The communal reserve conserves half of the stream channels that flow into the Tambo and Ene rivers, which along with Otishi National Park, include intact headwaters and almost complete micro-basins. These micro-basins comprise ecological systems—with natural disturbances, pollinators, and seed distributors—in a sufficiently large matrix to protect adequate populations of uncommon species. Habitat diversity is extraordinary.
The communal reserve, along with Otishi National Park, protects all the biological communities found in the high parts of the Vilcabamba Range, from dwarf forests, to mountain peak shrubs, to montane and premontane forests. The high slopes and forested crests deserve special attention. These isolated habitats are critical to maintaining diversity of montane animals, and to protect against the occurrence of natural processes like landslides and frequent cave-ins. Highly vulnerable habitats at high elevations are particularly important for wildlife; this is especially true for the herpetofauna whose species inhabit high elevation streams.
Asháninka Communal Reserve covers the western flank of the Vilcabamba Range where there is a significant lack of information on biodiversity; the area has not been well studied. The only research conducted in the zone has been floral and fauna collections and biological inventories. New species discoveries by scientists show the importance and merit of conducting research in this region (10).
According to Conservation International’s Rapid Biological Evaluation Program (RAP), most of the reserve is covered by cloud forest, on the moderately sloped mountainsides. As their results suggest, there is little species superposition in the different zones, which is an indicator of high biodiversity (11). There are four life regions in the reserve: Dry Tropical Forest; Very Humid, Premontane Tropical/Subtropical Forest; Premontane Tropical/Subtropical Rainforest; and Low Montane Tropical Rainforest and Low Montane Subtropical Rainforest (12).
According to physiognomic criteria, the following types of vegetation have been identified:
* High Forest: This forest has clearly distinct strata, in which emergent, wide canopied individuals stand out and appear with other co-dominant tree species. This characteristic makes the surface appear to have rough terrain. This is characteristic of a healthy forest.
* Forest with Bamboo: Presence of bamboo (Guadua sp.) and trees of small height, which is typical of nutrient-poor sites.
* Dry Forest: Located in the area surrounding the confluence of the Ene and Perene Rivers.
* Grassy Brush: Generally found in high mountainous regions.
* Vegetation in areas with agricultural interference: Areas where agricultural activities have been introduced, combining different types of vegetation such as cultivated pastures, secondary forest in different stages of development, and newly invaded primary forest. All of these form a mosaic difficult to separate and classify.
* Areas without vegetation: These contain rocky outcroppings and eroded areas (13).
According to the structural analysis of the types of forest found in the communal reserve, the most commonly found species in the reserve are: Pseudolmedia laevigata, Nectandra sp., Inga ruiziana, Pouteria sp., Guarea sp., Quaribea bicolo, Virola peruviana. The next most common are: Guatteria sp., Clarisia racemosa, Pouteria sp., Spondias monbin, Macrolobim sp., Trichilia sp., Ficus sp., Zanthoxylum risianum, Osandra sp., Brosimun allicastrum, Aspidosperma macrocarpon (14).
Asháninka Communal Reserve has fauna representative of hill and low mountain ecosystems of the Peruvian Amazon. Native communities engage in subsistence hunting of many of the fauna species.
According to studies completed by Dr. Terborgh, by the Field Museum of Chicago and by Conservation International’s RAP team in 1997, it is estimated that there are 115 species of birds within the Reserve. There were 13 species of herpetofauna present. A relatively low abundance of aquatic macro invertebrates (96 individuals / m) was found. They found 19 species of butterflies. On the whole, they collected 60 species of spiders distributed among 16 families and 22 species of crickets from four families. The team also registered 166 species of beetles from 21 families. Also, they encountered 102 species of bees and wasps (not including ants) belonging to ten families (15).
According to Conservation International’s RAP in 1997, there are an estimated 115 species of birds belonging to 28 families in Asháninka Communal Reservation. The most numerous family was Emberezidae with 27 species (23.9 %), followed by Tyrannidae with 17 species (15.0 %), Formicaridae with 12 species (10.6 %) and Thochilidae with 9 species (8.0 %). Several species such as Otus alboguralis and Basileuterus luteoviridis are typically found in much higher elevations in other parts of Peru. Grallaria erytholeuca was found with relative frequency during the expedition. This species has a very restricted distribution, and it is only found in the mountainous chains of Vilcabamba and Vilcanota. Although detailed comparisons have not been done, the population of the Vilcabamba Range might represent a new species.
Bamboo rats (Dactylomys peruanus) dominate the dense bamboo groves. This location could represent an extension of this species’ distribution since previously it had only been documented on rare occasions. The study registered at least three primate species, including spider and nocturnal monkeys, as well as capuchins. Since primate populations have been severely reduced by hunting in the lowlands, the communal reserve’s highlands represent an important local refuge. Thirteen species made up the herpetofauna. The frog fauna in this location was basically similar to what was found in similar elevations inside of Manú National Park, but it was unusual not to have found specimens of Hyla or Phrynops, which normally are present in similar altitudes. It is possible that the absence of Hyla could be attributed to lack of suitable habitat. Up to two thirds of the frog species identified could be entirely new to science (16).