All posts by Micaela Locke

UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

On March 1st 2019, the UN General Assembly declared 2021-2030 UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. There exists an urgent need to accelerate global restoration of degraded ecosystems to combat climate change and biodiversity loss. Healthy ecosystems are essential for sustainable development that contributes to poverty alleviation. The UN Environment Programme and UN FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) are leading the global movement which includes over 70 countries committed to restoring more than 170 million hectares of degraded land worlwide. Ecosystem Restoration implies environmental,social and economic gains through which people´s well-being and nature´s resilience is enhanced.
REGUA is one example of good practice conducive to these global goals.

 

Drone footage of the wetlands at REGUA (© Thomas Locke).

Anuran community in pasture puddles

Beatriz, Jeferson and Orlando having a look at the Anuran community in one of the studied pasture puddles (© Jeferson Ribeiro Amaral).

Among the few students who visited REGUA last year, a very atypical year in which most universities’ field trips were cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic, PhD student Beatriz Ferreira proceeded with her research topic of evaluating how pasture management with isolated tree clumps decreases the effect of deforestation and encourages the presence of Anuran tadpoles in pasture puddles.

Anurans use these ponds for reproduction which become fundamental to their existence. Jefferson Ribeiro and Orlando de Marques Vogelbacher accompanied Beatriz on her last 2020 field trip to REGUA. They are both Biology PhD students and have taken beautiful pictures of flora and fauna found at REGUA.

 

Green-headed tanager close to the common area at REGUA (© Jeferson Ribeiro Amaral).

For the last 20 years, REGUA has been encouraging and supporting research carried out by national and foreign universities.

Research at REGUA is one of the main pillars on which we base our conservation mission in the upper Guapiaçu watershed. Ultimately, understanding the dynamics of nature allows us to acknowledge that Mother Earth’s environmental services are paramount to human permanence on the planet.

We hope continuing welcoming researchers and students this year.

A Burrowing owl taking care of her nest (© Jeferson Ribeiro Amaral).

Dahlstedtia pinnata

Plants belonging to Dahlstedtia genus occur exclusively within the Atlantic Forest in Rio de Janeiro, Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul states in Brazil.

This genus is represented by two species: D.pinnata and D.pentaphylla. However, some specialists consider the genus as monotypic. Dahlstedtia plants grow both as bushes and trees. Hummingbirds regularly visit their beautiful pink or reddish flowers.

Locally known as “Timbo”, its roots and bark were used by indigenous people to dumb and asphixiate fish as part of their fishing practices.

This Dahlstedtia was found and photographed within a new acquired area by REGUA.

Dahlstedtia flower (© Raquel Locke).

 

“Bosques da Memória”.

“Bosques da Memória” Campaign.

The “Bosques da Memória” Campaign 2020 is all about planting trees  as a tribute to COVID-19 victims, and a way to thank doctors and those working in hospitals in Brazil.

We are all going through a difficult year due to the Covid pandemic, forcing us to slow down and adapt to a different life style. This only adds to the climate crisis and the forest fires and deforestation, which have destroyed many forests in Brazil.

This campaign offers us some hope to change the loss of forests, reminding us of the risks of climate change.

Trees to be planted at REGUA will be dedicated to those impacted by Covid. There are already 21 sites sharing in this campaign across the country. The idea is to involve different conservation institutions, NGOs and  those individuals who want to take part.

Anyone who feels like dedicating the memory of a lost one through planting a tree, please contact us.

 

REGUA’s nursery (© Micaela Locke)

An Inaturalist update

The Dutchman Jean-Paul Boerekamps visited REGUA in 2018 and returned last week in spite of the global Covid scare, to complete a Bioblitz around the mountainous region of Nova Friburgo and also at REGUA. Though a birder, he has become increasingly a Naturalist and through the digital platform “Inaturalist”, he came to SE Brazil with the mission of photographing and uploading images of all creatures and plants, and inspiring others with his passion!

Jean-Paul adding observations into Inaturalist (© Nicholas Locke).

