All posts by Sue Healey

Bromeliad research

Camille in the field (© Nicholas Locke)

Climate change is predicted to increase the intensity of extreme climatic events such as severe droughts.  Little is known on how freshwater ecosystems respond to severe droughts in the neotropics.   Terrestrial organic matter, primarily derived from plant litter, represents an important food resource in these nutrient limited freshwater ecosystems.

The PhD project currently being undertaken by Camille Bonhomme from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) wants to investigate the effects of quantity of terrestrial matter subsidies on the response of the recipient aquatic communities to drought stress.

Camille will use tank bromeliads along with their associated aquatic invertebrates as model ecosystems. Tank bromeliads are neotropical plants. Their interlocking leaves form rosettes that collect rainwater and dead leaves from the overhanging trees, creating an aquatic habitat for various species of invertebrates.  

Bromeliad communities (© Nicholas Locke)

In the field experiment, bromeliads will receive either few or high quantities of leaf litter inputs. After a natural colonisation and equilibration period, the diversity and composition of the aquatic invertebrate community that colonised the bromeliads will be assessed and compared to the quantity of subsidised resources.   The bromeliad micro-ecosystems will then be submitted to a drying and rewetting event, to assess their resistance and resilience.

Camille hopes to show firstly that the variations in leaf litter provision will determine the composition and quality of the colonisation (including number of species, food chain length and overall community composition).

Secondly, that the leaf litter quantity will affect the stability of the community submitted to drought, expecting the higher provision of leaf litter to give greater support, by offering a “buffering” effect to the community. It is hoped to show that leaf litter will provide short term refuges for invertebrates and be more attractive for recolonisation after the drought.

We look forward to seeing the result of Camille’s research.

IUCN Head of Research visits REGUA

Last weekend REGUA received Thomas Brooks, Head of Research at Geneva for IUCN.

In between seeing birds in the day and waiting for the owls to call in the evening, we discussed the importance of monitoring, something talked about at the recent World Land Trust conference in Thetford UK.

Thomas Brook with Nicholas & Raquel (© Norman Cooper)

He also asked us about long term sustainability.    I told Tom that we believe REGUA will continue to grow and reach to tourism, education and research income streams and that we look at the protection core costs such as Ranger work being covered by Eco-service payments.

As there is increasing evidence that forests produce water, we believe that grants will be available in the near future that provide annual fee given to those proprietors who have forest cover.

 

Any Myrmecologists out there?

Ants belong to the Formicidae family, one of the most important in Nature,  pillars of the ecosystem.   Divided into Tribes, the Atta and Acromyrmex  are very common in our Neotropical forests and though we worry about their action in freshly planted forests, they are very important in the established forest harvesting and cultivating their fungus on which they feed in their underground homes.

Ants feeding on young plant shoot (© Nicholas Locke)

Their vast system of perfectly ventilated tunnels and chambers permits precious nitrogen to reach the roots of trees.

We are trying to identify the most common species at REGUA but we expect to have between 400 and 450 different species.   Taking photographs is notoriously difficult, for aside being small, they move and are often camera shy.

If you want a challenge and wish to visit us spending your time helping us to get some images to help with developing a field guide, drop us a line and we would really love your company.

 

Orchid and bromeliad garden

The orchid and bromeliad garden under construction at the lodge (© Sue Healey)

One of the newest projects at REGUA is the creation of an orchid and bromeliad garden at the lodge. This is a small area to the side of the lodge veranda and was the brainchild of Nicholas Locke, REGUA’s President.

Huge rocks were delivered earlier this year and moved into place. There are also some well weathered orchid posts which have proved very effective in the front garden of the lodge so we are hopeful that they will soon house flourishing exotics. Bromeliads are already in place – all found on fallen branches around the reserve.

Over time more plants will be added, including ferns, and will provide an excellent opportunity for lodge guests to easily see plants that are only too often found high in the canopy.

The garden is sited along the north wall of the lodge ensuring that the plants are in a shady environment. Netting has been added to give further protection. House Wren and Masked Water-Tyrant are already using the area to search for food and a Yellow-headed Caracara has found a good look-out post!

Introducing the GGV II Team

GGV II Team (© Raquel Locke)

Introducing the Guapiaçu Grande Vida Team for their second project at REGUA.  Following the successful reforestation of 100 hectares of cattle pasture along the edge of the River Guapiaçu in 2013-15, the second project is now underway.

