ATBC Online Web Program

O31-3
Natural canopy bridges over a gas pipeline: A mitigation strategy for arboreal animals in Peru

Wednesday, 26 June 2013: 16:40
La Paz - B West (Herradura San Jose)
Tremaine Gregory , Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Farah Carrasco Rueda , Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Jessica L. Deichmann , Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Joseph M. Kolowski , Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Alfonso Alonso , Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Travel routes for arboreal animals are disrupted when the development of linear infrastructure (e.g. roads and pipelines) involves the fragmentation of the canopy. In the Neotropics, primates are highly arboreal, and a pipeline has the potential to divide populations, altering territories and interrupting important processes such as gene flow. Through a collaboration with a natural gas company, we are investigating the impact of the construction of a natural gas pipeline on primates in the Lower Urubamba Region of Perú, and testing a novel strategy to reduce the effects of canopy fragmentation. We are monitoring the distribution of primate groups within one kilometer of the pipeline right-of-way (RoW) with transect walks before, during, and after pipeline construction, and assessing whether RoW crossing frequency is influenced by the presence of natural canopy bridges, connections left between canopy branches above the pipeline where animals may cross. Data collected during construction suggest a reduction in primate encounter rates within one kilometer of the RoW, as compared to before construction began. However, in the four months since the RoW was exposed, 3,900 camera trap photos show that 12 of the 13 natural bridges have been used by over 60 individuals of 11 arboreal mammal species. In contrast, where there are no natural bridges, only one of these arboreal species has been recorded crossing the RoW on the ground. This study highlights the value of collaborations between conservation organizations and development industries in proposing and documenting protocols for industry “best practices.” As we assess research priorities for the next 50 years and consider the increasing threat of human impacts on biodiversity, scientists must engage in developing, testing, and documenting strategies for impact mitigation.