Unintended multispecies co-benefits of an Amazonian community-based conservation programme


Urgent challenges posed by widespread degradation in tropical ecosystems with poor governance require new development pathways to reconcile biodiversity conservation and human welfare. Community-based conservation management has shown potential for integrating socio-economic needs with conservation goals in tropical environments; however, assessing the effectiveness of this approach is often held back by the lack of comprehensive ecological assessments. We conduct a robust ecological evaluation of the largest community-based conservation management initiative in the Brazilian Amazon over the last 40 years. We show that this programme has induced large-scale population recovery of the target giant South American turtle (Podocnemis expansa) and other freshwater turtles along a 1,500-km section of a major tributary of the Amazon River. Poaching activity on protected beaches was around 2% compared to 99% on unprotected beaches. We also find positive demographic co-benefits across a wide range of non-target vertebrate and invertebrate taxa. As a result, beaches protected by local communities represent islands of high biodiversity, while unprotected beaches remain ‘empty and silent’, showing the effectiveness of empowering local conservation action, particularly in countries experiencing shortages in financial and human resources.

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Fig. 1: Map of the study region in the western Brazilian Amazon region.
Fig. 2: Paired nesting and abundance responses for target and non-target taxa.
Fig. 3: Standardized size effect for all predictors of freshwater turtle nests.

Data availability

The data set used in this manuscript and analytical scripts are available in the Supplementary Information. Any additional information is available from the authors on request.


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This study was funded by a Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species (Defra, 20-001) grant awarded to C.A.P., a CAPES PhD scholarship (1144985) and CAPES postdoctoral grant (1666302) to J.V.C.S. and a CAPES postdoctoral grant (1530532) and internal funding from Anglia Ruskin University to J.E.H. We thank the Departamento de Mudanças Climáticas e Unidades de Conservação (DEMUC) do Amazonas and Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e Recursos Naturais Renováveis/Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (IBAMA/ICMBio) for authorizing the research. We also thank Projeto Pé-de-Pincha at Universidade Federal do Amazonas, supported by Programa Petrobras Ambiental. We are very grateful for the participation of all beach guards and the cooperation of all communities in the Médio Juruá region, including the community associations ASPROC and AMARU. We are grateful to P. Cook and Bomba for assisting with data collection on terrestrial invertebrates and catfish; F. Baccaro, W. Fróes and H. Lazzarotto for assistance with the identification of terrestrial invertebrates and catfish; A. Carvalho and M. de Assumpção for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript; and C. Ferrara, H. Costa, G. Leite and R. Cintra for photographs. This publication is part of the Projeto Médio Juruá series on ‘Resource Management in Amazonian Reserves’ (www.projetomediojurua.org).

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J.V.C.S., J.E.H. and C.A.P. designed the study. J.V.C.S, J.E.H., P.C.M.A. and C.A.P. collected the data. J.V.C.S and C.A.P. analysed the data. J.V.C.S, J.E.H., P.C.M.A and C.A.P. wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to João V. Campos-Silva.

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Supplementary information


Fluvial beaches along the Juruá River in the Western Brazilian Amazon, which provide critical nesting habitats for freshwater turtles and other taxa including birds

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Figures 1–8, Supplementary Tables 1–4, Supplementary Video 1 Caption, Supplementary References 1–26

Supplementary Video 1

Fluvial beaches along the Juruá River in the Western Brazilian Amazon, which provide critical nesting habitats for freshwater turtles and other taxa including birds

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Campos-Silva, J.V., Hawes, J.E., Andrade, P.C.M. et al. Unintended multispecies co-benefits of an Amazonian community-based conservation programme. Nat Sustain 1, 650–656 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0170-5

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