All posts by Nicholas Locke

Volunteer Thor plants his first Brazilian Tree

REGUA Volunteer Thor Smestad hails from British Columbia, Canada.   He came to Brazil to fulfill a dream, to plant trees in Brazil.

Thor Smestad Planting his first Brazilian Tree (© Nicholas Locke)

With a diploma in Forestry Technology and a degree in Forest Resources Management  Thor brings a new approach to our propagation model.    As he is a specialist in propagation from from cuttings he started by taking cuttings from four Brazilian species to test how successful they are in rooting.    This would be a major breakthrough in reducing reforestation costs and his cuttings placed in buckets with small air pumps lay in tubs of water waiting to root.    Thor has seen the re-forested areas and the latest areas planted and is amazed at the scale in which REGUA is working.    He has offered some valuable contributions in improving the quality of planting.   We were able to reward Thor by planting two very special seedlings of  “Guarajuba”, (Terminalia acuminate) donated by the botanist Pablo Prieto.

We had heard about these endangered trees from Pablo, a senior researcher at the Botanical Gardens in Rio de Janeiro.   He is involved in compiling the Red data list of plants of the Atlantic Rainforest.   There are six individual Guarajuba trees in the Botanical Gardens of Rio but when botanists started searching in the forests around Rio city and in the best remaining tracts of forest, none could be found.   It was thought that the species had been lost in the wild.

Guarajuba wood was well known for its high quality timber which was used to for buildings and boats.  Being valuable led to trees being cut down in huge numbers.

Volunteer Thor plants a Guarajuba Tree (Terminalia acuminata) (© Nicholas Locke)

However upon researching the Tijuca forest last year, botanists came across 28 examples of this very species.   They had probably been planted in 1861-1874 when Major Archer spearheaded the reforestation of the degraded hill under Christ the Redeemer as its water sources had dried up.    Pablo found some seeds under this tree and germinated them at home.   He generously brought two examples for us to plant at front of REGUA.

This is just terrific and short of opening a bottle of champagne to celebrate we are overjoyed that Thor could plant both the trees for us and hope that in a few years we shall also have seeds to plant elsewhere.

Bromeliad Research

University student Juliana Leal is conducting a new experiment as part of her doctorate on bromeliads here at REGUA.

DSC00170
Juliana Leal

One thinks an epiphyte absorbs nutrients from their host but far from it, the roots of the bromeliads merely fix the plant to the branches, rocks or soil on which it lives.   Leaves of bromeliads are fixed at their base in a circular arrangement that trap rainwater and any material falling from above on which algae thrive.    Incoming sunlight powers the ecosystem, and aquatic organisms feed on algae in the bromeliad’s small pools, but ecologists are intrigued as to what is more important; the algae or the dead organic material falling into the watery habitat?    What maintains the flow of energy in an aquatic ecosystem, algae or the incoming organic material?

Juliana has set up a field of identical bromeliads at REGUA with different sunlight filters that allow varying levels of sunlight to reach the plant.   As algae numbers increase with sunlight she can vary the sunlight and measure the number of invertebrates feeding on algae to build a correlation.    But is there a minimal shade necessary?    We shall have the answers soon.

 

Collared Peccary skull found

Raquel went seed collecting recently with Barata and Mauricio as we are always on the lookout for seeds to plant in the REGUA nursery.

January is a good month to collect seeds and many species were laying on the forest floor.   High on the Orange trail, Barata suddenly came across a small den and upon closer inspection found the extraordinary remains of a Collared Peccary, Tayassu tajuco.

These are mainly fruit eaters and have been regularly caught on camera traps in large groups foraging for food amongst the vegetation.

It is quite a common species found across the Americas but the sight of the huge skull with its large canines is still most impressive.   Barata had never seen one before and Raquel has a good example to captivate our visitors’ attention.

Nicholas Locke

400,000th tree planted!

REGUA planted its 400,000 tree on November 23rd 2016.   The tree species to get this wonderful accolade is  “Angelim de morcego”,  Andira anthelmia.

Raquel with REGUA’s 400,000th Tree (© Nicholas Locke)

One of Raquel’s favourite trees, the planting was made possible by the World Land Trust UK as part of its “Plant a tree” fund, and with the land donated to REGUA by the Danish Travel Fund this was truly a team success.   This particular piece of land is very important as it faces the High Matumbo community and strengthens the barrier of the forest.

This marks a very important point in history for us all and we can only hope that we can, with your support continue to plant trees and reach a million!

90% of REGUA’s trees come from its plant nursery and the entire process of restoration involves local community members and is admired by local residents.

Thank you again – this just proves what can be done when we work together and there is the will to succeed.

Nicholas Locke

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Micaela, Nicholas, Sue, Adilei, Rachel, Alcenir, Lee, Raquel & Tom in the Lodge garden July 2016 (© REGUA)

In spite of scandals of corruption and the scares of Zika, Brazil is working hard to improve it’s image and the Olympics and Paralympics showed the world that Brazil has much to offer the world community.

Conservation of the world’s natural heritage is a concern that involves us all and REGUA is an example of dedication and care for our corner of Brazil.

Results from 2016 show that with the support from our UK team, our staff on the ground and our many supporters worldwide, we can and have made a huge difference. Forests are growing where seedlings were planted and children are learning about the importance of conservation from their visits to REGUA. Researchers reveal Atlantic Forest secrets and our rangers ensure that REGUA’s forests are respected.

