Proyecto Alto Purús: Products
Scientists and resource managers throughout the Amazon are limited by the paucity of field guides for the identification of aquatic animals, including fishes of enormous commercial importance (Crampton 1999a; Crampton and Castello 2002).
BASELINE DATE ON SPECIES DIVERSITY
Despite their fundamental ecological and evolutionary importance, little is known of the species diversity of many aquatic taxa, to say nothing of the life history or genetic diversity in these groups. Despite and partially due to the overwhelming species richness of Neotropical freshwaters, a substantial proportion of Amazonian taxa remain undocumented (Lowe-McConnell 1998). This ignorance is especially pronounced in regions where many similarly appearing species co-exist in the same geographic areas, and where a large proportion of species are small and largely overlooked (Lowe-McConnell 1975, 1991).
TESTABLE HYPOTHESES OF TROPICAL DIVERSITY
A main goal of this project is to generate and test hypotheses on the origin and maintenance of Amazonian aquatic species richness and endemism. Specimen and tissue collections and their associated databases are used by systematists and ecologists to describe new species and to build more sophisticated models of the evolution and maintenance of tropical biodiversity. Amazonian freshwaters provide unparalleled opportunities for the study of the evolution of complex megadiverse aquatic systems (Henderson et al. 1998). Neotropical freshwaters are characterized by high intrageneric diversity, often with many sympatric species sharing microhabitats and resources (Erwin 1979, 1982; Ayres 1993; Henderson and Hamilton 1995; Henderson and Crampton 1997; Crampton 1998b, a; Henderson et al. 1998; Henderson and Robertson 1999; Albert and Crampton 2001). Data made available from this study are being used to test hypotheses on the origin and maintenance of tropical aquatic biotas (see SCIENTIFIC CONTEXT).
COMMERCIAL AND ORNAMENTAL FISHERIES
Fishes are among the most economically important of all renewable natural resources in the Amazon Basin (Goulding and Smith 1996; Baca 1998; Queiroz and Crampton 1999; Crampton and Castello 2002). They provide the main source of income for rural settlers, underpin the regional economy, and provide the main source of protein for the rural and urban populations. About 300 fish species are exploited for food or the aquarium trade, with an average of US $3 million per annum in revenues in the Brazilian Amazon alone (Chao 2001a). The diversity of Neotropical aquatic ecosystems make it imperative that plans for exploitation or conservation be informed by biodiversity data. The ornamental fish industry in Peru is hampered by lack of identification guides required to regulate exports, and monitor the conservation status of wild stocks.
Peruvian scientists express an urgent need to collaborate with experts from the US and other countries and to receive training in methods and conceptual approaches to systematics, ecology and conservation biology. These skills are equipping a new generation of biologists to understand and manage Amazonian biodiversity. PI Albert has extensive experience collaborating with scientists from Latin American universities in mentoring these sorts of student projects.
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