REGUA’s Bioblitz lasted a week and together we managed to make one thousand different species observations, half of which have been positively identified by the Inaturalist community. JP visited  “Waldenoor”, a restored area that slowly shifts into a more mature forest; the green trail, where he was accompanied by Rildo de Oliveira, in charge of patrolling/monitoring the highest and most preserved forests at REGUA; the “Fragment”, where he could walk through a special remnant of well-preserved lowland forest; and the Vecchi reserve, 15 km away from REGUA, composed mostly by open areas, allowing whoever visits it to have a good idea of local biodiversity.   

 

JP photographed many moths that came to the moth wall every evening, attracted by light that strongly stimulates/excites them. One special observation was a moth belonging to the Notodontidae – subfamily Dioptinae.

Moth belonging to the Family Notodontia photographed on the moth wall at REGUA (© Jean-Paul Boerekamps).

According to our butterfly expert Jorge Bizarro, this is an uncommon species, which is difficult to identify. Jorge knows that it belongs to the subfamily Dioptinae, a group of diurnal Neotropical moths, many of which have bright winged colours. Identifying certain species on i-naturalist is never easy, so sharing one’s observations allows one to practice the concept of citizen science and allows one to exchange knowledge with others similarly interested in th same subject. This process allows experts and beginners to exchange information.

Now that the Bioblitz is over, we can add observations to ‘REGUA Biodiversity Celebration’, a long term project that is soon to reach 10 thousand observations by the end of this year. If any of you would like to help us,  any of you who have visited REGUA may contribute to this project by uploading previous observations. It’s quite straightforward; you just need to create an Inaturalist account and upload your photographs from your computer or your phone. We would really like you to help us achieve this result. Here is the link;  https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/regua-biodiversity-celebration and add your sighting! Thanks JP for sharing your passion with us all here at REGUA!

Inaturalist

We are preparing ourselves for a Bioblitz week that will take place in mid November 2020. The project entitled ‘REGUA Bioblitz  17-24 November 2020’ is part of the Inaturalist citizen science initiative.  INaturalist is a platform where you can record what you see in nature, meeting other nature lovers and scientists and learning about the natural world around us. You can use it to record your own observationseither uploading your pictures on the website or even using the app. It’s recommendable downloading the app. The platform uses AI (artificial intelligence) for flora and fauna identification in case you need some help.

REGUA Bioblitz 17-24 November 2020 project (© Inaturalist).

Everyone can become a naturalist photographing their subject of interest contributing to scienceAdhering to citizen science allows us to learn and understand about nature
There is also a longterm project called ”REGUA Biodiversity Celebration” that already counts with more than 7.000 observations exhibiting more than 1.700 flora and fauna speciesThis project was conceived by the contribution of many people who posted their photographsincluding past records from previous trips and some others who helped to identify speciesAdding observations help REGUA acknowledge which species are present within its territoryIt’s worth considering the following tips:  

Every picture is relevantYou don’t have to be a brilliant photographer (on the contrary, in some cases the system learns more from low resolution images); 

You don’t have to be a specialist to post observationsYou can upload pictures of ordinaryday to day species. Just inform the system which is the taxonomic group you are referring to; 

When posting an observation within REGUA’s territory, it will be automatically included in the project related to REGUA; 

It’s a good opportunity to learn about the different taxonomic groupsBear in mind there are specialists looking at your observations and that they can help you identify them; 

It’s fun to go through Inaturalist and you will have good memories of REGUA while uploading your pictures.

REGUA Biodiversity Celebration project (©Inaturalist).

 

A special thank you to Jean-Paul Boerekamps, Andrew Wilson and Projetomantis  for their valuable support!

 

 

Tapir Jasmin being released into the wild

TAPIRS ARE RETURNING TO RIO DE JANEIRO FORESTS AFTER 100 YEARS OF EXTINCTION  

Professor Maron Galliez, the project coordinator, trying to remove Jasmin from the puddle (© João Stutz).

