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Story Publication logo July 8, 2022

40-Year Research Project Saves Recent Amazonian History (Portuguese)

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Unable to be in the field to collect information, some researchers have lost precious data for their...

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This story excerpt was translated from Portuguese. To read the original story in full, visit National Geographic. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.


Rio Preto da Eva, Manaus and Iranduba, Amazonas | Acariquara, carapanauba, monkey-puzzle tree, cedar, laurel, monkey-chestnut. Along closed forest trails, field coordinator João Batista recited the popular names of some of the trees we passed in a patch of Amazon rainforest.

This stretch of forest is the way to reach the emblematic Km 41 camp, located north of Manaus. For about 40 years, this space was the favorite of the environmentalist, biologist, writer, and National Geographic explorer Thomas Lovejoy, considered the 'godfather' of biodiversity, who died at the end of 2021.

One of the oldest natural conservation study programs in the world, the Project on Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments (PDBFF), envisioned by Lovejoy in the late 1970s to study, among other things, how forest fragmentation affects the biological diversity of forests. The project is a scientific cooperation between the National Institute for Amazon Research (INPA), from Brazil, and the Smithsonian Institute, from the United States.


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The report accompanied the project researchers in May of this year on a trip supported by the Amazon Rainforest Journalism Fund of the Pulitzer Center. It was the first stop in a project to document the scientists' return to field research after the hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.


The modest but legendary Km 41 campground was one of the favorite places of Thomas Lovejoy, the godfather of biodiversity. Image by André Dib. Brazil, 2022.

Aerial view of the camp embedded in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest. Image by André Dib. Brazil, 2022.

Professor José Luís Camargo started as an intern at the beginning of PDBFF and is now the scientific coordinator of the project in Inpa. Image by André Dib. Brazil, 2022.

João Batista started working in PDBFF as a woodsman 17 years ago and for seven years he lived with Lovejoy, whom he still calls Lovinho. Today he coordinates the field activities in the campsites Km 37 and Km 41. Image by André Dib. Brazil, 2022.

The tree monitoring project sometimes requires climbing to collect leaves. Image by André Dib. Brazil, 2022.

Although led by PhD professors, the field work is often handled by younger scientists. Here, by biologist Maria Thamiris de Sousa Macedo. Image by André Dib. Brazil, 2022.

Biologist Renan Parmigiani. Image by André Dib. Brazil, 2022.

Biologist Jennifer Prestes Auler. Image by André Dib. Brazil, 2022.

The trees have their measurements taken. Image by André Dib. Brazil, 2022.

Biologist Francisco Javier Farronay arranges the leaves collected in the field before taking them to a greenhouse - a job that requires many hands. Image by André Dib. Brazil, 2022.

Professor Ana de Andrade analyzes the leaves collected in the field in the laboratory of the Km 37 camp. The tree monitoring project, led by Andrade, is in its second census and has already registered 160,000 plants and 2,500 species of trees and groves. Image by André Dib. Brazil, 2022.

INPA ornithologist Mario Cohn-Haft observes the blue swallows, the objects of his research, arriving at a new roosting area in the Negro River, south of Manaus. "It is beautiful to know that we are surrounded by so many kinds of living things," says Cohn-Haft. "Each species lives in a different way and represents a unique set of solutions to the problem of survival." Image by André Dib. Brazil, 2022.

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