When we talk about ecotourism, Salvador warned that "we have to understand the difference because a [photographic] safari in Kenia is not the same as what we studied in the Amazon rainforest." The importance of the study lies in the fact that never before has the biodiversity of ecotourism zones been contrasted with that of protected areas, at least in the Amazon.
"The size of the ecotourism areas bears little significance in relation to the size of the extensive Amazon's ecosystem and yet some species had been found to be affected," said Salvador. One of them was the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), which is native to the Amazon and considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The expert pointed out that "these were some cases but no real comparison had been made until our study." Inadequate ecotourism practices that negatively affected the otter were mainly linked to river transport. For example, the boats used to transport tourists would come too close to the dens of the otters.
After four months of field work and interviews with the locals, the results show that Bonanza has "at least 85% of species". The expert added that "the species from pristine areas that were not found in Bonanza are likely to appear there, given that despite their rarity they are not considered particularly sensitive to human presence."
An important ecological role
Aside from verifying that the ecotourism areas were home to practically the same large mammal species as the indigenous rainforest, Salvador and his team discovered differences between different types of forest. "The Amazon is not homogenous. The forest around large rivers is very different to that of firm land," stated Salvador. "This type of forest is the most under threat as it is where settlers tend to establish themselves" due to its fertile soil rich in mineral sediments, brought by the rivers from the Andes and the simple fact that river
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology