Small creek near Pobreza Stream, tributary of Rio Blanco, Peru

_st place in Biotope Aquarium Design Contest 2022

Volume of aquarium: 160 litres

Dimensions of aquarium: 100x40x40 cm

List of fishes: Paracheirodon innesi, Thayeria boehlkei, Carnegiella strigata, Corydoras trilineatus

List of plants: Limnobium laevigatum, Pistia stratiotes

Description of Decorations and Substrate: There are roots and branches to represent dwarf white-sand forest that provide shelter for fishes. On the bottom is white fine sand with a layer of leaf litter – I used magnolia and guava leaves. On the surface flows Limnobium laevigatum and Pistia stratiotes. And one Sapucaia nut on the bottom as well.

Description of Equipment: External filter Tetra Tec EX 800 Plus – 790lph
Aquael 100 Watt heater
2x 10 Watt LED spotlight – 4000K, 800 lm

Water Parameters: Water temperature is 25°C, pH is 6.2, GH is 5

Additional Info: Water changes are done once a month at 30% with RO water. And once a week I add KNO3 to water, because nitrate values are very low.

Aquarium video:

Description of the Area Surrounding the Biotope: The habitat I want to describe is a small creek that flows into the Pobreza stream near Quebrada Pobreza campsite (6km from the main course of Rio Blanco). Pobreza stream runs into Rio Blanco consequently, the tributary of Rio Tapiche, which runs into Rio Ucayali near Requena, a town in the Loreto Region in northeastern Peru.

The Tapiche-Blanco region epitomizes Loreto’s extraordinary landscape diversity. It harbors large expanses of wetlands and peatland forests, white-sand forests, and hyperdiverse upland forests, and these are drained by a variety of black, white, and clearwater streams. Located within the global epicenter of amphibian, mammal, and bird diversity, and highlighted by recent maps as possessing the largest aboveground carbon stocks in Peru, the region has maintained continuous forest and a high conservation value despite a long history of unregulated logging, hunting, and fishing. Blackwater creeks in this area harbor dozens of fish species valued for their ornamental properties, in the genera Paracheirodon, Carnegiella, Hyphessobrycon, Thayeria, Corydoras, Monocirrhus, and Apistogramma.

Description of the Underwater Landscape of the Biotope: This acidic blackwater creeks are located in a low-lying forest area (known as igapó) with pure water with low levels of salts and nutrients. Forests are growing on white sands and the bottom of the creek is covered with a fine layer of leaf litter and organic material and shallow-soil roots that limit erosion and retain nutrients and salts necessary for plants and animals.

Description of the Habitat Parameters: Water color is dark brown with medium transparency and average temperature is around 25°C. pH is around 4-5, GH 0.

List of Fishes and Invertebrates Occurring in the Nature Biotope: Astronotus ocellatus, Paracheirodon innesi, Carnegiella strigata, Thayeria boehlkei, Hyphessobrycon agulha, Hemigrammus analis, Crenuchus spilurus, Ammocryptocharax elegans, Copella nigrofasciata, Gasteropelecus sternicla, Corydoras napoensis, Corydoras trilinineatus

List of Plants Found in the Nature Biotope: There are no aquatic plants found in the habitat I described, only floating plants like Limnobium laevigatum and Pistia stratiotes and some submerged terrestrial plants.

Threats to the Ecology of the Biotope: 1. Unstable and insecure land tenure:
A very low percentage of communities that possess title to their land, despite a long history of occupation and use.
Two indigenous communities on the Tapiche River that are on the brink of disappearing (Nueva Esperanza and Yarina Frontera Topal); their disappearance would worsen the unstable land tenure situation, since these are titled communities.
A phantom community (Nuevo Trujillo) created under false pretenses by illegal loggers in Requena to gain logging rights via a bosque local permit.

