Conservation activities and biodiversity training in Sumaco National Park, Ecuador
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Manchester
Unit of AssessmentBiological Sciences
Summary Impact TypeEnvironmental
Research Subject Area(s)
Environmental Sciences: Ecological Applications, Environmental Science and Management
Biological Sciences: Ecology
Summary of the impact
Preziosi and his research group have taken a leading role in conducting
biodiversity research in
the Ecuadorian Amazon, working in collaboration with national and local
indigenous communities. It is critical to monitor and conserve
biodiversity in the Ecuadorian
Amazon and preserve this unique habitat for local, national and
international benefit. Preziosi's
research group have demonstrated that indigenous people can be trained to
accurately. The impact of introducing these new skills to local people in
the Payamino community
is that they have been empowered to locally monitor and adaptively manage
their own resources.
By educating local people about the importance of biodiversity, Preziosi's
research group have
changed the behaviours and attitudes of the community, leading to reduced
environmentally harmful practices.
The impact is based on the work of University of Manchester (UoM)
researchers that took place
from 2006 to date. The key researchers were:
Professor Richard Preziosi (2006 to date)
Professor Tony Bebbington (2007-2011)
Dr Jennifer Rowntree (Research Associate, 2006-2010; Research Fellow, 2012
Dr Johan Oldekop (PhD student, 2007-2011)
Dr Sharon Zytynska (Research Associate, 2006-2011)
Mr Nathan Truelove (Field Technician and PhD student, 2008 to date)
The key aims of the research conducted in Sumaco National Park, Ecuador
were, and continue to
be, to enable local landowners to use their land in a sustainable way, to
protect it from exploitation
and to monitor biodiversity in an area with many unique species. The key
research outputs can be
divided into two categories.
- Defining the important factors in successful conservation and
development projects and the
benefits of these projects. This has been achieved by demonstrating
- Governing institutions that are developed collaboratively between
and government are an effective method of biodiversity conservation.
forests can be as successful as protected areas [1,2].
- Environmental degradation can act as a trigger for communities to
self-organise and manage
their resources. Awareness of limited resources (i.e., scarcity
perception) is useful to
encourage local management .
- By decentralising government, communities may be able to make
decisions and respond
quicker to changes in the availability of local resources.
- Non-experts are as accurate as researchers in terms of monitoring
biodiversity and can
successfully pass information on to other community members [3,4].
- Working to identify new species and monitor the biodiversity of this
unique area. The
- Showing that indicator species can be used as an effective measure of
total biodiversity and
also that genetic diversity is a determinant of community diversity
- Demonstrating that genetic variation in a tropical tree species
influences the associated
epiphytic plant and invertebrate communities in a complex forest
- Identifying new species, including the Mesomerodon gilletti
beetle [A], and significant range
expansion of the species described in the area.
References to the research
Research from this project has resulted in publications in high impact
1. Oldekop J.A., Bebbington A.J., Hennermann K., McMorrow
J., Springate, D.A., Torres, B.
Truelove N.K., Tysklind, N. Villamarín S., Preziosi R.F.
(2013) Evaluating the effects of
common-pool resource institutions and market forces on species richness
and forest cover in
Ecuadorian indigenous Kichwa communities. Conservation Letters
2. Oldekop, J.A., Bebbington, A.J., Truelove, N.K.
Holmes, G., Villamarin, S. and Preziosi,
R.F. (2012) Environmental impacts and scarcity perception influence
local institutions in
indigenous Amazonian Kichwa communities. Human Ecology (40:101-115). DOI:
3. Oldekop J.A., Truelove, N.K., Villamarin, S., Preziosi, R.F.
(2012). Information Flows in
Community-Based Monitoring Exercises in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
International Journal of
Zoology. Article ID 980520. Doi:10.1155/2012/980520
4. Oldekop, J.A., Bebbington, A.J., Berdel, F., Truelove,
N.K., Wiersberg, T., Preziosi, R.F.
