Friday, March 29, 2013


Species, species, and more species...
A cornucopia of unrivaled biological diversity, the Upper Amazon Basin boasts the highest number of plant and animal species in the world, with even more than the much celebrated Manu region in southern Peru, or of the Lower Amazon Basin in Brazil.  Area surveys of the Upper Amazon have demonstrated the world’s greatest variety of trees.  A hectare of land (2.5 acres) can have 40 to 300 tree species compared with 4 to 25 in North American forests.  The greatest numbers of monkey species are to be found in this region; 17 kinds have been recorded in one small area.  The Amazon proper indisputably contains the highest number of fish species in the world, with over 2,000 known and another 2,000 species likely.  It also is believed to hold 95% of the world’s 350,000 kinds of beetles and, in one tree alone in the Upper Amazon, over 1,500 species were taken!  Peru has over 400 species of butterflies.  GreenTracks’ long-term natural history inventories in this region have produced the greatest number of amphibian and reptile species for any single locality on earth.  Bird life in the countries comprising the Upper Amazon Basin is staggeringly rich, representing over a fifth of all the species found throughout the world.

Why so many kinds of living things?

There are several theories, among them changing habitat, river barriers to dispersal, and topography.

Forest to grassland and back....
We know from the study of fossil pollen that the Amazon Basin has changed dramatically several times owing to fluctuating relative humidity during glacial and inter-glacial periods through the Pleistocene era.  Much of the forested region we see today has, in fact, been grassland at different times, and this leads some to think the expanding and contracting forest fragments have effectively served as “islands” and thus have allowed for plants and animals to speciate extensively.

Rivers as prisons...
Nearly 150 years ago, the famed naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace noted that range boundaries for a number of animal species in the Amazonian rainforest seemed to coincide with the region's many rivers. That observation marked the origin of one of the leading hypotheses for why the Amazon harbors such extraordinary biodiversity for its size. In its modern form, this "riverine barrier hypothesis" posits that the Amazon's major rivers functioned as natural barriers to gene flow between populations. As a result, the populations ultimately diverged. This model has received a certain amount of support from molecular studies in recent years.

Hills and valleys...
Recent investigations along the Jurua River, one of the Amazon’s largest tributaries, point to a different explanation. The pattern of diversity in frog and small mammal communities along the Jurua does not fit with predictions based on riverbank affiliation. Rather the composition of these communities is best predicted by geographic distance and habitat type. What’s more, the distributions of small mammals terminate perpendicular to the river and parallel to the Andes Mountains, which suggests that the topography of the Amazonian lowlands may generate the biodiversity. Thus far only a single river has been studied, but it is believed that the results can be extended to all large meandering rivers in the region as a working hypothesis.

Going, going, gone...
So, much remains to be studied, and the Amazon Basin stands today as the single most complex, daunting, tantalizing, and stimulating place on the planet.  And it is slipping away at an alarming rate. Scientists estimate that tropical forests cover only 6 percent of the planet, less than half of what they recently occupied. The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, founded to foster the exchange of ideas among scientists working in tropical environments, notes unprecedented changes, with 1.2 percent of the remaining area disappearing every year.

Until recently, the forests and rivers of the Upper Amazon Basin were accessible only to intrepid explorers willing to brave hardship, disease, hostilities, and, perhaps worst of all, their own fears of the great unknown.  Thanks to advances in medicine and travel it is now possible to see this great tropical wilderness first-hand.  Diseases are easily avoided through vaccines and air and boat travel make access simple.  The region is still filled with mystery, but we know so much now that was regrettably unavailable to the early explorers.  Recently, GreenTracks has designed several natural history programs in the Upper Amazon, and they include comfortable lodge accommodations where one can relax or participate in our ongoing projects, such as monitoring amphibian diversity.  Simply tracing the steps of those who first entered the Amazonian region, seeing everything from piranhas to gigantic capybaras and manatees (largest mammal on the continent), and doing so in relative ease and comfort, is a remarkable privilege.  And knowledge has allowed us to see things once considered to be repugnant as beautiful and interesting.

Getting there..... 

GreenTracks has designed new Natural History Programs in the Upper Amazon Basin, some of them featuring lodge accommodations along the Marañón River, where upland forest can be visited.  Our lodge is comfortable and situated in a prime location for access to a diversity of places including the famed Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, the Yanayacu-Pucate River, and the origin of the Amazon River.  It is a superb place for viewing and photographing Amazon flora and fauna.  For those who share with us the desire to simply BE THERE, this is an excellent opportunity to fulfill that dream.

In addition to the Upper Amazon activities, GreenTracks manages high quality programs to:

* Macchu Picchu and the Inca Trail
* Cuzco
* Tambopata National Reserve
* Manu Wilderness & National Park
* Lake Titicaca, Peru & Bolivia
* Madidi National Park, Bolivia
* Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Visit our Website at


Thursday, March 14, 2013

GreenTracks Facebook page now has a new photo album of spectacular photos of Cuzco, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Click on the link below.

GreenTracks Facebook


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

GreenTracks zoologists’ expertise provides an unmatched Amazon rainforest experience

Founded in 1992 by prominent tropical biologists, including William W. Lamar, who has done extensive research and publication in the fields of zoology and herpetology, GreenTracks offers the best in travel to the Amazon rainforest. GreenTracks’ extensive knowledge and experience with the various rivers and forest types allows them to customize each trip based on water levels and time of year to maximize wildlife viewing opportunities and not be locked into itineraries that never vary.

William W. Lamar, a graduate of Rhodes and the University of Texas, has spent 37 years living and working in the Amazon Basin.  He has authored several dozen popular and technical articles and three books, including two top references on Amazonian fauna.  Bill has been filmed by the BBC, Zebra, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., the History Channel, Wild Discovery, and National Geographic and regularly consults for all of these companies. He is fluent in Spanish and thoroughly at-home in the Peruvian Amazon.

GreenTracks zoologists’ continued involvement and oversight can’t be matched by standard travel industry companies. By traveling with these experts the guests’ experience is greatly enhanced and allows them to come away with a much more in-depth understanding of the Amazon and its diversity. This includes not only which plants and animals inhabit the rainforest, but how the interaction between them, and the people who live there, make this one of the most complex and exciting ecosystems on the planet.

GreenTracks seeks to celebrate all that is beautiful and fascinating in the Amazon, from flora and fauna to people, cultures, and food.  They believe observing such things is both fun and educational, and that only through direct experience can the wider understanding necessary to protect this delicate wilderness be achieved.

GreenTracks expertise has also been used by both amateur and professional naturalists, and on documentaries shown by National Geographic, the British and Canadian Broadcasting Systems, Animal Planet, the History Channel and the Discovery Channel.

For more information on Amazon travel with GreenTracks visit the website at or call 1-800-892-1035