Category Archives: Reforestation

2019 Update

Dear Friends and Supporters of REGUA 

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 Guapiaçu Valley (© REGUA)

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.

Our Reforestation Team (© REGUA)

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.

Taking our education programme to local communities (© REGUA)

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.

Lowland Tapir reintroduction (© REGUA)

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. 

Restoration in action (© REGUA)

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.

King Vulture photographed by Marco Wood-Bonelli

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!


Nicholas, Raquel, Thomas and the REGUA Team 


REGUA’s 4th and 5th RPPN areas go ahead

We are very pleased to announce that the formal documents including Geo-referenced maps have been handed to the INEA (RJ State Institute of the Environment) for validation.

The papers were presented as part of the process to guarantee the long term protection for REGUA’s forests and biodiversity.

RRPN 5 comprises 97 hectares of the lower slopes of the Serra do Mar mountains (© N Locke)

REGUA already has three RPPN’s areas totalling 367 hectares and these two extra reserve parcels will more than double the area under this permanent protection. Short of giving the land to make a National Park, Private Reserve (RPPN) status is the best tool for long term conservation, and offers donors the possibility of acquiring land and guaranteeing its permanent protection.

Under full protection status, only activities in research, tourism and education are permitted. The effect in planning and transparency raises REGUA’s profile and the ambition to become the largest RPPN owner in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

One of the conditions to create RPPN is that the property is fully forested, and REGUA’s reforestation programme is currently completing two projects that will enable REGUA to become the second largest RPPN owner in the state by next year. 

INEA geographer Evelyn de Castro is conferring GPS location

Restoration is the way forward!

One of our UK supporters recently sent me a link that brought attention to this article produced on the Nature Research organisation website. The paper was written by four British experts who, in their view, state that carbon storage can only be long term effectively reached through planting native forests of mixed species.

They studied the results of the BONN challenge (IUCN and German Government), planting  20 million trees to combat climate change, and noted that efforts have been concentrated in three core activities; single species timber forestry, area abandonment and agroforestry. Their conclusion is that the net effect of these actions is not the same as planting forests of mixed species. The authors conclude existing forest protection, ecoservice payments and investments in natural forest restoration for biodiversity are the only long term solutions to store carbon effectively and combat climate change.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01776-5

Our friend Robin Chazdon (who has visited REGUA a couple of times) and other eminent experts recently published a paper on the same website, titled “Forests, when natural regeneration is unrealistic” in response to this article and their view that single species forestry and agroforestry cannot be dismissed as a means to reach to meet the global temperature reduction targets. They call for innovative practices and policies to reach to long term solutions and draw attention to the socio-economic demands and benefits, that old interface of community and our natural world.

https//www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01026-8

The REGUA team restoring hillsides

This is yet more evidence, to encourage us to continue in our goal to protect, regenerate and restore the forests in our part of the Atlantic forest and to work with local communities, encouraging others to join in this vital project.



Canopy hide gets new ladder!

Those who remember our first canopy hide with its wooden ladder, erected in 2005, will be delighted to know that the ladder has been replaced with a metal spiral staircase enabling a much easier ascent.

Looking at the earlier image below, one sees how the view around the hide has changed. In 2005 the hide was placed in cattle pasture. We then planted trees to link this area with our surrounding forest and now the tower situated with and below some of the nearby tree canopies. Our linked forests now tower over the wetlands.

2019 (© REGUA)
2005 (© REGUA)

Giving and excellent overview of the wetlands, this low altitude tower permits birders the chance to peer into the world of crakes and herons.

There are two slightly higher altitude towers for forest species and a great bird hide at the water level edge of the wetlands for you to enjoy at REGUA.   

World Land Trust Ambassador Visits REGUA

We are always so pleased to share our work with interested parties and Patrick Sherriff’s lightening visit was no different.  

Patrick lives in Hong Kong, and is World Land Trust (WLT) ambassador to the Far East. Due to start a tour of the Andean countries, he took time to visit REGUA to see the hard work we are engaged in.

Patrick Sherriff at the Matumbo Gap (© Nicholas Locke)

Patrick arrived on a boiling hot day and we started his visit at the Matumbo Gap, a series of properties acquired over several years with WLT support. The area Patrick is standing on is being funded by Petrobras (the well known Brazilian petroleum company). The first hillside behind him is the area funded by WLT and the reforested area behind Patricks hat was funded by Brazilian SOS Mata Atlantica.

A real funding fruit salad and an excellent example of people and organisations coming together in partnership to achieve great success. This co-operation has enabled us to protect and begin the restoration of this vital landscape. The forest corridor being created across the “Matumbo Gap” of land which is starting to connect REGUA land to a previously fragmented area of forest.

As Patrick said “I’m glad I made the effort to visit you. Inspirational meeting real people making a real change through commitment and dedication. It was terrific to see first-hand the reforestation. Backbreaking work especially on some of those slopes. Your whole team needs to be congratulated! To see the growth of the reforestation over the years since replanting was also an eye-opener.”