(2011) Testing the accuracy of non-experts in biodiversity monitoring
exercises using fern
species richness in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Biodiversity and Conservation
5. Oldekop J.A., Bebbington A.J., Truelove N.K., Tysklind N.,
Villamarín S., Preziosi R.F.
(2012) Co-occurrence patterns of common and rare leaf-litter frogs,
epiphytic ferns and dung
beetles across a gradient of human disturbance. PLoS ONE 7(6): e38922.
6. Zytynska, S.E., Fay, M.F., Penney, D., Preziosi, R.F.
(2011). Genetic variation in a tropical
tree species influences the associated epiphytic plant and invertebrate
communities in a
complex forest ecosystem. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 366:1329-1336. DOI:
Details of the impact
The Timburi-Cocha research station is located in the Sumaco National Park
Biosphere Reserve). The combination of mountain and lowland habitats means
that this area has a
high level of endemism (i.e. species specific to the location). The
Payamino River is a major
tributary to the Amazon and, unlike many other rivers in the area, has
remained unpolluted by oil
spills, mining, human waste and erosion.
Before the research station provided employment opportunities in 2010,
the Payamino community
were making money by selling bush meat and through harmful logging [B].
Areas were deforested
to allow for agricultural expansion and many members of the community left
to find work in
neighbouring areas [B]. Gold companies were operating in the area and had
shown an interest in
Payamino, and oil companies had also bought concessions nearby for up to
The lowland Kichwa people, including the Payamino community, are among
the poorest in
Ecuador. They generally have poor public health with an average 50%
mortality rate for children up
to the age of 2 years and high adult mortality from disease. The eldest
community member is 53
Pathways to impact
Establishment of a charity to support local people and the research
Aalborg Zoo (Denmark) sponsored the initiation of a field station in
Sumaco in 2002 and provided
financial support until December 2011. Recognising the research potential
and importance in
preserving the area, Preziosi established a funding stream for the
Timburi-Cocha research station
by making it an independent charity in 2010. Universities and individuals
pay into the charity to use
research station facilities and the money is reinvested in the research
station or used to support
the indigenous people. Preziosi is chair of the charity and Rowntree is
the charity secretary [B].
Preziosi holds the research permits for the field station.
Disseminating information to policy makers and the general public:
Preziosi and colleagues sent an advisory policy document to the Ecuadorian
Ministry of the
Environment to outline research showing the need for local institutions to
control the use of
undeveloped forest. It is anticipated that monitoring data will form
baseline information for the
development of future policies.
To increase public understanding of biodiversity and the need for
conservation, thousands of
specimens from the research station are made freely available to the
Ecuadorian Museum of
Natural History. The museum sends samples to leading experts for
identification, for example, a
new beetle has recently been identified by a taxonomist in France [A].
An exhibition on the complex relationships between humans and the
environment in the
Ecuadorian Amazon was held at Manchester Museum from September 2012 to
June 2013 called
`All Other Things Being Equal'. This involved photographs, sounds,
graphical representations of
socio-economic data and specimens provided by Oldekop.
Reach and significance of the impact
The activities at the research station affect all 300 members of the
Payamino community, as
discussed below. The Timburi-Cocha research station is used by teaching
and research groups
from Ecuador, Colombia, USA, Canada and Europe. UK researchers come from
Sheffield, York, Royal Botanical Gardens Kew and the Natural History
Facilities have expanded to accommodate larger numbers of researchers.
The research station
has grown from the original three buildings to 11, including a large
dormitory for 30 students, a
smaller dormitory for six teachers, a lab for biodiversity monitoring, a
kitchen and a storage
Changing behaviours and local attitudes to conservation:
Preziosi wrote and coordinated the signing of a general Memorandum of
Understanding in March
2011 with the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment, the Ecuadorian
Museum of Natural History,
Chimborazo high school and the Payamino community [C]. This led to a
formal agreement being
signed on 14 August 2012 between UoM and the Amazon State University of
the Republic of
Ecuador (UEA) [D].