Our visitors continue to leave impressed with all that they see, and into this mini Eden, tapirs will be released next year, engaging more people and promoting our efforts. None of this would be possible without your support and therefore Raquel and I on behalf of REGUA’s team, dedicate this Christmas to you all!

Help us to keep up the good work and we will show you the changes that make REGUA a very special place.

Tree Planting begins!

Planting has resumed at REGUA for the 2016 season, we have started just before our summer rains in a grassland area in a property supported by the Danish Travel Fund.

Planting begins (© Nicholas Locke)

Although REGUA had only a World Land Trust grant to plant 5000 trees we decided to take action and plant a much larger area as a result of a grassland fire a month ago.    The scorched grass gave us a head start in preparing the planting of our trees.   REGUA had close to 80 native tree species ready to plant and then purchased a further 20 species from local INEA nursery to add to the tree diversity.

Extra hands were found in the local community and equipped with one petrol driven digger we have already planted half the area.   A road was also made to acccess the higher areas.    Tomorrow Famath University workshop students have requested the opportunity to plant 300 trees a offer we accepted with pleasure.

Replanting trees needs every ounce of help!

P.S since this article the sun has come out and the rains have stopped so our planting is on hold for a few days until the next rains come.

Great success for Miguel

Miguel Ferreira de Conceição is a young lad from the local community of Matumbo who has a passion for nature.

He comes from a humble background and is now 21 years old, but since joining the Young Ranger programme seven years ago, he found his desire for the future – wanting to work in tourism.

Professor Carlos with Miguel
Professor Carlos with Miguel (© Nicholas Locke)

REGUA’s resident teacher Professor Carlos has always been supportive and encouraged him, and a month ago Miguel participated in a test that offered opportunities for a professional “Park visitor guide” course organized by the State Government Institute (INEA).

We were all thrilled that of the 50 applicants, Miguel took third place; a testimony to the value and contribution of REGUA’s Young Ranger programme.

Miguel has started the course and is rightly proud of his achievements.   It is rewarding and very satisfying for us to see direct life-changing benefits that can reach deep into other people lives.

Miguel loves dragonflies and as a reward we presented REGUA publication  A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos so Miguel can brush up his knowledge of these special creatures and guide future guests wanting to see them.

World Land Trust – Forests of the Future Fund

The forests at REGUA are growing! The area known to friends as the Protestant land in the Matumbo Gap was an area of pasture that REGUA had long wanted to reforest.   It represented a corridor that could link precious areas to the main REGUA block of forest.

The Planting Team with Raquel Locke, REGUA's Vice President and Sue Healey UK Volunteer.
The Planting Team with Raquel Locke, REGUA’s Vice President and Sue Healey UK Volunteer. (© REGUA)

The World Land Trust had helped us acquire the land in 2014 but the thick mat of imperata or brachiaria grasses was not permitting trees to germinate and gain a foothold. The answer lay in an assisted planting scheme.

The World land Trust helped us again with a grant “Forests of the Future Fund” and Seotaiji the great South Korean singer helped us with the necessary funds to enable the planting of 10,000 REGUA nursery native trees.  Only a year later the results show for themselves.

We have taken many guests and specialists who have been bowled over with the rapid growth of the trees showing that the trees are anxious to form a forest once again. The weather was kind to us after an initial drought and since we have been looking very well after the forests. I wish all forests could grow so quickly!

One year on
One year on (© Sue Healey)

We are now preparing another area for the World Land Trust  “Forests of the Future” programme, but thank you World Land Trust and Seotaiji so much for this important support.

Young Ranger Programme

REGUA’s Young Rangers programme has been very successful this year with a huge participation by local adolescents.

REGUA’S teacher, locally known as ‘Professor Carlos’ has divided the entire group of 30 children into two age groups helping to keep them focused on the subjects he believes important.

Young Rangers
Young Rangers (© Gustavo Pedro)

This year marked its 11th anniversary and the results could not be more positive.

The aim of the programme is to remind the children that not only do they live in a precious environment but they are responsible for its care. The weekly visits to REGUA provide opportunities for lessons in the environment, social development punctuated with walks and visits, activities in the local community, lectures by resident researchers and excursions. The Young Rangers love it and every year increasingly more children want to join the programme.

Sharpbill at the wetland

One very desirable bird found in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest is Sharpbill Oxyrincus cristatus. This enigmatic bird with its distinctive orange eye is never easy to find and many of REGUA’s visitors wish to see it during their visit.

It has a wide distribution and is not uncommon, with a call resembling the sound of a falling bomb without the explosion at the end. It appears to be more concentrated in areas of mature secondary or primary Atlantic Forest where it is often found high in the canopies searching for fruit.

Sharpbill
Sharpbill (© Gustavo Pedro de Paula)

Imagine Gustavo Pedro de Paula’s surprise as he spotted the bird feeding low down on Trema micrantha fruit by the REGUA wetlands recently. Gustavo took several photos and suggested that the presence of this species denoted the maturity of the forests by the wetlands, a real sign of the success of our reforestation project. Gradually the more common open ground species are being displaced as the trees around are growing and maturing.

Upon closer examination of the image one could think that the bird was inspecting some chrysalides left by a butterfly. Some tasty morsels so to speak! In any case we extend a big thank you to Gustavo for sharing the image with us.