Scientists will listen to the sound of the Amazon to find out how the climate is

Scientists will deploy a network of microphones across the Amazon rainforest to listen in and measure the number and species of birds, insects and other wildlife.

Scientists will deploy a network of microphones across the Amazon rainforest to listen in and measure the number and species of birds, insects and other wildlife.

The use of ‘ecoacoustics’ is part of RAINFAUNA – a £1 million study by an international team of researchers led by scientists at Lancaster University that will provide the first large-scale understanding of how humans affect animals living in tropical forests.

Tropical forests are under threat. In the Amazon, at least 17% of primary forest has been affected by human disturbance, such as logging, fire and deforestation. Climate change and deforestation have increased regional temperatures by 2.5°C and dry season rainfall has fallen by a third.

Much of our understanding of how tropical forests are being degraded by these threats comes from studying trees, through plot surveys and using remote sensing technology. However, little is known about how these changes affect tropical forest animals. Yet tropical forests are the most diverse terrestrial ecosystems, and are home to more than 60% of vertebrate species.

“Tropical forests are facing the perfect storm of changes in land use, other human disturbances and climate change,” said Professor Jos Barlow, RAINFAUNA Principal Investigator of the University of Lancaster. “However, we currently lack a good understanding of how these major threats affect animals living within tropical forests over large areas.”

While scientists can use satellite or aerial cameras and sensors to monitor trees over large areas, this doesn’t work for animals deep in the forest and hidden in the canopy. However, advances in technology and new techniques mean that it is finally possible to assess fauna at this scale.

“RAINFAUNA will help address major gaps in our knowledge by providing the first large-scale understanding of how climate change and forest disturbance determine the density, biomass and population size of tropical forest animals,” said Professor Barlow. “By adding to these key components of biodiversity, with their key roles in forest ecosystems, we will not only have a better understanding of how these animals are affected, we will also be able to use this knowledge to protect them for future generations. ”

Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the team brought together experts from Lancaster University, Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Exeter in England; Federal University of Amazonas, Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), and National Center for Monitoring and Early Warning of Natural Disasters (CEMADEN) in Brazil; and the National Museum of Natural History in France.

The team aims to deploy a network of microphones across areas of the Amazon rainforest. Using a new modeling technique that takes climate and vegetation variations into account, the researchers will measure the numbers of different bird species in the undergrowth.

The research team will also install microphones in the forest floor to measure the density of insects and other invertebrates. This will provide insight into the important functions they perform in the forest, such as decomposing materials and soil mixing.

Dr Oliver Metcalf, an expert in ecoacoustics at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “With the use of ecoacoustics, and new modeling, enabling us to collect valuable data over large areas of forest, for the first time we will be able to provide contemporaneous, and future-based forecast evidence. front, the densities of these bird and insect species. This will yield invaluable results both for scientific discovery but also for the management of this precious rainforest.”

Another key aspect of the research will focus on examining the relationship between the microclimate and the animals in the forest. The researchers believe that microclimates have the potential to become a leading indicator of forest health and provide insight into species densities within tropical forests.

“There is increasing evidence that microclimates within tropical forests are key to understanding fauna because these are climates experienced by the animals themselves and it is well known that they change greatly in disturbed forests,” said Dr Ilya Maclean from the University of Exeter. “With our work at RAINFAUNA, we aim to develop the first large-scale models to help realize the potential of microclimates as predictors of tropical forest biodiversity.”

Dr Joice Ferreira from Embrapa, said: “By increasing our understanding of rainforest fauna, this work will provide important information for improving conservation policies throughout the Amazon.”

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