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Tiny new private reserve protects endangered bird-rich cloud forest in Peru

A new private nature reserve in Central Peru protects endangered high-altitude cloud forest, reports the American Bird Conservancy.

San Marcos Private Conservation Area consists of 970 hectares (2,400 acres) of Polylepis forest, a high-elevation habitat that supports a wealth of bird species, including the Royal Cinclodes, White-browed Tit-Spinetail, and Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant. Five new plant species and two new frog species have already been discovered within the borders of the San Marcos Private Conservation Area.

While limited in extent, San Marcos PCA protects a key watershed that feeds the Andean community of San Marcos, the city of Huánuco and 11,800-acre Tingo Maria National Park. Cloud forests like San Marcos are particularly important in maintaining water flows, according to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC).

“Polylepis trees are characterized by gnarled trunks covered with flaky reddish bark and small leaves, and often grow at higher elevations than where other trees can survive,” ABC said in a statement. “The woodlands act like sponges, slowly releasing moisture during dry seasons and thereby reducing water scarcity for local peoples.”

The San Marcos community, which owns the land that makes up the reserve, will manage the conservation area.

San Marcos was established under a clause in Peruvian law that allows any landowner to convert their holdings into a nature reserve. The 40-year permit is renewable.

“Private Conservation Areas are an increasingly effective means of preserving lands in Peru and serve as strong examples of the solid conservation results that can be achieved when local communities, government agencies and private non-profit groups work together,” said ABC Conservation Biologist Daniel Lebbin.

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