The delegates were conservationists engaged in projects in their home country and were selected to share in this professional course where the main objective lies in meeting other like-minded leaders and share in a common theme. This results in inspiration, fortitude, persistence and networking with the programme’s central theme being the conservation of the environment, be it species or habitat.
Stuart Paterson and Christina Imrich organized the event flawlessly and the 19 participants from varied countries across the world enjoyed a most productive time at REGUA. Aside from the classroom and field work over the week at REGUA, the group participated in field trips that included the Mangroves close by and of course the city of Rio de Janeiro.
The young leaders embody the standards that the CLP leaders wish and return to their host countries invigorated and keen on their own personal projects.
This is brilliant for us at REGUA for we get a chance to show what we do and likewise get a personal boost from meeting these talented individuals.
The Guapiaçu Grande Vida (GGV II) Petrobras funded forest restoration and environmental education project has now come to the end, after two more productive years at REGUA. Here is a summary of the main achievements:
Forest restoration: In the GGV II area, 60 hectares of degraded areas were replanted between 2017-2019, with 120,000 native trees of 181 different Atlantic Forest species. Together with the 100 hectares planted with 180,000 trees by the GGV I project between 2013-2015, a total of 160 hectares have now been reforested with 300,000 saplings grown in our nursery from seeds collected on the reserve. Replanting these areas has created forest corridors between the remaining forest fragments, that are vital if biodiversity is to thrive and recover.
As part of the restoration scheme, growth and biomass counts in the previously planted GGV I area and the GGV II area were established. The GGV I area was monitored, concentrating efforts on weeding, leaf-cutter ant control, tree replanting and fertilizer soil enrichment. Monitoring across the whole 160 hectares planted provided the base on which to evaluate the effectiveness of the restoration and allowed for carbon sequestration analysis of the GGV I area after four years since it was planted. REGUA’s rangers, as well as both agriculturalists and land owners (totalling 32 participants), were trained to implement forest restoration methodology.
Environmental education: As part of the environmental education strategy, a water quality monitoring protocol was implemented in the Guapi-Macacu watershed. 52 Cachoeiras de Macacu secondary school students were selected and trained to collect 300 water samples at four different sites along the Guapiaçú, Macacu and Boa Vista rivers (upstream and downstream of villages and towns). In addition, a very instructive publication, Methodology and Water Quality Monitoring Results, was produced.
School visitation programme: This programme aimed at strengthening visitation to the new Grande Vida educational trail. The first 400 metres of the trail have been adapted to host the physically handicapped visitors.
The GGV school visitation programme funded children’s transport to REGUA and the Sharing Nature environmental education approach was implemented for students (primary and secondary school levels) to experience proximity to nature. Over 4000 students visited REGUA between 2017-2019. The GGV team held two teacher training courses, which allowed teachers to make the best educational use of the Grande Vida trail. A trail guiding course was also organized for 22 participants which enabled them to acquire knowledge on Cachoeiras de Macacu’s sustainable use of its natural beauties.
At the end of December 2019 the Petrobras Socio-Environmental Program grant was finally signed, and in January 2020, the GGV project, now renamed the Guapiaçú Project, started its activities. We have another two very busy years ahead of us (2020-2022), continuing the forest restoration within the upper Guapiaçú watershed, and developing the environmental education activities within Cachoeiras de Macacu and the neighbouring Itaborai municipalities.
Yet another year has passed and Raquel and I, on behalf of everyone at the REGUA project, would like to share this update that is just full to the brim of encouraging news.
The mission statement of the project is the conservation of the Guapiaçu watershed achieved through the implementation of four principle programmes; protection; restoration; education and research.
Land Purchase is a visceral part of REGUA’s protection programme and in 2019 REGUA purchased or (at the time of writing) is in the process of finalising the purchase of various parcels of land to integrate into the Reserve of 338.5 hectares/846.25 acres. This would not be possible without the continued generosity of our supporters.
REGUA employs 10 rangers from the local community and their work consists of principally patrolling the forests along 45km of the reserve’s trail network. The aim of the patrolling is to show REGUA presence and discourage hunting. Coming from the local community the rangers are able to share news and discuss any concerns which enables them to be part of the decisions made and work done here. Sponsorship supports some of our rangers enabling us to increase our team as land purchase increases the size of the reserve.
REGUA continues to reforest as part of its programme in habitat restoration. The project has now planted over 520,000 trees since 2005. Tree planting is not an easy task, but with support from many individuals, and grants from companies and supportive conservation organisations, REGUA has planted tough areas and results are heart-warming. Increasing the overall forest cover, reducing edge effect, and creating and strengthening forest corridors, which offer greater areas for biodiversity, are vital.
