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October-November 2004

At first glance, the Matsés region appears to be typical lowland Amazonian Forest, full of greenery and wildlife. Satellite images show various greens, occasional deep purple from a swap forest or harsh blue of regenerating forest. But a closer look showed shades of lilac, giving us a hint, this region is extraordinary. What we speculated from the overflight as typical palms of swampy areas, once on the ground turned out to be white sand Mauritia carana and Euterpe catinga palms, part of an enormous white-sand forests, previously unvisited by scientist.


The Matsés—the region’s long-term inhabitants—know the natural resources in their territories. They have known about these white-sand forest for ages and consider them fragile and sacred. Over generations, they learned these areas are not good for agriculture because of their nutrient-poor soils and are unsuitable for hunting because of their scarce game species.


We were not only impressed by white-sand forests, but also how in a day, we could walk through floodplains, lush upland forests, wet bottomlands and swamps, all underlain by a vast patchwork of different soils, allowing it to be a full representation of lowland Amazonia, and a laboratory of evolution. Protection of Reserva Comunal Matsés and the adjacent white-sand forest, with strong Matsés involvement, would ensure the region safety for future generations.

Flower of Platycarpum orinocense_Rubiaceae_blurred

Photo by R. Foster

Full Report

Color Plates

Data Appendices

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