Professors Fernando Fernandez, Alexandra Pires, Maron Galliez and Marcelo Rheingantz conceived REFAUNA project with the purpose of reintroducing and managing fauna species which are locally extinct or are suffering some level of threat within their original distribution. Introducing animals into the wild help reestablish the interaction animal-plant and ecological  processes, contributing for the development of a healthy and balanced  ecosystem. The fundamental ecological processes of ecosystems are the water cycle, biogeochemical (or nutrient) cycling, energy flow and community dynamics which support the long-term persistence of biodiversity. Fragmentation and habitat loss have negatively impacted medium and larger forest mammal populations. In large forest fragmentsoverhunting has driven several mammal  species to both significant population reduction and species extinctionThis human interference in forest dynamics has impacted species diversity and abundance resulting in what is known as “defaunation’ in the Anthropocene .                                                                                                             

REFAUNA Tapir reintroduction programme at REGUA started in 2017 and is supported and implemented by Rio de Janeiro Federal University (UFRJ), Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ), Rio de Janeiro Federal Rural University (UFRRJ) and Rio de Janeiro Federal Institute (IFRJ)To date, 11 tapirs (females and males) have been reintroduced within REGUA´s land.

Moody Jasmin not wanting to leave the release pen (© Vitor Marigo).

In August 2020 we had the female tapir Jasmin arriving at REGUA. She came from Guarulhos zoo, in São Paulo, and spent about 3 months on the release pen to get familiarized with the new environment. There were feeding points set up by one of our staff members, Sidnei, who came every day to feed Jasmin. Finally, the release day arrived! It was meant to happen the previous day; however, Jasmin was a bit moody and nervous, so she threw herself into the puddle and didn’t leave the release pen area. Only today we managed to open the gate allowing Jasmin to leave the release pen without hesitation. These next days are very important to keep track of Jasmin. She is being monitored by a tracking collar and she will probably be looking for a place to settle.   

 

Guapiaçu III Water Quality Monitoring Programme in Cachoeiras de Macacu and Itaboraí Municipalities

Macroinvertebrate analysis done by one of the environmental monitors (© Tatiana Horta).

The Water Quality Monitoring Programme is an integral part of Guapiaçu III Environmental Education scheme at Regua. This initiative aims at raising young people’s awareness of water resources, its use and its care indicating the association between forest and water provision. 

The programme targets Cachoeiras de Macacu and Itaborai municipal and state-run school students who are trained to collect and analyse the Guapiaçu, Macacu and Caceribu river waters. Water sampling (physical, chemical and biological elements in the water) takes place at 12 different sites both upstream and downstream urban areas of the referred rivers.  

Covid-19 pandemic outbreak at the beginning of the year forced this programme to be held online with no water sampling trips organized. In October, the project team reinstated the latter following strict guidelines from health agencies including the use of personal protective equipment and working with small groups. The reinstated water sampling trip was carried out at point 7, in Boca do Mato neighbourhood which is located upstream Cachoeiras de Macacu town. Students were able to learn about benthic macroinvertebrates, which are water quality bioindicators.

Water sampling awakens a new approach to water use in young people in addition to being a very different and fun activity. 45 Environmental Monitors in Cachoeiras de Macacu were trained and are now ready to assist Guapiacu III project team in this programme. Guapiacu III project is currently starting the on-line Itaborai municipality school students´s recruiting process.

 

Professor Pericles and students collecting benthic macroinvertebrates (© Tatiana Horta).

Tree monitoring programme

After the tree planting period, the phase known as post-implementation consists of the maintenance of the future forest. It is important to protect planted saplings especially from the negative effects of opportunistic weeds, insects such as the leaf-cutting ants and diseases. When necessary, new seedlings are to be planted replacing seedlings which have not flourished. These measures are taken to offer ideal conditions for the development of the seedlings, as well as to promote their establishment. A successful reforestation programme depends on efficient management and its periodicity. In general, maintenance should take place every 90 or 120 days, counted from the planting day or period. On a long-term period, maintenance contributes for the reestablishment of ecological services.