Our education programme thrives with the out-reach programme to local schools meeting over 2,270 children. We have 19 enthusiastic young people in our young ranger programme and have met just under 200 school teachers and received 80 tutors on our teacher courses. All of which continues to spread our message of conservation and the value of the wonderful landscape and biodiversity in to the local communities.
Over 2,000 individuals have participated in training courses and research work at REGUA and our reputation with major universities continues to grow.
The results have led to protocols in tree monitoring established by the RJ Government; on-going experimental plots; long term monitoring plots to measure tree growth; carbon sequestration studies; seed exchange and hosting technical workshops at REGUA as well invitation to participate in seminars and congresses.
Our protection and increased continuous forest, made REGUA a suitable project to launch the tapir reintroduction programme, a fact which we feel is an clear endorsement of the work we are doing. The reintroduction project is run by the Rio de Janeiro University. REGUA currently has nine tapirs roaming in the nearby local forests. This attracts public attention and reflects the value of a safe nature reserve. Sadly things are not always straightforward and two casualties showed that bats, anaemia and infections are to be reckoned with.
Tourism at REGUA has continued to increase as a result of its reputation spread by word of mouth, internet and social media promotion, report writing and reviews. The Lodge offers comfortable accommodation, and guiding helps to make for a pleasurable and productive time. The bird life continues to attract visitors and groups from around the globe, but similarly dragonfly, butterfly and amphibian groups are visiting. Rio is an international hub and makes the REGUA an easy place to visit being just under two hours from the airport with a remarkably preserved habitat.
Our plans for the future are clear, we have to keep developing and promoting our work independently. REGUA wishes to expand and consolidate through land purchase and complementary programmes. Tourism continues to be an essential component of REGUA’s fund-raising.
The conservation principles and ethos has attracted political interest and with the aim of securing water resources, the Government has declared the Guapiaçu watershed as strategically important for conservation.
Brazil continues to be a key area for global conservation, but it’s not an easy country to work in. Located in a global “hotspot”, the Atlantic rainforest biome, located in an “Important Bird Area” (IBA) as defined by Birdlife International, REGUA is an “Outpost of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve”.
Perhaps REGUA is not pristine habitat nor is it the home to some of the more charismatic species instantly recognised by the general public, but our main contribution is that we are repairing and organising damaged ecosystems. REGUA is showing that this different approach, will one day be vital for repairing tropical forests around the globe.
Three RPPNs areas have been constituted and two more are waiting to be approved, taking us up to second position in the State list of protected private areas. Our conservation efforts are being recognised and they are a source of inspiration to people visiting anxious to see what the fuss is all about!
This year REGUA was able to put more land into protection, plant more trees, publish more science and receive more visitors. As a result we are influencing public politics as to the regional importance of this Guapiaçu watershed and encouraging others to follow us.
We could not be prouder of our efforts. We would like to wish everyone a very Happy Xmas and a wonderful New year.
Here’s to a great year ahead – and hoping for more great sightings like the King Vulture photographed by Marco Wood-Bonelli in September 2019!
REGUA is delighted to offer its premises to a number of Universities in Rio de Janeiro.
The most recent group, Zoology 2019, arrived from Rio de Janeiro Federal University. These students, starting their first term, have come to REGUA for their four day field course.
REGUA offers full board accommodation and the Reserve gains a chance to receive these young minds and an opportunity to explain the purposes of the project. The students gain a safe place to be introduced to the world of science.
A perfect match and we trust these youngsters will take their skills and remember their time here and contribute to conservation in some way in their professional lives in the future.
Our efforts in tree planting often seem staggering, but such is our ambition at REGUA. We see degraded land as a burden to the planet and certain of our argument – that there is no way to justify the destruction of tropical forests or even search for their sustainable use. Why? We do not know how they work as an ecosystem and it erases just too many life forms that depended on it. That cannot be responsibility!! Forests and the species that depend on it around the globe are suffering and at REGUA, we are trying to grow them back. Not so easy!!
We are so fortunate to have friends, trustees, professors, students, volunteers, staff, community members and children that also share this view. They all want to help us help us understand how it works and help us to restore the areas devoid of forest.
This hard work provides opportunities in labour for the local community but more importantly, they gain pride in creating a more beautiful place. Responsibility is shared and though there may be a minimum that see disrespect for the hard work their ancestors put into harnessing land, today their grandchildren understand that forests teem with life, biodiversity and of course, produce water.
We have just capped half a million trees planted and we are very proud of our story.
We are especially proud of our ground team who made it possible!
Our young ranger project, now in its 13th year, continues to flourish under the ever-present influence of Prof. Carlos. From nearby schools, the youngsters are collected once a week and brought to the reserve.
These young people are given the opportunity to experience life in the forest with walks and activities which bring them into a new environment. Although the majority of the subjects raised are based on environmental and conservation issues, this can follow a very wide area of experiences as they are made aware of the human responsibility and duty as a citizen, to nature and their community as they grown up.
