Thor Smestad is a Canadian forestry expert of many years experience. He volunteered at REGUA with a brief to try to improve our plant propagation programme. See our first news on Thor’s visit here.
Many Mata Atlantica tree seeds germinate easily and only require to be collected from the forest, placed in a soil-filled sleeves, watered and sheltered from direct sun in the nursery. However, germination rates for some can be poor. For trees from the fig family for example, success may be limited. Perhaps Brazil nuts are the best illustration of this dilemma: fewer than 5% of planted seeds germinate.
The way ahead is to use cuttings of shoots dipped in rooting hormone and placed in soil. In this way, rare plants, not found in fruit, and species with seeds of low viability can be restored to the new forest plantings here at REGUA.
Symbiotic micorrhizal fungi are another issue investigated in Thor’s project. We do not know how central these fungi are to successful forest establishment and vigorous growth. By experimentally including/excluding forest floor debris (which will carry the fungal spores), the impact of micorrhiza may be assessed. Better information improves reafforestation outcomes and so there is understandably a lot of interest in Thor’s work.
There are now over 470 species of birds confirmed at REGUA – more than at any other site in the Atlantic Forest and probably a greater number of species than at any site in Brazil outside of the Amazon region. Here are just a few highlights from recent walks at REGUA. Whilst this is our Autumn, it just shows what a great all-year-round birding destination our wonderful Reserve is.
6th February – a short afternoon walk along the Green Trail
Black-throated Trogon (Trogon rufus)
Rufous-breasted Leaftosser (Sclerurus scansor)
Blue Manakin (Chiroxiphia caudata)
Pin-tailed Manakin (Ilicura militaris)
Eye-ringed Tody-tyrant (Hemitriccus orbitatus)
Yellow-Olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias assimilis)
As we progress the Brazilian Tapir (Tapirus terrestris) re-introduction programme, it is vital that the local communities are aware of the project and understand the value of Tapirs to the diversity of the forest.
Nicholas and Raquel are working with the Team on this vital issue – considering the possibility of the Tapirs advancing into local fields and feasting on manioc, corn and guava!
Brazilian Tapirs have been extinct for the last 100 years in the state of Rio de Janeiro. They can reach 300 kilos and their diet is based on fruits, leaves and shoots, making them very important seed dispersers and soil fertilizers.
It is not only the adults that are involved in this education programme however. Professor Maron Galliez and Joana Macedo recently organized a session with the Young Rangers.
After the Team explained what Tapir are and the reason for their re-introduction, there was a lively audience participation session which the Young Rangers thoroughly enjoyed.
Our Young Ranger project covers many aspects of the REGUA project and the biodiversity of the Atlantic Forest. Sara Colmenares, a Colombian lady undertaking her doctorate degree at REGUA, is studying palm diversity along the altitudinal gradient at REGUA and within the Serra dos Órgãos National Park. Sara recently gave an excellent talk to the Young Rangers about palms and we’d like to say thank you to Sara for a most interesting talk.
The weather at REGUA has been very wet this October but laced with hot sunny days.
The Planting Team are getting ready to plant the area that caught fire earlier in the year. This is an area of degraded grass. It is a good area and the burning actually accelerated the process of clearing the grass as we prepared the land for planting the trees.
The trees waiting in the nursery to be planted out, and we have been gathering seeds and making new seedlings for next year’s planting already.
We aim to start planting in November and will be planting around 25,000 trees in this area.
Last years area of 10,000 trees looks great with strong growth, we have continued to maintain the land by clearing the grass from around the young trees and keeping an eye out for fires and pest damage.
The largest areas REGUA planted in 2013/2015 are also looking fantastic with a Bare-throated Bellbird Procnias nudicollis calling around the trees.
Vital Brasil Institute produces antivenom, for snake, scorpion and spider bites. Guilherme Jones, a young biologist working at the Institute, was invited by REGUA to give a talk on venomous snakes of the Crotalus, Bothrops and Elapidae genera.
REGUA’s Young Rangers were thrilled to have the opportunity to get a close-up view of some live snakes which were carefully and diligently handled by Guilherme.
Funchal school recently organised a Science Day in which the Black-Fronted-Piping Guan (Aburria jacutinga) was the star of the day.
The reintroduction project of this species at REGUA will soon take place and Livia Dias, the biologist in charge of monitoring them was present with her young son, Artur.
With models of the bird and information on the re-introduction process, and the part that these arboreal birds play in the overall biodiversity of the forest, the day was a great success. Both Raquel Locke and Prof. Carlos from REGUA were delighted to attend.
Meeting with local members of the community and especially education in local schools is a vital part of the re-introduction project and also fits well with REGUA’s mission to further environmental education work in the area.
Congratulations to the headmaster, teachers, pupils and staff for this wonderful event.
Elias Faraht school in Cachoeiras Municipality has visited Regua in the previous two years and developed a regular visitation programme. This third seminar was (as previously) drawing on their interest in our restored wetlands. Using them as a base for interdisciplinary studies on hydrology, soil diversity, fauna and tree composition.
The teachers organised the seminar which consisted of students aged 13-15 presenting their work to an audience of parents and school staff.
The Seminar opened with REGUA`s slide presentation and ended with the REGUA GGV Project restoration video.
Special thanks to Professor Denecir, Elias Faraht´s Headmaster and Teachers for the support and recognition given to the project and the wonderful opportunity to promote REGUA´s Conservation and Environmental Education work in the municipality.
Whilst on holiday in the southern Amazon area, I came across a muddy path with these Tapir tracks. The animals move through the forest looking for muddy pools and water holes, making tunnel-like paths. They feed on the lush growth promoted by these wet areas.
As they move around their territory, they defecate, depositing seeds they have consumed. This promotes future plant growth and increased diversity of plant species throughout the forest.
Its exciting to think that we will have these tracks around REGUA in the not too distant future with our re-introduction project.
For more information about the Tapir re-introduction project see our Mammal page.