Field team during monitoring programme (©Aline Damasceno).

 

Ecosystem services provided by a restored area can improve local and regional microclimate, water regulation, stability of slopes, increased quality and quantity of water resources and the reestablishment of biodiversity through the connection of forest fragments.

To verify whether the new forest is developing well and fulfilling its ecological role, it is necessary to monitor and evaluate its growth. We have two monitoring steps: the first one, which follows INEA (Environmental State Agency in Rio de Janeiro) Resolution No. 143 from 2017, that checks the quality of restored areas; and the second one, which evaluates the accumulated biomass and carbon stock in restored areas by ‘Guapiaçu Project’ Petrobras funded project.

Rapid Ecological Diagnosis – DER being applied on restored areas (© Aline Damasceno).

The first stage of monitoring happens annually after the tree planting has taken place. The main purpose is to fulfil commitments and legal obligations following INEA`s resolution. At this stage, the methodology chosen is the Rapid Ecological Diagnosis – DER. The procedure to monitor the restored area’s development is based on the direct measurement of seven ecological parameters, which are: density of the planted area, percentage of zoochoric species, height of plants, equitability of individuals, species richness, canopy and grass cover. While measuring these parameters, the spontaneous arrival of new individuals of plants on the restored area can be verified, some older trees are expected to be flowering or fruiting (especially the pioneer species) and also animals on site should be able to be noticed, such as insects, birds, rodents and small mammals.

Diameter at breast height (DBH) used as a parameter in the application of allometric equations (© Aline Damasceno).

The second monitoring stage is carried out when four years have passed by. The first 100 ha tree planting that took place in the first stage of the Guapiaçu Project between the years of 2013 and 2015 received carbon certification by the Biodiversity Community Climate Alliance (ACCB). This certification provided a quality seal to these reforested areas. Tree planting carried out in the subsequent phases of this project (more 160 hectares) were incorporated into the biomass accumulation monitoring plan, according to the methodology and assumptions certified with the ACCB, and will be able to receive certification after completing four years since implementation.

Biomass monitoring takes place from the fourth year on because it requires the saplings to have their DBH (Diameter at breast height) more developed so that one can use it as a parameter in the application of allometric equations. These equations are used for the analysis of biomass and carbon stock in the plantations, as well as to obtain the values of CO2 sequestered by the new forest. With that, REGUA took the commitment to monitor the biomass accumulation in these plots over the next 30 years. Over this 30 year span, more than 13,500 tons of carbon are expected to be stored and 49,680 tonnes of CO2 equivalent to be removed from the atmosphere.

 

Tapir Eva’s offspring is a male tapir.

This was the last photograph of Eva and her offspring shortly before the accident (© Refauna).

We have had a very sad news recently, the tapir Eva was hit on a dirt road by a motorcyclist, and days later was found dead. Luckily the motorcyclist was not seriously injured. Eva’s eight-month-year-old male offspring has not been hit. We’re setting up reinforced feeding points where Eva often used to visit with her baby, so we’re going to monitor him very closely.
Accidents involving wild animals are a major problem worldwide, it is estimated that 475 million wild animals are run over each year on Brazilian roads. In the case of large animals such as tapirs, these accidents can cause serious trouble. Respecting speed limits and driving carefully on roads near natural areas are ways to avoid these types of accident. Refauna together with Guapiacu III Petrobras funded project and REGUA are providing, with the support of the municipality of Cachoeiras de Macacu, speed reducers and signs for the road near REGUA, to reduce the chance of more accidents.

The eight-month-year-old male tapir (© Refauna).

Eva was the first female tapir to be reintroduced at REGUA. She lived in the wild for almost three years and left two cubs. When she arrived at REGUA, she was very shy and didn’t come too close to people, but after being released, in few months, she didn’t approach anyone any longer, behaving like a wild tapir. She established her territory between REGUA and other rural properties and could be spotted walking with the other reintroduced tapir Valente, the baby tapir’s father. She fully adapted to the wild, as if she had never lived in captivity. We have learnt a lot from the tapir Eva and we are very saddened with her death. It comforts us to know that she had the chance to live a happy life in the wild and that Eva’s reintroduction helped us to gain experience for the reintroduction of other tapirs into the wild. Let’s hope her baby tapir lives a long life in REGUA’s territory.