This time a 60 hectare plot is being planted, on steep and highly eroded land along the road on the way to our Waldenoor Trail.

From left to right, they are:
Patrick, Environmental Education Officer
Carol, Financial Administration Officer
Nathalie, Social Media Officer
Aline, Forest Restoration Officer
Tatiana, Environmental Education co-ordinator
Gabriela, GGV project co-ordinator
Lorena, Geographic Information Systems Officer
Carlos, Environmental Education Officer

Bare-throated Bellbird

Ever wonder what the loudest bird on Earth is?  The outrageous Bare-throated Bellbird (Procnias nudicollis) is certainly a top contender!    While hiking up the Green Trail here at REGUA, singing males can be heard from over a kilometre away.

The call each male belts from his featherless blue-skinned throat sounds like a mallet striking an iron pipe, and echoes down the valley in rhythmic series.    As we climb higher up the mountain trail, the boinks and bonks of competing males get louder and louder, but we can often only catch glimpses of them perched high in treetops.

Today, volunteer bird guide Bobby found our lucky visitor group, front row seats to an ear-splitting performance by a young male singing close beneath the canopy.   Bare-throated Bellbirds are endemic to the Atlantic Forest, found nowhere else on Earth.  These large, fruit-loving passerines perform crucial seed dispersing services for many lowland and montane trees. Unfortunately, drastic logging of the Atlantic Forest for development, combined with illegal poaching for the caged-bird trade, has led to declining populations of this spectacular species and a Vulnerable designation by IUCN.    But thanks to REGUA, the forest home of these contending males along the Green Trail is safe into the future.    And they can return the favor by dispersing their favorite fruit trees throughout the reserve, helping the forest to grow!

Kaitlin,
Volunteer bird guide.

Silvery-flanked Antwren nest-building

As I was patrolling the Brown Trail today, I noticed a pair of Silvery-flanked Antwrens (Myrmotherula luctosa) gathering dry leaves and taking them into the branches of a small tree. I carefully followed their lead and discovered a little cup nest taking shape! In order to avoid disturbing their work with my observation, I set up my camera on a tripod and left.

This short highlights reel reveals that male and female team up to weave a safe place for raising a family.

Enjoy!

Kaitlin Murphy
Volunteer Bird Guide

If you would like to volunteer at REGUA, see our Volunteer page for more details

Latest news from Kaitlin and Bobby

Kaitlin and Bobby are currently volunteering at REGUA.   Their main project is to help Adilei and Cirilo show the wonderful bird- and wild-life to visitors, but they still find time to do some exploring . . .

“Today Bobby and I were asked to survey a potential trail that winds through an area reforested in 2011-12 with the help of Petrobras.    We were amazed to see such a dramatic amount of growth for such a short amount of time, as well as the diversity of tree species used to jumpstart this section of forest which was once open pasture.    Most of the trees were well above our heads!

Bobby with the trees! (© Kaitlin Murphy)

It was a hot and sunny day, which can effect bird activity, but we still managed to count over 40 bird species using the area already!   It will be exciting to see how species composition changes as the forest progresses. 

Kaitlin, volunteer bird guide”

If you’re interested in volunteering at REGUA check out our Volunteer page 

1st RPPN Seminar held at REGUA

On August 24th, Regua hosted the Inaugural  RPPN(*) or “Reserva Particular do Patrimônio Natural” Scientific Seminar in Rio de Janeiro state.

The REGUA Seminar Team (© REGUA)

INEA – Rio de Janeiro State Environmental Agency – encourages land owners to create their own private reserves  which are officially recognized by the state government.   RPPN status allows no direct use of the land but allows activities such as environmental education, sustainable tourism and scientific research to be carried out.    Much of REGUA’s land has been granted RPPN status and three new areas were finalised last August.

There were over 100 participants attending the event that started in the morning and continued until the evening.

Studies on forest ecology, flora and fauna inventories were presented to a very interested audience.

Land owners, university professors, undergraduates, post graduates, state and municipal authorities enjoyed this seminar which enriched everyone´s knowledge on the Atlantic Forest.

Tom Locke

Fieldwork training (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

 

*The nearest English translation would be Private Natural Heritage Reserve