Manú National Park and Biosphere Reserve (Peru)
Manú National Park and Biosphere Reserve is a world-renowned haven of biodiversity at the meeting point of the Tropical Andes and the Amazon Basin in southwestern Peru. A vast, isolated watershed, the still-roadless property has been spared from most human impacts.
Manú National Park
Manú National Park is located in Madre de Dios and Cusco in Peru. It protects diverse ecosystems such as lowland rainforests, cloud forests and Andean grasslands. It covers an area of 1,716,295 ha or 17,163 sq km (4,241,057 acres or 6,626 sq mi).
The Manú Nature Reserve was established in 1968. In 1973 it was established as a National Park. In 1977, UNESCO recognized it as a Biosphere Reserve and 1987 as a World Heritage Site.
Manú National Park is a globally-renowned haven of terrestrial biodiversity at the meeting point of the Tropical Andes and the Amazon basin in southwestern Peru. However, as a vast, geographically and economically isolated watershed, the still roadless property has been spared from most human impacts and is difficult to access.
This vast Reserve has successive tiers of vegetation spanning the complete altitudinal gradient of the eastern slope of the Bolivian Andes from around 350 - 4,000+ m (1,200 to 13,000+ ft) above sea level. Consequently, the tropical rainforest in the lower altitude areas is home to many animal and plant species.
At least 850 species of birds have been identified. Rare species, such as the giant otter and armadillo, also find refuge there. In addition, jaguars are often sighted in the National Park.
In some places, the precipitous terrestrial transition includes high Andean Puna grasslands, mountain cloud forests, Yunga forests and lowland rainforests. Fed from numerous whitewater creeks in the mountains, the Manú River meanders through the lowland forests before it joins the Madre de Dios River at the southern edge of the Reserve.
As evidenced by Incan and pre-Incan ruins and petroglyphs, there is a long history of indigenous occupation. The local legend of Paititi, according to which the "Lost City of the Incas," is located within what is today the National Park.
Various indigenous peoples are the only permanent inhabitants. Some are sedentary and in regular contact with the modern world, while others maintain a semi-nomadic lifestyle as hunter-gatherers in so-called "voluntary isolation" or "initial contact," respectively.
The population in the Reserve amounts to 8,600 people, with numerous settlements of native communities that include the Matsigueka, the Yine, the Harakmbut and the Quechua.
The immense variety of Manú National Park in terms of altitude, microclimate, soils and other ecological conditions result in a complex mosaic of habitats and niches. As a result, there is a broad spectrum of plant communities, ranging from the seemingly homogenous but highly diverse Andean grasslands to mostly pristine forest types.
Estimates of plant diversity range between 2,000 and 5,000, with some scientists even assuming considerably higher numbers.
Records of fauna are similarly impressive, with well over 1,000 vertebrate species, including at least 200 mammals and more than 800 birds. Among the mammals are the Giant Otter, 13 different species of primates and eight felids, including the Jaguar, Puma and the elusive, endangered Andean Mountain Cat.
The wide range of estimates in various taxonomic groups of fauna and flora illustrates how little is known, let alone understood, about the diversity of life in the property.
The medium and longer-term developments in the surroundings of Manú National Park, such as gas extraction and road construction, may affect the still primarily pristine property in various ways. Therefore, careful planning and management are needed to balance development needs with the integrity of a global conservation gem.
Manu Biosphere Reserve
The Manu Biosphere Reserve includes 19 different habitat types, constituting one of the most diverse places for birds in the world, with 860 different species identified.
The Manu Biosphere Reserve is the largest rainforest reserve in the world. The predominant plant formations are highland Punas, then a transition belt of woody scrubland followed by low montane forest. Below this altitude lies montane rain forest and, finally, tropical moist forest or lowland forest stretching along the great Amazon plains.
Manu is among the sites with the highest biodiversity in the world. Over 3,000 plant species have been identified. Fauna is similarly impressive, with over 1,000 vertebrate species observed, including at least 200 mammals and more than 800 birds.
The population amounts to approximately 8,600 people, with numerous settlements of native communities, including Matsigueka, Yine, Harakmbut and Quechua.
All communities practice traditional activities (swidden agriculture, hunting, fishing and gathering wild fruits), while some also incorporate more modern economic alternatives such as logging, rice cultivation and tourism.
The evidence of Incan and Pre-Incan ruins and petroglyphs bears witness to a long history of indigenous occupation. The local legend of Paititi locates the 'Lost City of the Incas' within the Reserve, luring researchers and adventurers alike.
Today, various indigenous peoples are the only permanent inhabitants, some of whom are sedentary and in regular contact with the 'modern world.' In contrast, others maintain a semi-nomadic lifestyle as hunter-gatherers living in voluntary isolation.