Indoor lessons on various topics including the biodiversity of the Mata Atlântica, how forests help provide clean water and the importance of recycling. Walks around the wetland area, enable practical activities, such as water quality testing, clearing the paths of fallen branches and repainting the distance markers to be carried out. Sometimes they help in the tree nursery or plant out saplings. These practical activities ensure that these young people become engaged with the forest and feel comfortable there.
Researchers visiting REGUA are happy to discuss their projects – with snakes and bats being the two most popular talks so far. The children are also involved in the education programme supporting the introduction of Lowland Tapir on the reserve. This has encompassed our local communities and reinforces the importance of improving and protecting the Guapiaçu Valley.
With so many orchid species to be found in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest, REGUA is building an Orchid House. This has been made possible with the generous support of the San Diego Orchid Society and Peter Tobias. Our aim is to show visitors some of nature’s best treasures.
There are over 1,000 orchid species to be found in the Serra dos Órgãos region, a reflection of privileged growing conditions, such as the cloud forest along its mountain ridgeline.
Orchids range in size, colour and perfume with the majority being arboreal but there are terrestrial species as well. David Miller and Helmut Seehawer were the first to look closely at orchids of this region and between them wrote the definitive book on the species found here. Sadly orchids are commonly known as “parasites” for people associate their living style as totally dependent on hosts for their survival. The REGUA orchid Cathedral is a miniature shaded garden which will feature examples of the many native orchids and give us the opportunity to explain their secrets to REGUA’s visitors. It will allow us to show visitors that orchids are very important and part of the ecosystem and indicate the forests are in a good state of health and biodiversity.
Once the Orchid Cathedral is complete, we shall invite Rio’s Orchid Society to help us in the fun part, that of arranging the specimens to make most of their beauty. We hope our visitors will leave understanding more about these highly evolved plants which are epiphytic and not parasitic, and appreciate that they are the jewels of the forests.
For more information on the book Serra does Órgãos: Its History and its Orchids, follow this link.
Having children visit is what keeps REGUA going, for they are the ones that one day will inherit the responsibility of caring for this World.
The Rio de Janeiro Miraflores bilingual school made their 7thannual visit this year, expressing their keenness to learn about Nature and helping to plant native trees.
Miraflores’ School’s director Luiz makes sure that this event is given the right importance for he sees in this excursion, an activity that awakens the pupils to environmental responsibility. This year REGUA received 65 children between the age of 6 and 7, divided them into smaller groups to walk them around the reserve showing flora and fauna, from insects to reptiles and mammals to the trees growing. Being a bilingual school they demand the talking in English enjoyed by all. They visit the nursery, fill the individual plant bags, plant seeds and transfer seedlings to understand what is involved in the entire process to start a forest.
Their walk shows that forests can be started and provide habitat for a multitude of species. They feel responsible and connected, and learn that restoration is only about effort.
The school has been visiting annually since 2011 and I always remind them that they are the reason why we want to continue planting trees. It is a true privilege too offers these children the opportunity of sharing this unique experience here at REGUA.
Thank you Luiz for providing the opportunity to share our work with you; your staff and your children.
Gabriela Viana is a dedicated conservationist who has helped project REGUA with her knowledge, experience and dedication. Gabriela lives in the municipality of Cachoeiras de Macacu just 15 miles away from REGUA, and her professional life led her to work at the Golden Lion Tamarin project, ITPA and IBIO, all successful conservation organizations in Rio de Janeiro State.
Gabriela helped REGUA develop its Agenda 21 action plan in 2005, and she always wanted to work and further conservation efforts in this municipality. When Petrobras signalled its interest to fund a project, Gabriella came to our rescue and helped write a proposal, but after two unsuccessful attempts we were less keen to submit a third.
With much insistence Gabriela then suggested we focus our expertise on compounding our education and reforestation programmes, and she prepared a project based on those two lines. We were ecstatic that out of 600 projects submitted, REGUA was approved and the overall results were considered excellent by Petrobras, leading to an invitation to submit a sequel last year.
REGUA then introduced an important component along with education and restoration; that of monitoring water quality engaging local school children. Not only was this perceived as important by Petrobras, but it sparked off a huge awareness by the local population of the importance of water quality for its towns. This led to a photographic competition that resulted in further promotion of the project.
Gabriela is the personification of dedication, quality and perseverance and she was recently head-hunted by WWF to direct their “threatened” species programme. Gabriela helped put REGUA on the map and believed in the capability of her team. She taught us quality and style in the quest for project results that have shaped REGUA into a major player in the local Conservation world of Rio de Janeiro.
A big thank-you Gabriela for the time you have dedicated to REGUA.
Ants belong to the Formicidae family, one of the most important in Nature, pillars of the ecosystem. Divided into Tribes, the Attaand 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.
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.