidate Dr. Salinas'  Ecosystem Science group at PUCP. Norma Salinas notes, that PEER program funding was crucial as the funds were aimed at researchers with extensive experience in obtaining external funds.


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