Cocha Cashu - Manu National Park
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The Cocha Cashu Biological Station (CCBS) TEAM site is located inside the core area of Manu National Park, Strict Protection Zone. CCBS became a TEAM site in 2010. The station was created by La Agraria University and Frankfurt Zoological Society before the legal establishment of the park, in 1970. Dr. John Terborgh started his research in Cocha Cashu around 1974 and he currently continues to work and manage the station. Several scientists from Peru and many other countries, have worked in the tropical forests of CCBS. At least 650 publications in international journals have been published using data obtained in Cocha Cashu.
More than 150 Peruvian students have been trained in Manu National park, several of them are well known internationally for their work in conservation and tropical ecology. Cocha Cashu is one of the best-studied ecological sites in the tropics and it has been minimally impacted by humans.
Manu National Park was legally established in 1973 in order to protect 14 ecosystems located along the Andes, including cloud forests and lowland forests. With a total area of 1’692,137.26 ha it is located in Southeastern Peru, in the western edge of the Amazon watershed, between the states of Cusco and Madre de Dios, along the eastern section of the Andes. Manu National Park was inscribed as a UNESCO World heritage site in 1987.
CCBS is located inside the core areas of Manu National Park (11° 54’ S, 71° 22’ W, elevation ca. 400 m), in the middle section of the Manu River watershed. The station is located near an ox-bow lake (cocha), inside the Area or Wildlife Protection of Manu National Park. The mean annual rainfall at CCBS is approximately 2100 mm (10-yr mean), 86% of which occurs during the rainy period (October to May). Mean annual temperature, measured under canopy, is 24° C, with record extremes of 8° C and 34° C (Terborgh 1983, Gentry 1990). The habitat is mature floodplain forest.
Each year, several scientists from all over the world do research at CCBS. Some long-term projects ongoing at the site include:
Graduate-level and undergraduate tropical biology and ecology courses are conducted at EBCC every year.
The research station has rustic facilities, one office, one kitchen and one bathhouse. Researchers and students camp in the trails nearby the station. There are some facilities at the station such as two-way radio, internet, greenhouses and a 52 km² trail system that encompasses several habitats.
Photos courtesy of Patricia Alvarez
The park protects 14 ecological zones (Holdridge) ranging from as low as 150 meters in parts of the Amazon Basin to the Puna Highlands at altitudes of 4200 meters. Because of this topographical range, it has one of highest levels of biodiversity of any park in the world. Overall, more than 3800 species of vascular plants are found in Manú, and up to 250 species of trees have been found in a single hectare in Cocha Cashu. The Manu River floodplain is mostly covered by evergreen tropical forest, although a few species lose their leaves during the June-October dry season.
In many ways the rich-soil area of Manu park is floristically more similar to southern Central America than the geographically nearer poor-soil areas of Amazonia (Gentry 1985, Pitman et. al. 2002). Presumably they represent part of a band of distinctive rich-soil flora that once extended along the base of the Andean/Amazonian interface.
There are at least 3800 vascular plant species inside the Park, and inside Cocha Cashu there are about 1800 plant species. In Manu National Park there are at least 230 species of reptiles and amphibians, 159 mammals, 210 fish species, 1000 species of birds, 230 species of macro fungi. Plant and fungi inventories are far away from being completed. Insect inventories are scarce, except for beetles (650) and butterflies (1310 species).
A little more than 40% of the park is Amazonian lowland tropical forest, including varzea vegetation, oxbow lakes, Mauritia palm swamps, Ficus swamps and upland forest types.
For many over-exploited plant species as in Cedrela and Swietenia, Manu NP provides one of the last conservation strongholds. Manu NP probably includes more species than any other conservation reserve in the world.
Mammal diversity is high with159 species. These include big terrestrial mammals, such as: jaguar (Panthera onca), mountain lion (Puma concolor), peccary (Pecari tajacu), tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla), red brocket (Mazama americana), tapir (Tapirus terrestris), and white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari).
Cocha Cashu Biological Station is located within Cusco State and Madre de Dios State. The closest biggest city is Cusco. From Cusco, researchers take a truck or a bus to Atalaya, a town located at the entrance of Manu National Park (approximately 12 hours drive). The trip encompasses all ecosystems, from the western slopes of the Andes to the highlands and to the Eastern slope of the Andes. The road is only paved until Paucartambo (5 hours from Cusco). From Atalaya the trip is done by boat. One day down the Alto Madre de Dios River, reaching the town of Boca Manu and the next day up the river Manu. It takes 3 to 4 days to reach EBCC. In this trip, it is common to see Jaguars, Capibaras, Orinoco geese, harpy eagles, among other animals. Cedar trees are intact along the banks of the Manu River.