Thanks Patrick, your appreciation is our encouragement!
        

Tree planting continues at REGUA!

Using traditional methods – Fransisco and his mule (© Nicholas Locke)

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. 

Miguel proving that working on steep slopes is possible! (© Nicholas Locke)

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 latest land purchase!

REGUA is very pleased to announce that SavingSpecies, a United States based organisation, helped REGUA to acquire an essential parcel of land to allow us to create a biodiversity corridor. This six hectare plot, located close to REGUA, was essential to connect the 2,500 hectare forested Vecchi ridgeline to the 200 hectare Onofre Cunha land already owned and protected by REGUA.

Mapping by Lorena Asevedo

Onofre Cunha will now be connected to the main reserve of 6,700 hectare of REGUA. One can see the strategic importance of this small sliver of land on the map. In a short time we will begin to create a forested corridor allowing birds and animals to move through and beyond.

SavingSpecies is an environmental organization that looks primarily at building biodiversity corridors as seen with the successful Golden Lion Tamarin project. There, increasing access for these emblematic primates has allowed them to colonise ever greater areas in Silva Jardim, less than 60km away from REGUA.

This new purchase, in a mixed landscape with farmland and fragmented forests, the linking of these remnants is really the only hope for gene pools of stranded biodiversity to move around.

We are incredibly grateful to Brian and Liz who instantly shared our belief that where there is a will there is a way!

Thank you to SavingSpecies, Stuart, Clinton, Erin and all. You show that there is hope and that it is possible to change the world we live in.

Never lose the faith!!

A view of Grassland which will be forest very soon! (© Nicholas Locke)

What a difference a year makes!

It’s amazing how things can change in a year.   It’s just over a year since I was last at REGUA, and so much has happened.

Most noticeable to the lodge visitor is the tapir release project where  five Lowland or Brazilian Tapir (Tapirus Terrestris) have been released at the nearby wetlands, they often make the short trip up to the lodge garden.   It is surreal to see guests at night photographing moths at the moth wall, with a rather large mammal wandering past on its evening patrol, both seemingly unaware of the other.

Tapir in our restored wetland area (© Sue Healey)

The Tapir have managed to get food off the garden feeding stations so a suspended higher-level table has now been made.   The Common Marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) were a little perplexed initially but soon mastered the art of a trapeze-style dash across the wires.   Some continue the more traditional approach – head first down a nearby tree.

The lodge orchid garden continues to develop, and with ferns and bromeliads amongst the rocks it makes a breeding area for house wren and feeding area for hummingbirds, the lantana and milkweed are doing well, again both favourites with the hummingbirds.

Other changes may not directly affect our lodge guests but they are making a huge difference to local visitors, including school visits, with a new car park by the conservation centre – hopefully no more buses getting stuck in the mud!   A new accessible trail has been created to Amanda’s hide, bringing opportunities where previously it would have been impossible for some people to enjoy the delights of the wetlands.

On the project itself, we reached the milestone figure of 500,000 trees planted and continue to plant – over 69,000 trees were planted in the 2017/18 planting season alone, thanks to the generous donations from many of our supporters.

Wouldn’t one million trees planted be a great figure to reach in the future!

With more key land areas coming under REGUA’s care, increased wildlife corridors are being protected and created in the Guapiaçu catchment area.   This will extend the range for many species of wildlife and enable them to strengthen in population, increase genetic diversity and increase the overall biodiversity of the valley.

Restored and reforested wetland area (© Sue Healey)

Our Rangers continue to patrol the forest, adding security and monitoring the wildlife, whilst there has been a huge reduction in hunting in the area since the project began, we cannot stop our vigilance even though there is very little evidence of hunting seen or heard now.

If you would like to support REGUA’s work, full details on how to make a donation are available from our “donate” page here.

If you would like to volunteer, please see our link here for full details.

Tribute to GGV Gabriela Viana

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 with her team (front centre) (© Nicholas Locke)

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.

GGV Team relaxing with Nicholas and Raquel Locke (© Jorge Bizarro)

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.

Tree Planting 2017/18

The REGUA nursery team composed of Barata, Mauricio, Diamoneli and forester Aline Damasceno successfully produced the 50,000 trees as part of the Petrobras Socioambiental  funded project, also referred to as Guapiaçu Grande Vida or GGV.

Planting over 100 species of native tree species is a good average and seeds are sourced in the nearby forests.

The annual planting season is between November and March taking advantage of the summer rains.  The year 2018 has been “La Ninha” providing us with the necessary rains and plant mortality has been very low.

Diamoneli, Aline, Mauricio and Barata (L-R) (© REGUA)

The area on which the trees were planted is the enormous “Pai velho” REGUA reserve hillside. Its steepness has required enormous effort by the team but we are happy to announce that we are close to ending the planting there.

However, it hasn’t ended yet, for REGUA wishes to plant a further 20,000 trees this season and by the end of the next planting season we will top our half a million tree mark!!

Well done team!