The Potaro plateau in Guyana is part of a large intact forest landscape with enormous global conservation value. It is the epicenter of Guianan endemism, where lowland and highland forms meet and replace each other. As such, maintaining forest and watershed connectivity in this region is tremendously important. The Kaieteur Plateau – Upper Potaro Biodiversity Assessment Team (BAT) Expedition was carried out by a team of expert Guyanese and international scientists with assistance from Guyanese students and local Patamona Amerindian community members from March 2 – 31, 2014. The expedition covered a wide area, including several sites within Kaieteur National Park and four sites in the Upper Potaro River basin.
The team of Guyanese and international expert scientists collected data on 10 taxonomic groups including birds, plants, dragonflies and damselflies, aquatic insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, large mammals, ants, and decapod crustaceans. Their aim was to establish a baseline of data that can be used by all stakeholders, including the Government of Guyana, the University of Guyana, local communities, NGOs, and the private sector, to make informed decisions about sustainable management and land use planning of this sub-region. The expedition was also intended to build the small pool of data existing for KNP. This research will contribute valuable data to Guyana’s knowledge base on the biological diversity of montane forests and freshwater aquatic systems. The results of the research will also help protected areas managers, particularly of Kaieteur National Park, community members and other resource use decision makers better understand the biodiversity of this area and plan better for the sustainable use and management of its natural resources.
The principle aim of the BAT was to gather new biological data to help guide the country’s land use planning, biodiversity conservation and management priorities.
Photo by Andrew Snyder: The Groete Creek Carrying Frog (Stefania evansi)
The survey areas contain a high diversity of species, many unique to the plateaus. The integrity of the undisturbed forests and stream habitats within and around the survey sites must be conserved. The team witnessed some negative impacts of mining in a few study sites. Mining can destroy creek banks and create silt dams downstream thus destroying habitat critical for aquatic species. Mining activities also contribute to the accumulation of mercury especially in aquatic species but also other terrestrial species dwelling in mining areas. Actions should be taken to monitor gold mining and to restrict and/ or manage its extension within ecologically sensitive and important regions. Some mining methods are detrimental to the habitats of the species documented during this survey. For example, human-impacted sites at the New Ayanganna Camp were almost completely devoid of aquatic beetles. Mining must be better monitored and prohibition strictly enforced in the Kaieteur National Park.
The opportunity should be taken to monitor the recovery of abandoned areas through time as mining operations are closed. Select indicator species, such as aquatic insects and odonates, should also be monitored to serve as an early warning to impacts of mining and forest degradation on the important terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems.
As the incidence of gold mining activities increases in the Potaro River, local inhabitants and their principal food fishes should be monitored for the accumulation of mercury in their bodies as well as in the water and sediments. The indigenous people of Chenapau and management of Kaieteur National Park should develop a water quality monitoring system that will provide information to detect trends and identify the cause(s) of the trends/changes. It is recommended that this water quality surveys be repeated in the dry season and also extended to the wet season to observe the seasonal variations in parameters.
The plants, medium and large mammals, reptiles and amphibians, birds, insects and fishes of Guyana
Guyana, South America
Highland mixed forests