Category Archives: Research

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.

Visiting scientists from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

During October REGUA has welcomed several groups of university students to make use of the fantastic resources on site. Pictured below is teacher Leandro Talione Sabagh and four undergraduate students from UFRJ. Leandro completed his PhD with interactions between frogs and bromeliads and nowadays teaches at the university whilst continuing to research, now on the effects of climate change

The students are on a “scientific initiation” programme and coming to REGUA to take part in a week long experiment was an important part of their studies. On site the team were looking at the effect of water temperature on insects and tadpoles. Leandro and others Professors from UFRJ also teaches classes in REGUA.

In this visit, he and his students are preparing fieldwork classes. Part of their fieldwork involved flooding bromeliads with water (to make mini lakes) and then studying which organisms were attracted to those bromeliads in the shade (energy from detritus) and the sun (energy from photosynthetic algae) and how the community composition and ecosystem’s process differ in the two situations.

Leandro said “around 2010 a colleague brought me to REGUA and I liked it here. Nicholas and Raquel are so friendly and helpful. Now I come back at least twice a year with my students and I also teach a class here on ecology. Students love coming here but we all find it really hot! REGUA is an important place, the work here is important also, inclusive to subside the conservation proposes.”

Raquel Mattos Goncolves da Costa, Ana Luiza Lima, Leticia Silveira Azevedo, Thainá Lorrane dos Santos Morais
Raquel Mattos Goncolves da Costa, Ana Luiza Lima, Leticia Silveira Azevedo, Thainá Lorrane dos Santos Morais (© Fiona Daborn)
Studying bromeliads (© Fiona Daborn)

Stingless Bees Nest Guarding

Michael Patrikeev, a long-standing friend and supporter of REGUA, sent this amazing photograph of stingless bees, Scaptotrigona xanthotricha, also known as Yellow Mandaguari.    Along with this explanation of the behaviour taking place:

“This species, restricted to the Atlantic Forest of the south-east Brazil, inhabits primary and mature secondary humid forest, where it builds nests in cavities and crevices in trees.

The image shows the bees guarding the elaborate structures at the entrance to their nest. These structures, resembling tree fungi, are made of wax.

Nest of Scaptotrigona xanthotricha (© Michael Patrikeev)

Note the claw marks below the nest on the left.    These bees are known to produce a good quality honey, and perhaps some mammal raided the nest earlier.”

This is just one of the multitude of forest species protected in REGUA.   Each piece of information we find continues to reinforce the importance of the work which the REGUA Team and its supporters make possible.

More info can be found on Michael’s website:

http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Insects/Hymenoptera/Apidae-bees/Scaptotrigona-xanthotricha.html

 

Dragon Praying Mantis – Projeto Mantis

The Mantis Project is made up of Brazilian biologists Leonardo Lanna, Savio Cavalcante, João Felipe Herculano and designer Lucas Fiat, who are very keen on insects.

Projeto Mantis Team at REGUA (© Projeto Mantis)

They met at UNIRIO University in 2015 and soon discovered that there was no-one studying the impressive Mantis order, Mantodea.    There are over 430 genera and 2400 species divided in 15 families worldwide and they believed there could to be many in the Atlantic Rainforest.

Leonardo and his friends got together and started their first field trips in Valença a town in the South-West of Rio State and the following year caught an undescribed species, a first for science.   Their primary interest was not in just finding and identifying these amazing creatures but also raising Mantises, showing people that these insects are not dangerous or life threatening but beautiful, gentle creatures that indicate the quality of the habitat.

With their increased passion the Team started to work at Rio de Janeiro’s Botanical Garden.   They submitted a project to National Geographic in 2016 and received the funding to research the State of Rio and increase the list of the 12 genera already known there.

However, Rio de Janeiro state is very large and their study varied from sand dune habitat known as “Restinga”, Mangrove habitat to the lofty “Paramos” or sedge growing waterlogged habitat found at close to 2,600 metres above sea level in Itatiaia (two hours drive west of Rio city) where temperatures fall below zero at night in the winter.

Stenophylla sp. (© Projeto Mantis)

The team also included REGUA in their research and arrived to stay at its field station in December 2017.

One mystical Praying Mantis is the Dragon Mantis, Stenophylla cornigera described by English entomologist John Westwood in 1843.   It resembles depictions  of miniature dragon and the young biologists had never seen one.    Imagine their delight when on the first night, an example arrived at the REGUA light and they could see it in full detail.

The team of biologists collected not only one.    A second was found a couple of days later from a forest fragment just seven kilometres away, showing that the species is present along the Guapiaçu valley.    A report and video was sent to National Geographic magazine which was hugely successful.
See https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/01/animals-insects-brazil-rainforests/

The overall research revealed another nine genera taking the total Mantodea list in Rio de Janeiro State to 21 genera, of which 15 have been found at REGUA.

Leonardo says that REGUA is at an elevated level of habitat protection.   Perhaps the significant area of remaining forest cover, full altitudinal gradient and low demographic pressure all influence but the fact is that as an indicator species, Praying mantises reveal that the REGUA conservation project is working in the right direction.

Stenophylla sp. (© Projeto Mantis)

For further information, the Mantis Project can be found at: https://www.instagram.com/projetomantis/?hl=pt and https://www.facebook.com/projetomantis/

                Good luck team !!

 

 

 

all photographs courtesy of Projeto Mantis

New damselfly species discovered at REGUA by Tom Kompier

A new damselfly to science – Forcepsioneura regua sp. nov. (©Tom Kompier)

We are delighted to announce that a new Damselfly species for science of the Forcepsioneura genus found at REGUA by Tom Kompier has been named Forcepsioneura regua sp. after the reserve. This is one of two new damselfly species described by Dr. Ângelo Pinto with Tom as co-author in their paper In honor of conservation of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest: description of two new damselflies of the genus Forcepsioneura discovered in private protected areas (Odonata: Coenagrionidae), published in the zoological journal Zoologia.