Tapirs are known for being good swimmers and they can often be seen near the wetlands (© Toca Seabra).

 

Tillandsia stricta

Tillandsia stricta’s bracts and flowers (© Micaela Locke).

Have you ever come across with this charming little bromeliad? Tillandsia stricta is widely spread throughout South America  and in Brazil it occurs from the state of Bahia to Rio Grande do Sul. It is usually an epiphytic organism that can be  found  in forests, rupestrian grasslands and in the caatinga region. It flourishes all year round and its flowering peak  takes place in August.

Tillandsia stricta is considered one of the mostcharacteristic and known species within the genus  Tillandsia L., which includes about 600 species, being the largest genus of the subfamily Tillandsioideae. It’s bright pink to purplish flowers are often mistaken for bracts, a leaf-like colourful structure from which an inflorescence may grow, being able to attract many different pollinators.

Most of tillandsia species have great ornamental value and for that reason they are constantly extracted from their natural environment, putting them at risk of extinction despite their wide geographical distribution. The bromeliaceae family of which the tillandsioideae subfamily is part of is often pollinated by vertebrates rather than insects. Studies undertaken in the Atlantic Forest of Southeastern Brazil have found  that bromeliads form the largest group of ornithophilous plants that are pollinated by hummingbirds. The availability of ornithophilous flowers throughout the year helps keeping hummingbird’s population in the area, thus helping the reproductive success of the plant species involved. 

Eueides isabella dianassa

 

Eueides isabella dianassa individuals around a Passion fruit bush (© Micaela Locke).

This is the Eueides isabella dianassa, belonging to the Nymphalidae family, subfamily Heliconiinae. This species flies all year round, however is often seen on the drier months of winter.
This species has a short life cycle, about 2-3 months and often remains close to the host plant (passion fruit/passifloras) where larvae feed on their leaves. The female is slightly larger than the male and lays isolated eggs on the underside of the leaves. The larvae, known as caterpillars, feed on leaves by scraping the lower surface while they are small.

Male individuals performing an “8” shaped movement around the female (© Micaela Locke).

Eventually when they become larger, they gnaw the edges of the leaves. When they reach the fifth age (after changing ‘skin’ 4 times to continue growing after stretching) instead of changing the skin, they abandon the plant and look for other sheltered places (walls, windows, dry wood or tree trunks) where the pupa or chrysalis is formed, staying another 4 to 6 weeks until the adult butterfly emerges.

On a sunny winter afternoon, mating was recorded. The males performed an “8” shaped movement around the female releasing pheromones. The female, already receptive, had her motionless abdomen waiting for the male. There were 3 males flying around the female, but in this case, the female only chose one to mate.

 

An update on forest restoration at REGUA (August 2020).

Reforestation undertaken at one of REGUA’s partners area (© João Stutz).

 

In spite of the the Covid-19 pandemic, forest restoration is proceeding at REGUA observing all the necessary measures to safeguard the staff´s health. Already 18 hectares have been planted within the “Armenio” land in the vicinity of Matumbo village.

Thirty thousand seedlings of 113 Atlantic Forest different tree species were planted since February this year. Aside this, the maintenance of the 60 hectares planted in 2017-2019 has also been completed and we are now in the process of planting five hectares belonging to REGUA´s partners as part of the Petrobras socio-environmental Guapiaçu III project. Brazilian Forest Code obliges land owners to restore hillsides with slopes over 45º, hill tops, water springs and riparian vegetation alongside rivers and streams. REGUA is making this available for partners who share the same conservation vision within the Guapiaçu watershed.