The Payamino community also signed an agreement with UoM to specify that
they will not allow oil
or gold exploration, or exploit the forest and animals for financial gain
(i.e., fishing with dynamite,
hunting primates, selling plants, wood and meat) [E]. The community had
the confidence to sign
such an agreement because of the financial security offered by employment
opportunities at the
The Timburi-Cocha Research Station Manager stated that, `The
Timburi-Cocha Research Station
has changed the attitude of the people of the community in terms of how
to obtain an income
without hunting, logging or indiscriminate fishing practices' [B,
translated from Spanish]. Similarly,
the Payamino Community President states that `The Timburi research
station is now a thriving
community project that had helped to keep oil companies and illegal meat
hunting at bay, while
enabling the Payamino community to preserve their culture and way of
life' [F, translated from
Providing employment opportunities and income for the local
Over 100 university researchers and more than 400 students visited the
area in 2008-2012 to
study biodiversity. The annual turnover of the research station is $65,000
with 100% surplus being
invested in the local community or the research station itself. The
research station provides `at
cost' visits for local university groups.
Members of the local community are employed at the research station to
monitor biodiversity, act
as expert guides and to maintain and develop the research station
(drivers, cooks etc.) [G]. The
research station actively promotes the conservation of cultural identity
and gender equality, being
the first employer of women in the area.
The Research Station Manager describes the benefits to the community: `Members
community have obtained additional economic income by students,
scientists and tourists visiting
the station. These revenues have been invested to buy school supplies,
equipment and for loans to members of the community due to illness,
accident, or damage to their
homes, etc.' [B, translated from Spanish].
In May 2013, an agreement was signed by UoM and UEA to secure the future
of the research
station until 2018 [H]. UEA hire a senior administrator, six members of a
support team and a
community coordinator to manage the research station. UoM provide
mobilisation and living costs
and insurance for these members of staff [H]. This agreement was made with
the approval of the
Payamino community, who also signed an agreement with UoM [E].
Enabling access to medical clinics:
The research station charity provides money and transportation for
employees to use western
medicine, complementary to services provided by the local shaman [B]. Free
systems have been provided for the local school and medical clinics have
been established, with
an average of 3 - 6 patients per day [I]. The medical clinics play an
important role since the
nearest medical centre is a few hours away [F]. The research station
doctor (hosted by and
travelling with UoM researchers) conducts home visits and accompanies less
able patients to town
for medical care, liaising with anaesthetic and surgical teams on their
behalf as necessary [I]. The
doctor obtains blood from the Red Cross for transfusions [I].
Providing education bursaries for the local community:
The research station charity provides education bursaries for employees
and their families to
attend courses that enhance career prospects. The President of the
Payamino Community was
awarded two bursaries totalling $90 to complete an ecotourism course at
Loretto College of
Tourism and to attend leadership training at the School of Leaders before
taking up his current
Sources to corroborate the impact
A. Marc Soula, 2008, Les Coléoptères du Nouveau Monde, volume 2, page 21,
gilletti'. Book entry stating the discovery of the beetle, Mesomerodon
B. Letter and Case Study from Timburi-Cocha Research Station Manager, corroborating
benefits of the charity to the local community.
C. Memorandum of Understanding signed by stakeholders (UoM, University of
of the Environment, Ecuadorian Museum of Natural History, Chimborazo high
school and the
Payamino community), 24 March 2011.
D. Full agreement between UoM and UEA, signed as per the Memorandum of
14 Aug 2012.
E. Signed agreement between UoM and the Payamino community to agree
administration of the
Timburi-Cocha Research Station, 3 May 2013. Specifies that the
community will not allow oil or
gold exploration, or exploit the forest and animals for financial gain.
F. Letter from Community President, corroborating the importance of
the research station for the
G. Letter from Payamino Community Coordinator, corroborating the
importance of the research
station for the native community.
H. Signed agreement for the administration of the Timburi-Cocha Research
between UEA and UoM.
I. Email from Expedition Medic, verifying the number of patients and
medical services provided.