Tom’s contribution to our knowledge of dragonflies and damselflies has been magnificent and provides valuable evidence of the importance of this reserve. He started his research in 2012, making several visits during the varying Neotropical seasons, travelling from the Netherlands to REGUA throughout 2013 and identifying 204 species in this region. Tom was supported by Dr. Ângelo Pinto and Professor Alcimar Carvalho of the Natural History Museum/UFRJ. This resulted in the publication of A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil (see details on our publications page).

The principle difference between dragonflies and damselflies is the position of the wings when resting. Dragonfly wings lie transversal and damselfly wings lie flat alongside their abdomen. 204 species have been recorded at the reserve and REGUA hosts annual visits to see the odonate and in an eight day visit it is possible to see at least 160 species!

Congratulations and thank you Tom for the magnificent contribution your work has given us and you have inspired us to continue to develop studies in ants, butterflies and spiders.

Second Tapir release begins!

Following the arrival of three Lowland Tapir Tapirus terrestris at REGUA last January, a further two males and a female named Jupiter, Valente and Flora arrived at REGUA in Guapiaçu as part of the continued Tapir reintroduction programme at REGUA on Sunday June 10th.    Sadly, we sustained the loss of the large adult male from pneumonia in March so these three new individuals were a most welcome addition to the remaining population, a mother and adolescent tapir who are very well.

The Tapirs arrive (© Nicholas Locke)

This reintroduction project has been carried out in partnership with Professor Fernando Fernandez, Maron Galliez and Joanna of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and approved by the Rio de Janeiro State Environmental Department (INEA) as well ICMBio.

The tapirs arrived after a tiring 24 hour trip of over 1,000 km from the Klabin conservation project in Northern Paraná State. They were transported in their travelling cases but had behaved admirably and arrived quite calm.

Following much local interest, the cases were promptly taken to be unloaded and released in their two and a half acre quarantine pen created especially for them within a secluded part of the wetlands. The quarantine area has a small pond in which to play and enjoy.

Lowland Tapir has been extinct in the state of Rio de Janeiro for over 100 years and the arrival of these animals at REGUA represents the very first reintroduction of its kind in Rio de Janeiro state.    REGUA starting reforesting lowlands in 2005 with the support of the World Land Trust and in 2005 created RPPN status which protects these restored forests for the future.

The first crate being carefully lowered (© Nicholas Locke)

Lowland forest has virtually been eliminated in the State and REGUA’s protected area of 300 hectare Atlantic Rainforest adjacent to the enormous Três Picos State Park looked a very attractive area that could guarantee sufficient habitat for the species.

Being herbivores, tapirs consume all the fruit they can find on the forest floor. Feeding on fruit and walking large distances in the forests, they are regarded as the ‘gardeners of the forests’. The UFRJ team understood the need for reintroductions as a means to learn more about this species and their adaptability whilst REGUA wants the animals to spread tree species, increasing forest diversity and ensuring its resilience on the long term.   Likewise, captive breeding programmes are only too delighted to support such well conducted release programmes as it provides the justification for breeding these lovely animals in captivity.

Until their supported release, and like their predecessors Eva and Flokinho the three tapirs will enjoy a diet of fruit and vegetables, up to 8 kilogram per animal per day together with dried maize, to keep them well nourished.  Professors Maron and Joanna will keep their eye on them ensuring that the radio collars are not bothering them and they like their diet. After their release they will find fruit and maize nearby, but like most native animals they will probably prefer to roam and return to the solitary lives they enjoy.

Their release will provide valuable information as to their wanderings and habitat preferences, but there are already camera traps in the pen to check on their nocturnal behaviour and later more will be placed in the forest.

Exciting times ahead for our tapirs and for our biologists!!

You can see Flora’s arrival into the quarantine pen here:  Flora’s arrival filmed by Nicholas Locke.

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.

 

Dutch herpetologist at REGUA

Masters student Hidde de Graff enrolled at University of Amsterdam has come to stay for three months at REGUA studying amphibians.    Professor Wouter Halfwerk organised Hidde’s stay here with Brazilian Dr. Mauricio Almeida and he has been conscientiously at work in the field.

Hidde in the Forest (© Raquel Locke)

Hidde is been analysing sound tracks from deliberately located microphones recording night sounds in forest fragments as a way to detect and identify the amphibian species present.    Every quarter of an hour those frogs calling will be recorded and later as he studies the sonograms, he will be able to identify the species present.

Dr Mauricio carried out a similar survey a few years ago and Hidde will be able to compare the results and see if there has been any species change and evaluate how accurate his findings are in terms of species identification.

Rildo litter sampling

The Atlantic Rainforest has been subject to enormous change over the years and many species are suffering as a result of the forest vegetation cover change and, of course, hunting.

Rildo litter sampling (© Nicholas Locke)

REGUA received UNESP (São Paulo State University) researcher Carla Martins Lopes with a team of three researchers.   They are sampling leaf litter at the higher elevations of the Reserve to seek residues of DNA that can offer identification of the species that lived and frequented the same area in the past.

The World Land Trust Keeper of Wild Ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira guided the group to the top of the green trail, gathering leaves and bringing them down to our research laboratory.

We are very interested in the results, as this is a very new area of research sampling, and may offer some exciting surprises.   Perhaps we can build up images of the animals that occupied these forests in the past, such as the Jaguars, Tapirs and White-lipped Peccary!