Sabalillo Forest Reserve

History and Background

The Sabalillo Forest Reserve (3,20'3"S, 72,18'6"W) was established in 2000 thanks to a grant from the Association of Avian Veterinarians and donations from anonymous individuals. The station originally encompassed 1,260 ha (~2,800 acres) on the upper Apayacu River, to the north of the Amazon River, under a long-term conservation lease to Project Amazonas from the government of Peru. In 2005, the area of lands protected was expanded to about 25,000 acres, although the expanded lands overlap with territory provisionally included in a communal reserve area encompassing much of the upper Apayacu and Ampiyacu Rivers. In 2005, a second caretaker post was established further upriver from the initial post to further protect the area from illegal loggers and from destructive extraction activities. Station lands abut the communal lands of the Yagua Indian community of Sabalillo, which oversees caretakership of the site and shares management with Project Amazonas. The John G. Shedd Aquarium of Chicago supported the caretaker position at Sabalillo for a number of years as part of their commitment to Amazon conservation and research following the opening of their award winning Amazon Rising permanent exhibit in 2001. Soils in the area are very poor and show considerable white sand (varillal) influence in the fauna and flora of the site. The location of the station to the north of the Amazon and east of the Napo Rivers (the two major rivers in the region) makes it a valuable comparative study site for researchers interested in looking at the influence of large rivers as barriers to animal and plant distributions.

Location and Habitats

Paucarillo is located is located on both sides of the upper Rio Apayacu (a northern tributary of the Amazon) some 40 river km (25 river miles) from the mouth of the river (at the Amazon). The mouth of the Rio Apayacu itself is located 132 river km (~79 river miles) downriver (east) of Iquitos. The station provides access to extensive areas of primary igapo (blackwater-inundated) forest along the Rio Apayacu, including several oxbow lakes (cochas). Terra firme forest at the site is primary (except for a small area of abandoned farmland around the field station and an abandoned village site further upriver), and terrain is highly dissected with low but steep hills and ridges separated by deep valleys and gullies with clear water streams. The streams and lakes of the area are acidic and nutrient poor, but rich in fish fauna, with export of neon tetras (Parachierodon innesi), hatchet-fish (Carnegiella and  Gasteropelicus spp.) and Corydora catfish being an important cottage industry. Streams are clear and generally sand-bottomed. The heavily dissected upland terrain creates a number of microhabitats that are utilized by specialist species of fauna and flora. Iriartella palms heavily dominate the understory of ridge tops, while many other plants that are absent or very rare at the other two field stations are common, including Phenakospermum guyanense (the South American travelers palm) and Schizea elegans (a round-leaved terrestrial fern). Large stands of Irapay palm (Lepidocaryum tenue) located on the eastern bank of the river provide an important community resource for local inhabitants.

Facilities & Resources

The main station building is located about 150 m from the bank of the Rio Apayacu, with a 100 m elevated walkway providing access over a seasonally inundated low area. A central traditional-style building (built on stilts, with open sides, palm thatch roof, wooden floor) is connected by a short passageway to a smaller kitchen and dining module. About 20 m in the opposite direction, two flush toilets and 2 showers are connected to a septic system. A water tower with 1000 liter capacity is filled by electric pump from a nearby clear water creek, and provides water to the kitchen and restroom facilities. Passive water collection from the metal roof of the restroom facility provides additional water when the electric water pump is not in use. The buildings are wired for electricity which is provided by a portable generator when station users are present. Site users are accommodated in large dome tents, and up to 10 persons can be accommodated comfortably with ample room to spare. A network of trails leads from the station clearing, providing access to ridge tops, creeks and valleys, as well as to seasonally flooded igapo forest areas. At high water, short sections of a couple of trails are underwater, but nevertheless passable. During September and October, the station is not accessible by larger boats due to the presence of rapids at Sabalillo village. A 1-hectare (2.47 acre) marked tree plot is located on an ancient terrace of the Apayacu River.

Future "Dreams" for Sabalillo include:

  • construction of 1 or 2 smaller shelters (tambos) for long-term researchers and users
  • expansion of the trail system and installation of improved bridges where appropriate
  • installation of solar panels and battery back-up system to provide power
  • reconstruction of the raised wooden walkway leading to the river using permanent materials (concrete, aluminum, PVC)
  • installation of a canopy tower (or tree tower) on one of the ridgetops

Vetted & Empowered by NGO AidJoy

Hosted by Immedion

Project Amazonas, Inc.

701 E Commercial Blvd #200

Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA 33334