 

The Guapiaçu III Project inaugurates a ‘virtual trail’ at REGUA

Drone footage of the visitor's centre and wetlands (© Projeto Guapiaçu)
Drone footage of the visitor’s centre and wetlands (© Projeto Guapiaçu)

 

The Environment Week (01/06 to 05/06 2020) began with the viewing of the “Grande Vida” trail from home. The narrated tour begins on the Yellow trail and reaches the wooden bridge in which the viewer is accompanied by the sounds of nature, specially of birds that often can be seen and heard at REGUA’s wetlands. It is possible to select icons such as photos and self-explanatory posters that are present along the trail showing the Atlantic Forest biodiversity, animal tracks, view of the wetlands, forest dynamics and some of the conservation work carried out at REGUA.

Self-explanatory poster on food chain present on the trail (© Micaela Locke).

The idea is quite innovative, even though there are already some virtual visits in National Parks across the country. What makes it different is the fact that it was made in a Private Nature Reserve (RPPN). It is worth mentioning that home office has changed the routine of many professionals worldwide, however this is far from preventing people’s contact with nature. Thus, it is essential to share contents with technological tools, as well as to keep up with digital media trends. The Environment Week was also featured with several live sessions broadcasted on Instagram, covering topics related to other projects financed by Petrobras that are part of Guanabara Bay network. All of these initiatives are a means to bring a little inspiration to those in quarantine respecting social isolation.

You can access the virtual tour 360° by clicking on: https://www.projetoguapiacu.com/

Ecdysis

Shed skin of Yellow Rat Snake <em>Spilotes pullatus</em>, REGUA, 5 April 2020. Note the yellow pigmentation in the skin. (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
Shed skin of Yellow Rat Snake Spilotes pullatus, REGUA, 5 April 2020. Note the yellow pigmentation in the skin. (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
Shed skin of Yellow Rat Snake <em>Spilotes pullatus</em>, REGUA, 5 April 2020 (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
Shed skin of Yellow Rat Snake Spilotes pullatus, REGUA, 5 April 2020 (© Rodrigo Fonseca)

The Yellow Rat Snake Spilotes pullatus, a semi-arboreal species, which feeds on small rodents, amphibians, lizards and even other snakes, is easily found in forests, in open areas such as pastures and trails and can even be seen around human constructions in search of food. Despite being a large snake, reaching up to 3 metres, it’s very agile and not venomous, with yellow and black colors.

Recently, an old skin left after shedding (the process being called ecdysis) was found at the research accomodation, Casa Pesquisa, which in adult individuals occurs on average once a year. This process occurs when the outer layer of the skin, formed by keratin, is replaced by a new one. This exchange takes place when snakes, in general, grow or when the outermost layer is damaged. Ecdysis lasts from 5 to 7 days and during this period the snake becomes more vulnerable to predators as vision is reduced due to fluid accumulation between new and old skin.

Pans

A pair of Blacksmith Tree Frogs <em>Boana faber</em> in a "pan" (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
A pair of Blacksmith Tree Frogs Boana faber in a “pan” (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
Blacksmith Tree Frog <em>Boana faber</em> in a "pan" (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
Blacksmith Tree Frog Boana faber in a “pan” (© Rodrigo Fonseca)

One of the researchers who is carrying on his fieldwork at REGUA, Rodrigo Fonseca, has been studying the perception and colonization of reproductive habitats (puddles, flooded fields, streams, etc.) by anuran amphibians and the elements of the landscape (trees and shrubs) favouring this dynamic.

His study includes night field work, where he samples temporary and stablished puddles also capturing and identifying amphibian individuals. He is a Master’s student from the Post Graduate Programme in Ecology at the Federal University in Rio (UFRJ).

During his activities, he quite often comes across with the Blacksmith Tree Frog Boana faber, a species known to form small nests called “pans” where males vocalize to attract females, which in return will evaluate the nest condition and decide whether to use it or not. If the female chooses it, the male performs the bridal hug, also called amplexus, where together they release gametes into the water forming around 3,000 eggs inside the nest.