2. Illegal or informal logging operations that have serious negative impacts on social and biological communities:
The pervasiveness of illegal and informal logging throughout the region; irregularities in concessions and permits are the rule
Weak government oversight of logging in the region and the failure of the concessions system.
Misinformation and uncertainty regarding the legal status and location of logging concessions and permits, and regarding the steps needed to obtain logging rights. Local residents’ lack of basic information on logging makes it hard for them to defend their rights.
Logging concessions that include forests with no commercial timber species (e.g., white-sand forests) or forests with timber species at commercially inviable densities; this gives permit holders an incentive to harvest timber outside of their designated areas.
The persistence in the region of the debt peonage system, which has long been associated with deplorable work conditions (human rights abuses, insufficient pay, lack of accident insurance, worker debt, misleading contracts, etc.).
Sanctions imposed on some communities by OSINFOR or SUNAT, due to mismanagement of logging permits granted by the Programa Forestal.
Environmental impacts of informal logging (e.g., logging roads and overhunting of game birds and mammals around logging camps). These impacts are not restricted to upland forests (e.g., rafts of timber are often transported along streams and oxbow lakes).
Environmental impacts of mechanized logging (e.g., destruction of the root mat, erosion of fragile soils, and sedimentation of streams, rivers, and lakes).
Little to no forestry planning, which precludes sustainable logging and puts the region’s long-term timber stocks at risk.

3. Construction of access roads for logging concessions. We know of two different road-building initiatives of this type: the Orellana-Tapiche logging road and the network of roads planned by Green Gold Forestry in 2014. The latter consisted of one central road (along the Yanayacu-Tapiche watershed) and a number of secondary roads extending into the Tapiche and Blanco watersheds. Logging roads are a serious threat because they would cause:

The erosion of fragile soils in the area, which would lead to sedimentation and pollution in lakes and rivers.
The destruction of white-sand forests, a rare natural treasure of the region.
Colonization of new roads, which would lead to a boom in fishing, hunting, and natural resource harvests in the heart of the Tapiche-Blanco interfluve.

4. Oil and gas exploration and production. The study area overlaps three active oil and gas concessions (Blocks 137, 135, and 95). Work in these concessions poses serious threats to the region, including:

Drastic socioeconomic changes, such as a boom in immigration and natural resource use.
Environmental threats to water quality and aquatic ecosystems. One example widespread in oil and gas concessions elsewhere in Loreto are spills of drilling water or oil; these spills cause profound changes in the composition of surface waters, serious damage to floodplain ecosystems, and major threats to human well-being.
Potential water pollution if the abandoned wells are opened to fracking.

5. Little to no oversight of natural resource harvests in the region. Hunting of bushmeat— whether commercial, subsistence, or around logging camps—is totally unregulated, and we saw evidence of overhunting in some areas. Fishing for ornamental fish and food fish is common in the region, but it is generally carried out without management plans, community regulations, or government oversight.

6. Weak governance. The absence of government authorities and the isolation and lack of institutional support faced by Tapiche-Blanco residents are at the root of many problems in the region. Some authorities are directly involved in corruption and subject to conflicts of interest, due to their ties to logging. Other problems related to weak governance include:

Corruption at all levels of the regional government’s environmental authorities, which facilitates illegal harvests (especially timber). Little to no police presence, which provides free access to drug traffickers, illegal loggers, and other criminal groups.
A lack of supra-communal organizations that can resolve shared problems, and limited political representation at the provincial level.
The chaotic state of the information that government agencies maintain on the Tapiche-Blanco region; data are scattered, imprecise, out of date, difficult to obtain, privately held, and often contradictory.
Low-quality educational opportunities; most communities only have elementary schools, with teachers who are outsiders and present only sporadically.
A local population that remains very much vulnerable to abuse by outsiders, due to the lack of work, information, and educational opportunities.
A poor understanding among residents of legal terms and regulations, which has generated a number of penalties and fines (e.g., those levied by OSINFOR and SUNAT).

7. Temporary and permanent immigration of workers drawn to the region by logging activity and oil and gas concessions.

8. A poor understanding of how protected areas can contribute to the protection and management of natural resources. The perception among large segments of the population in these watersheds is that any kind of protected area will limit access to resources.

Sources of Information: